Vote for the Top Commercial Aviation stories of 2013

This is self-explanatory. We’ll publish the results December 31.

Feel free to nominate other stories in Reader Comments.

38 Comments on “Vote for the Top Commercial Aviation stories of 2013

      • “I prefer something real.” Are you in “Leahy’s Camp” where you believe the B77X is a “paper airplane”?

      • The 777X is less than a paper plane – just a Power Point Presentation. After Lufthansa ordered several aircraft it was no big news to me. Imagine Airbus could build the A350-1100 two years earlier.

        The A350 was news and even more news was the never ending 7L7 story.

        • Just how is Airbus going to be able to build the A-3511 earlier than the B-777-9/-8? It is my understanding that Airbus has the A-350 line sold out until at least 2022.

      • mhalblaub,

        As far as the 777x is concerned, Boeing has “signed on the dotted line” so-to-speak and accepted cash for the 777x. As a result, I believe this level of commitment makes the 777x a bit more tangible than the phrase “Paper Airplane” suggests.

        No…the 777x is real enough. Now comes the great struggle to get it designed, developed and produced within budget – and all the tears, the heartbreak and the gnashing of teeth that will surely come. I think the coming struggle be high drama writ large. I think we will be greatly entertained!

    • While the 777X is significant, I think the 777X launch, the A350 first flight and Cseries first flight were all pretty much expected and so less newsworthy.

      Maybe it’s the 777X contract rejection and RFP that’s really the biggest story for me.

    • What was so special in that? It was expected kneejerk reaction from Boeing management to the A350 steamroller.

    • I voted for the 787 grounding with some reluctance. More 787 problems is not surprising or even maybe very interesting. It certainly isn’t the kind of positive story that suit this kind of survey. But it was the aviation story that the general got to hear about and it dominated the news stories for several months.

  1. I think it would have to be something unexpected that got a lot of news coverage. 777X launch was very good with it’s loads of orders, but not unexpected. A350 FF was a very important milestone, but not unexpected either.
    I’d say the 787’s grounding, which was quite unexpected especially for a modern airplane in these times was definitely the biggest news story imo.
    Top 3 would be 787 grounding, A350 FF and maybe AA/US merger especially after the DOJ suit.

  2. Didn’t know what to choose and checked the E2. The grounding was drama though, I still the FAA and Boeing standing shoulders to shoulder declaring they know exactly where they stand, the 787 is perfectly save and the Japanese grounding it next monday after a similar fire.

    • i have to agree, the FAA and Boeing both saying the 787 is safe then the plane getting grounded after a fire not two weeks later. There was nothing better in 2013. Of course the plane now flies safe, albeit with a less than stellar despatch rate right to the end of the year.

  3. IMHO the grounding of the 787-8 and everything surrounding that was far and away the biggest news story. Nothing else even comes close this year.

    This story was unprecedented on so many levels.
    1) Story was a culmination of the unprecedented gross mismanagement of the 787 program that was ongoing for over half a decade.
    2) Unprecedented screw-up of the battery design/quality assurance system.
    3) Unprecedented grounding of a LCA by the FAA. (hundreds of people died in multiple accidents before the FAA was finally pressured into grounding the DC-10)
    4) Unprecedented coverage of this story by the media, in scope, in shoddiness (not all reporting, but a significant amount), and in the breadth and length of the scrutiny wake after events had subsided. The events themselves lasted for almost 6 months and the effect in the media is ongoing. Every story written on the 787 still mentions the grounding, and I expect that will continue for some time to come.

  4. I like this thread, and I thank the owners of this site for posting it for it really got me thinking.

    Anyways….what was the Top Commercial Story? Well, to answer that I try to imagine myself 15-20 years in the future and looking back on what events occurred during the current year shaped events in the future. Now…the 787 fires and grounding were full of drama, but Boeing seem to resolve the issue fairly quickly and keep producing 787s which they then delivered after the grounding was lifted. So I don’t see that story being important in the long term – certainly not 15-20 years down the road.

    The a350 launch was smooth and unspectacular – but this is what I expect. So…no long-term news here. The 777x launch and Union-negotiation heartbreak is still to new to me to make a decision as to whether or not it will have a 15-20 year impact. The 787-10 launch was impressive, but I don’t know what I’ll remember of it in 15-20 years other than to say that the 787-10 is probably a good aircraft.

    But…I think there is something that happened this year that may – just maybe – have some very long and large long-term 15-20 year impact, but seems to have gone under the radar so-to-speak: the offer John Leahy made to Boeing concerning A320/737 market share. Back in 2012, Airbus salesman John Leahy said he wanted to avoid a a320 vs 737 price war and, as a result, was willing to cede 40% of the narrow-body market to Boeing. Well…this year’s sales indicate to me that Boeing has silently agreed to John Leahy’s offer this year and, as a result, the Boeing 737 will be the perennial also-ran to the Airbus A320. We’ll know in a few years.

    • Jimmy, by your own standards the merger is another been there, done that ho hum and all the troubles that prevail (other than US Airs pulling a rabbit out of the hat on this with their other failed mergers and people buying into Parker taking over AA)

      If you are going to support this as the story of the year spilled ink is the least relevancy of any as there has far more been written about the 787 battery debacle

  5. Top story? Certainly not:
    1. 777X launch (like who didn’t see that coming?)
    2. A350 first flight (boring. See #1)
    3. E2 jet: Who? What?
    4. AA/US merger: Possibly, especially the US gov’t reaction to it.
    5. 787 grounding: Nope.
    6. A380 stuff: give me a break. Not a chance. Like a bucket trying to bail out a sinking battleship
    7. IAM contract rejection: only place that is making waves is on this site, and the Seattle area. Otherwise, no one really tracks that
    8. 787-10 launch: See #1 or #2
    9. C-series: possibly. Especially the hubbub about orders, its quiet engine, and its future.

    I vote for US/AA merger. Lots of ink spilled over that.

    • “I vote for US/AA merger. Lots of ink spilled over that.”

      Pfft, mergers are so yesteryear. 😉
      Same with the Chap11 reorganisations.
      It is smoke and mirrors activities and dept shedding.
      Only allows a faster race to the bottom but usually not
      a turnaround and some real improvements.

      re your nick: perchance a Larry Niven fan?

  6. Lots of news can dominate headlines for week while it goes nearly unnoticed on the other sides of oceans. Local worldnews so to say.

  7. The 777X Failed Negotiations (though I would call that more a vendetaa) are leaps and bounds above the rest.

    The ramifications are huge. There is no doubt that Boeing Chicago wants out of Washington state (ore more accurately the vendetta against the unions results in that) and will do anything regardless of ROI (Reality of Impact) the unions actually have on P&L.

    The fact that a CEO of one of the largest industrial companies in the world can throw a tantrum and the board and shareholders allow it is a story unto itself that brings a whole new meaning to the term PC (Petulant Capitalism.)

    The corp. welfare aspects speaks for itself (at what point do we actually pay Boeing to make each aircraft? Or maybe not to build one (If you don’t pay us we will build an aircraft in your state and ruin you!) Airbus doesn’t even have that good a deal.

    The wind down of Washington state as a center of aircraft manufacturing is another huge one as well as the need to make massive investments in other facility for suppliers and the impact on them, profits and going belly up (Boeing wants to have as good a return as they do, but the flip is the way to do it is ruin them so they perform as poorly as Boeing, not bring you game up to their level).

    States falling over themselves to cut each others throats is another huge one (and at what point does it stop?)

    Long term, the failed production of an otherwise relatively simple derivative is another one. You simply cannot start an all new aluminum and composite production and still have it come up on time. There is not a learning curve here, it’s a chasm.

    Boeing has never built a composite wing.

    The only place in the country that has any experience with a large aluminum aircraft is Long Beach (only Long Beach and Charleston have the port Boeing demands)

    Even if Long Beach is chosen, all those skill retire and or erode away well before the 777X starts to be assembled.

    The mis mash of separated engineering departments trying to tie this together in an all new facility wihtout any liens of communications and corroding having been established is huge.

    I call it the train wreck that keeps on giving. Free Range Capitalism at its best.

    All the other stores are normal developments (or are in development) and in of themselves have a path of working their way out.

    This is the one story that impacts across the entire industry, country, world and Boeing Airline relations into the foreseeable future (i.e. do not listen to your customers).

  8. For a host of reasons my vote has gone to the A350 not least because:

    Technically not quite so demanding as the 787 the 350 has had a relatively smooth development & almost on time first flight which even for Airbus is commendable.

    Airbus proficiency in setting achievable programme timescales & identifying quality global suppliers has reached a point now that, no pun intended Boeing can only dream of.

    • Unfortunately you seem to have misinterpreted my correspondence which merely identified Airbus as having a more professionalism awareness toward global sourcing.

      As such I have no wish to embarrass you or indeed Boeing with a counter blow by blow account of it’s own recent programme delays.

  9. The A380 first flight was delayed a few months from the original planning. It was launched December 2000 and first flight 4,5 years later, April 2005. EIS was delayed by nearly two years. A380 beat their performance targets from aircraft #1. In hindsight maybe the convinced critics of the A380 program should compare to the 748, 787 and 777X & think again.

  10. Weren’t most of the delays with the A400 down to problems with the engine software rather than the aircraft? Those engines are not made by Airbus, it delays aren’t automatically their fault.

    • In 2009, the following was written in “The Telegraph”:

      “The aircraft can’t be built under the current conditions,” said Thomas Enders, chief executive of Europe’s planemaker, in an interview with Der Spiegel.

      “It is better to put an end to the horror than have horror without end.”

      So…the European Governments contracting the A400M decided that they would double-down and re-negotiate the contract with Airbus and endure the “Horror without End”. Really…I am not making this up!

      So…two (2) years later Airbus CEO Thomas Enders decides to jump from the A400M. I wonder if he was praying his parachute would fail…ya’ know – to end the “Horror”? However, Mr. Enders survived just fine and Airbus is still enjoying losses on the A400M – just not so bad now.

      As far as what went wrong? A bunch of stuff and not just the engine software. Apparently, the A400M didn’t meet its lift specs and this hosed a lot of potential missions. But mainly, I’d say it was the Executive management at Airbus that hosed it for agreeing to even build something whose specs they couldn’t meet. Lucky for Airbus those guys have been fired and are gone.

      • Initially the A400M was not under direct Airbus project control but
        was controlled from the spanish CASA under then project lead ?Lopez?.

        All/Most of the problems stem from that time. After reorgansiation and
        a judicious amount of time to get to grips with the introduced faults
        things started to look a lot better.

        I would not be too surprised if fact show up in the future exposing
        elements of sabotage ( Spain and the UK as members of the coalition
        of the willing/push overs )

  11. IMO a more realistic, fair comparison of the A400M would be other large defense / aircraft programs. Have a objective look at costs and budgets, delays and then judge. Maybe fear, flagwaving and jobs are not enough to make costs/ delays go away as easily everywhere. On A400 e.g there were at least 4 national parlementairy oppositions looking for opportunities to break a government over a few billion cost rises that wouldn’t get largely unnoticed elsewhere..

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