Odds and Ends: Air France may cut A380 orders; Boeing Everett history; BBD, EMB miss targets

Air France May Drop A380s: Bloomberg reports that Air France may cut back its orders for the Airbus A380s. This continues the challenge of Very Large Aircraft sector sales. Boeing has cut production rates twice for its 747-8. The Los Angeles Times has this story about the eventual demise of the 747-8.

Boeing Everett History: Airchive has Part 3 of its history of Boeing’s Everett plant here. This covers the 777 and what especially caught our eye was the photo of the model of the 777-200 with folding wings, a concept that didn’t go into production. The new 777X will have folding wings. The difference is that the 777-200 concept included the outboard control surfaces, which highly complicated the matter. The 777X folding wings are beyond the control surfaces.

BBD, EMB miss targets: Bombardier missed its earnings estimates on fewer deliveries than analysts expected for the third quarter. Here is the press release.

On the Bombardier earnings call, officials didn’t address whether there will be a delay in the entry-into-service, planned for about 12 months after the September 16 first flight. Only four test flights have occurred, and UBS aerospace analyst David Strauss estimates that the program needs to fly an average of 1.8 hours a day to meet this timeline. Flight Test Vehicle #2 is “weeks away” from entering service.

Pierre Beaudoin, president and CEO, says that some customers are considering swapping the CS100 for the larger CS300, which could influence EIS. He added that discussions with customers about schedules, and the pace of ramp-up of production, are factors to be considered for EIS. “We will answer this question in the next few months.”

He said the flight test results so far are “exactly” as planned, but data won’t be shared with customers for some time. Beaudoin said that the pace of the flight tests are also as planned, and that there hasn’t been a delay despite the perception.

Embraer also missed its 3Q targets and likewise reported lower earnings. Here is its press release.

32 Comments on “Odds and Ends: Air France may cut A380 orders; Boeing Everett history; BBD, EMB miss targets

  1. Before we conclude that the final proof for the downfall of the VLA concept has been presented, we may look for a second at the home market of Air France. That is: France, partly Italy (they have strong connections into Italy).
    The economy is shrinking or stagnating for a while:
    So, the fact that its flag ship carrier is not growing is not surprising.
    So, it may not be the final proof that the A380 is dead.

  2. The folding wings for the B77X will be thousands of pounds lighter than the one originally thought of (and in the photo).

    On a side note:


    According to Aspireaviation, for the B77X, going from the current Al fusleage to a possible Al-Li fuselage, while it will increase costs, would probably decrease MTOW by a 10%-12%. Would it not benefit Boeing to go that direction? IMHO, It would make the B77X even more competitive against its peers.

    Your thoughts on it?

    • Going to Al-Li would be a benefit, we believe. It will increase tooling costs, however. We haven’t heard what the decision will be.

      • I wonder how much of that could be achieved as a standalone improvement project after the current 777X round of improvements is completed.

        I would assume that doing Al-Li later would not allow you to take optimal advantage of the weight savings and mechanical properties of Al-Li, but I’d be curious to hear an expert opinion on how much of that 10-12% (assuming that is a correct figure) could be achieved as a follow on upgrade.

        For Boeing, I have to think that, along with cost, avoiding any changes that would further delay EIS, or slow production ramp-up on the 777X has to be a major driver of the decision to pass on Al-Li for now.

        However, if you could get the better part of that improvement for a reasonable cost later by tackling the change to Al-Li skin after the 777X project is complete and production is stable, I would think that would be an important possibility to have in your back pocket to maintain long term competiveness with the A350-1100, or whatever Airbus’ next move is in this capacity sector.

        A phased approach may de-risk the overall transition enough to offset the lost optimization. Maybe that just isn’t a realistic possibility, though.

      • @Matt B,

        IMHO, it would be simply too expensive to probably do a “phased approach”.

      • Aspire has forgot the “up to” 12% caveat in the Al-Li sales guys slides. Al-Li on average saves you 5% if the part is suitable for the change but then the A380 rib problems came from an “up to ” new Al alloy. Boeing knows a lot about Al-Li and is not buying it it seems, means there is no 12% to be found.

    • Actually, the AspireAviation article said that 12% improvement in weight is possible. And that possible referred to the fuselage structural weight. More precisely, I would think that fuselage shell weight improves by 12%. Now, fuselage shell weight is ~65% of fuselage structural weight, which is about 25% or empty weight.
      dOEW = .25*.65*.12 = 2% less OEW.
      Still quite a lot, while I would assume the 12% to be very optimistic.

      • Could be..I would like to see if anyone can come up with the numbers for an Al-Li B77X EOW, MTOW, etc.

    • Al-Li will never give you 10..12% of MTOW.
      Al-Li will allow you to _design_ structure to be up to 12% lighter. ( That gain goes into OEW reduction) But like the limited scope of CFRP gains ( limited to CFRP structure ) this also is valid for Al-Li. Also just swapping out Al for Al-Li will give you much less.

      How much Al structure does a 777 fuselage have weight wise/ % OEW wise ?
      I would be surprised if you achieve more than 2..3% over all OEW reduction.

  3. I think the A380 demise is very similar to the 747-8i, if you ignore the numbers. The A380 has 5 fold the orders of the -8i, meets its targets and will be introduced by Ethihad, Qatar, Skymark and Asiana next year.. Sharing the pain is behind a lot of usual A380 negativism I’m afraid.

    • keesje
      It appears that you are the one attempting to “share the pain” of the A380.

      It’s amazing how you always parse the numbers and focus on one model of the 747 family. Shouldn’t we view the entire 747 program when making such comparisons? It’s had over 1500 orders, something the A380 can never hope to match.

      • We have to wait another 3-4 upgrades and 30 years before we know I guess..

    • We can get a good idea by comparing the number of 747 orders seven years after EIS, to the number of A380s at the same point.

      • Rick [and keesje], according to Wikipedia, Boeing started taking orders for the 747 in 1966; EIS was January 1970. Seven years after EIS was the end of 1976. By then 315 airplanes had been ordered. As of September 2013, more than forty-three years after EIS, 1,525 747’s of all models had been ordered and 1,474 had been delivered. The program is indeed winding down, but it was incredibly successful for Boeing for a very long time.

        It remains to be seen how many A380’s will have been ordered by 2048, assuming it is still in production by then

        for more 747 info start at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_747

        [a very subjective message from a firm believer that the Boeing 747 is the greatest airliner of all time. I was awestruck in 1968, the first time I saw the full-size engineering mockup in the then-under-construction Everett factory. I am now a retired engineer after nearly four decades at Boeing, including 28 years on the 747. We live near Paine Field; I remain awestruck by the beauty and grace of a 747-8F and -8I whenever one soars overhead]

    • Not defending the -8i, but there is enough pain to go around. Taking a look at the numbers, where is the market for A380? Which airlines have the route structure or the passenger numbers to fill one? Out of that list we can go through the list of who will probably NOT put in an order: any US airline, Cathay, JAL, and now we can add the big European airlines. So who is left? ANA? Turkish? Not likely.

      No, the hope for a big order centers around Emirates (probably not happening without an upgrade), and the other two middle eastern powerhouses (u-turn Al would be talking up a storm by now if it was this year.) Even assuming 30 each additional for Etihad & Qatar, does anyone believe that the middle east connection model will be able to support three airlines winging around with 170 A380s between them? You have to think that at some point it becomes a zero sum-game between the three, with their largely interchangeable connection points, at which point extra 380 capacity become a liability. Other than this, one can hope the Indians and Chinese (two markets that could use capacity) get in line but I doubt anyone can hold their breath that long…

      • “Which airlines have the route structure or the passenger numbers to fill one?”

        I think:
        Air France, Asiana Airlines, British Airways, China Southern Airlines, Emirates,
        Etihad Airways, Hong Kong Airlines, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Skymark Airlines, Thai Airways, Transaero Airlines, Virgin Atlantic

        Additional prospect based on their network, market sizes, restrained hubs, long term growth potential, 30 yrs VLA history or a combination:

        JAL, ANA. Garuda, Air China, China Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, United Airlines, American/US, Delta Airlines, South African Airlines, Turkish Airlines, China Eastern, LATAM, AlItalia, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific, Air India, Iran Air, Kenya Airways, KLM, PIA, Iberia, EVA Air

        Some of them might be in political and/or financial trouble as we speak and might take years but they are located in big not so poor markets that at some point “light up”.. E.g. Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, South Africa, Iran..


        I think we will production/sales of ~40 A380’s per year on average, the coming 10 years.

      • If Air France and Lufthansa are cancelling A380 orders, and it’s losing favor with customers from Australia to the U.K., it does not bode well for the A380 going forward.

      • Keesje, don’t you think that’s a little optimistic, given the fact that it has never reached that number other than in its first year on offer? No airline, save Singapore and Emirates, have taken more than 15 of the type, with most common numbers being 6-10 frames.

        The list you provide accentuates my point, which is that the type is highly reliant on the Middle Eastern airlines for numbers. Besides the ones that have already ordered on your list, even if ALL of the remaining 23 took ten each, it’s still nowhere near 40/year for the next 10 years. E/E/Q will have to make another 170 for this to occur. Frankly, out of the list, the only ones I would be willing to bet on taking the A380 within five years would be SAA, Garuda, LATAM, and Emirates/ Etihad/ Qatar.The rest have either hinted/stated that they are not interested in more of the type, have already made purchases that would rule out a large purchase of the 380, or would be seriously going against their current strategy with the VLA. Given Garuda, SAA, and LATAM’s current fleets, its hard to place them at more than 10 frames each, even if they did order.

        Yes, maybe Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey will light up, but I fail to see how this translates to even 30/year for the next five years. Given the inflexibility of the A380 seat counts, its hard to believe that they would choose it, in number, over the new Twins with similar CASM costs, especially given the reluctance of even largest airlines to take a significant number of the type. Stretching for CASM/CASK advantages may help, but it shrinks the prospective market further if you have to fill even more seats.

  4. The two 747-8’s that were in the Arizona desert for a long time have recently been flown back to KPAE. Looks like they are a step closer to delivery, perhaps getting ready for the installation of upgraded engines like a number of their siblings already parked around the airport.

  5. No surprises about AF wanting to reduce or cut the A380. AF/KLM tried to become an Emirates style long haul LCC. A model that has filed dismally for them as Emirates do it so much better. End result is AF are cash strapped, declining and are not an airline which you fly on if you are willing to pay for an acceptable economy class ticket. An aircraft with 18-19 inch wide economy seating doesn’t fit their model any more.

    • AF sems to have type independent problems.
      The KLM/AF merger seems to not have gone beyond making KLM’s piggy bank available to AF. But that doesn’t seem to have fixed anything.

  6. “”The 747 is a dead man walking at this point,” said Scott Hamilton”

    I guess Boeing’s orange 747-8 livery was more apropos then they thought!

    • keesje, no 747-400 cargo conversion can ever be as good as the real thing. Let’s put aside the 747-8F for now – just look at a 747-400CF [converted freighter] vs a real 747-400F. The modified passenger airplane does not have a nose door, so it can’t load anything longer than 20ft. The extended upper deck structure plus other remnants of passengers usage [i.e. the window belt and window plugs] add something like 10,000 lbs to the empty weight. It does not have the same enhanced ZFW capability as a -400F. The airframe starts with ten. fifteen, maybe twenty years of usage at 2000-3000 hrs/year. The only thing in the -400CF’s favor is that it is cheap. But like so much else in this world, you get what you pay for.

      The 747’s original [circa mid 1960’s] concept was that there might be a few hundred passenger airplanes, but they would soon to be replaced by SST’s. Their future would be as freighters. Cargo would be in 8 ft x 8 ft containers. Raise the flight deck to allow an 8×8 nose opening*; size the fuselage for a pair of 8×8 containers side by side. Joe Sutter and his team configured the fuselage exactly right, even if it may have been for the wrong reasons.

      For now let’s leave it to the Boeing marketing wizards to tout the advantages of new 747-8F’s. Maybe Boeing can sustain a very low production rate just for -8F’s, maybe not. All good things must end some day. There is nothing else like the -8F now in series production and there won’t be for years to come.

      * [Note: the 747’s side cargo door did not appear until a 1974 retrofit; until then all 747F’s just had the nose door. No one, not even Boeing, has ever been able to retrofit a nose door]

  7. I think the failure of the Boeing 747 is Boeing’s problem…not Aibus’ problem. Just because Boeing doesn’t have the appetite to develop a new VLA shouldn’t be reflected negatively on Airbus. I think the Airbus A380 will sell just fine once they get production rolling well for a couple of years. There are a lot of old 747s to replace and I think the A380 is the right aircraft to replace them.

    • The quad VLA market is looking to be too small for one manufacturer, forget about two.

      Comments such as “this program will do well when and that program will do well when” doesn’t cut it.

      The A380 program probably now is a $20+ billion which not only has not recovered but is still bleeding money.

      There is also the RLI payment which might not happen since the program isn’t making money.

      10+ years of sinking billions and only losses..what a ROI (said very sarcastically)

      • The A380 Program has lost a lot of money and may never break even, but the A380 Program will stop losing money in about 2015 and it has no competitor. Also, as poorly as the A380 program did profit wise, it never stopped Airbus from developing new Aircraft.

        Seriously, like I’ve said before, the failure of the Boeing 747 is a Boeing problem – the aircraft just couldn’t cut it. I think it would be wise not to try to imagine Boeing’s problems as being shared by Airbus.

      • @Jimmy,

        The B748 program is basically a failure-at least the B748i. That being said, not only was the B747 program as a whole profitable, but the B748F doesn’t have a competitor and some of the costs of the B748 program was AFAIK amortized with the B787 program.

      • The Reimbursable Launch Investment is repaid as to plan ( 17 years, money + (low) interest )
        The royalties part may fall by the wayside if the programme is terminated.
        Interesting that the same misconceptions are trudged out again and again.

  8. If the A380 is not selling well, why single out Boeing’s 747-8 as a failure, every 747-8 sold meant a lost sale for the A380. This VLA market will always remain a small market, too much risk on having such an aircraft in slow economic times and too few routes that could work for them and too expensive to park.
    The 777-9X is the future in large aircraft, able to transfer to many other routes, able to be accommodated at most airports, and a proven frame that still has much life leftover in it.

  9. Jumping in late, I note there are certain factors that make larger more viable, and they have to exist on enough routes to make it worth having an additional type in the fleet. Those may include:
    – a route so busy that increasing frequency is not worthwhile, examples may include:
    > PW Calgary-Edmonton circa 1980, 737s launching every half hour and people still filling the terminal (“show up we take you” service). PW ordered 767s, but never operated them on that route.
    > Japan, where short-range 747s were used
    > IIRC one airline had two 747s leaving within an hour of each other on a US transcon route
    – routes with curfews that limit frequency
    – where the extra spaciousness can be monetized (luxury market)
    (I have to think through whether longer flights benefit less from high frequency, considering benefit to pax, perhaps depends on timing.)

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