Odds and Ends: KC-46A update; A440M in the US; A320neo first flight; Southwest no longer an LCC

KC-46A update: Aviation Week has an update on the status of the Boeing KC-46A tanker. Among other things, first fight has now been moved from June to November at the earliest.

A400M in the US: Airbus thinks it’s possible to sell hundreds of its A400M to the US Armed Forces to replace the Lockheed Martin C-130 and Boeing C-17, according to this article by Reuters.

A320neo first flight: Is the Airbus A320neo first flight going to run behind schedule? Airbus won’t say but Reuters suggests that it might. So does Aviation Week, like Reuters, pointing to an issue with the engine.

Southwest no longer an LCC: Bloomberg writes that Southwest Airlines is no longer a low cost carrier, with Cost per Available Seat Mile now approaching the legacy carriers. Years ago we characterized Southwest as the first legacy LCC, as costs increased, low fares began to disappear (it’s often easier to find a low fare on a competitor today) and routes took it into big city airports previously eschewed.

59 Comments on “Odds and Ends: KC-46A update; A440M in the US; A320neo first flight; Southwest no longer an LCC

  1. Is that KC-46 wiring issue an indicator of where its going with Boeing?
    Like the 787, is mucking with what worked going to cascade?

    If Boeing can’t get wiring bundles right then….. (and can’t learn from Airbus either form the sounds of it as the verbainge has A380 written all over it.)

    P&W continues to be on my watch list and this just lends credence that they are no longer up to snuff.

    And funny to find SW no longer a LCC, what is the world coming to?

    • it honestly sounds a lot like the trouble A had with their 380 wiring. different design software (did the original 767 even use 3D software? for wiring)

      it just goes to show, the small things are usually overlooked.

  2. KC-46: For those not initiated in those type of contracts, I once wrote an explanatory post of this first KC-46 Engineering Manufacturing & Development contract that I guess will be helpful to understand some of the figures of the article (4.9bn$ vs. 5.9bn$, etc) http://theblogbyjavier.com/2013/03/02/kc-46-emd-contract-101/ (the post is not updated with the latest GAO review but the previous one, concepts however remain the same)

    A400M: any one doubts USAF will sooner or later fly it? 🙂

    • I am firmly y convince the US Air Force lusts after thousands of A400s!

      Sadly they were told there was no cutting in line and gave up and bought more of those inferior C130Js and stocked up on excess C17s (not willingly at the time but we have a new war going on so what the hey)

      • ROTFLMAO… The fact is the USAF does not need the A-400M, much less thousands of them. If, and that is a very big IF, the USAF were to order any A-400Ms, Airbus would break its neck getting them to the USAF ahead of existing customers.

        But the US Congress has no desire to employ French, German, and Spanish employees ahead of American employees.

        The USAF has about 450-500 C-130E/H/J/J-30s in various MDS. The C-130Es are slowly retiring after decades of service. But there is no need to replace them as their crews and maintenance positions are also being eliminated due to the Obama draw down in force strength. The USAF also has some 220 C-17s, and will level off with about 53 C-5B/C/Ms.

        There is no USAF mission the A-400M can do that cannot be done by the C-130s and C-17s. In fact the A-400 cannot do most of the missions C-130s fly for the USAF, USMC, and USCG.

        Canada doesn’t want the A-400M, neither does Australia, India, UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait. The UK recently accepted their 8th C-17, which, along with their 7th C-17, was ordered AFTER the RAF REDUCED their A-400M order from 25 to 22. Australia’s RAAF also increased their C-17 order (delivered), as did Qatar, UAE, and Kuwait, all when the A-400M COULD HAVE BEEN ordered. The RAAF also ordered additional C-130Js in that time. India has exercised their options of the C-17s.

        • Agreed on the A400. Yes Airbus would roll over and sing hosannas if the USAF were to buy them (and congress would not let them if they wanted to and they don’t want or need to)

          I would like to interject a political clarification and I would appreciate it if its just taken as at least a rough basis of fact and not get it into a political argument.

          Obama administration is not doing the current funds slash (far more that than draw down). It was an agreement with Congress that was supposed to be a stop gap that in fact was not changed like the process intended and it became the fiscal act that cut massive funds.

          My numb mind does not remember all the details, I think it would be fair to say the Administration wanted some draw down and this went way over the edge and congress is responsible for that part. The administration has spent a great deal of effort to restore some programs and tried to curtail the massive cuts.

    • Yes, I doubt it… I think the US OEM’s have shown to be capable of swaying US defence funds towards less capable solutions when it suits their bottom line.
      C17 and C130 will be replaced mostly by commercial derivatives supported by tilt-rotors and/or zepps for front line / no runway duties and maybe a C17 replacement in a few decades.
      the youngest versions of these platforms are not that old yet, and look at how long they keep the B52 flying.

      bottom line, replacing 600+ C130 (67 musd) plus 225 C17 (218musd) is a 89 Busd market. Bo, NG and LM will not let that go abroad.
      maybe if Ab builds them in mobile?

  3. I think I started a post on the A400 for USAF a while ago.

    The range, speed, high bay combined with its rough terrain capabilities and build in helicopter and fighter refuelling capabilities will make the Marines mouthwater..

    Airbus needs a partner though. It has reasonable good relations with LM, NG and L3. On the other hand, what has even Boeing to loose in a cooperation. US A400 sketch I did 6 years ago.


    • Why does Airbus need to partner? EADS (Now Airbus Defense and Space, or whatever it calls itself) was a qualified bidder for the KC-X. No need to partner for this.

      • They were qualified and lost, not wholly due to being foreign, but having a local partner doesn’t hurt your chances of winning (just your bottom line when you do)

    • Conveniently you left Out the C-130 Job. I doubt that Airbus will be able to get what they are looking for. The Lockheed Martin Hercules C 130 J is already in use within the United States Air force and is used by plenty of other countries. http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/c130.html Im sure anything is possible but with the C-130J available now and the C-17 ending production, it’d be hard to get a shoe in the door.

  4. With scarce defense dollars why would the US be interested in the A-400M?

    Our C-17s are all 20 years old, or less, and the C-17 out performs the A-400 in the strategic airlift role, it is faster and carries nearly twice the weight. The C-17 is no slouch in the tactical airlift mission, either. The C-17 already carries tactical cargo loads onto the same unprepared runway types the A-400M is certified for.

    In the tactical role the C-130 is far away superior to the A-400 in the areas it can and has flown into. Yes, the C-130 carries about half the weight of the A-400, But you don’t need a 37 tonne weight capability on these types of “beans and bullets” missions, you are not carrying in heavy vehicles.

    If the A-400M was so good and economical why are Air Forces around the world beating down the Airbus sales door? The fact is the A-400M cannot, nor is it intended to do the mission of the AC-130, WC-130, MC-130, EC-130, or HC-130. It is suppose to do the mission of the KC-130, but it is far from being able to do it. It also is far from being certified to fly low level terrain following/avoiding, especially at night or in the weather.

    France has paid E152.4M (about $205.74M USD) for the A-400M in 2013 and 2014. Turkey has paid the same price, so will the UK when they get theirs later this year.

    Both Germany and Spain are trying to sell as many as 13 A-400s each as they can no longer afford their original orders. The UK reduced its order by 3 airplanes.

    So, exactly why would the USAF, USMC, or USCG be interested in the A-400M? The US has stopped buying the C-17A, as we have more than enough, but if we wanted more we could get them for about $200M, less than the A-400M price (which does not include the “special export price add on” the EU customers and Airbus agreed when Airbus threatened to not produce it unless the EU customers tore up the original contract and reordered under a new contract with a much higher price tag).

    The KC-46A wiring issue has been publicly known now for most of 2014, so why is it news now? The short story is Boeing screwed up in the wiring placement and redundancy required by the USAF. This is not the same issue the A-380 had where the wiring simply did not fit, and it wasn’t identified until production airplanes were ready to be delivered. The KC-46’s wiring issue only effects 4 tankers. But it is really only an issue for the #1 build tanker (L/N-1065) as #2 (L/N-1066), #3 (L/N-1067), and #4 (L/N-1069) are not as complete as L/N-1065 is.

    • The news is the delay to first flight, and giving a delay of about 6 months probably sounded too familiar from the 787 program, every delay was 6 months.

      • Well it was dog months, each human month is 6 dog months so it makes sense, you just have to know the refereence base.

    • Odd that I follow this pretty closely and the recent outputs were the first I heard of it.

      And yes it is an A380 type issue, the latest statement was it was a problem with new design software.

      The KC-46 is in slow production, the A380 was ramping up to full so not an apples to apples.

      Not as bad as the A380, but the same issue where it was missed and has cost a ton of money.

      • No sir. The total wiring of the KC-46 is almost twice the length of a B-767-300ER pax jet. The main issues are harness separation, shielding, and redundancy with the wiring.
        The issue with the first several produced A-380s (when it was still essentially at a LRIP level) was the harnesses simply did not fit. In some cases some harnesses simply did not have enough slack to account for normal airframe flexing inflight. Most of the first several A-380s needed a complete wire harnesses replacement before they were delivered.
        These first 4 KC-46s will all have repairs made before FF. In some cases it is simply relocating a wire harness, others have to be shielded properly, and still others need replacement to account for redundancy. Since these four airplanes still have no interiors, rewiring and repairing is simpler. Only L/N-1065 needs the most rework. The remaining three are less complete than L/N-1065.

        • Does it matter if you interfaces leave you a gap or did not design to the the stated spec and known need to separate the harness and the routing?

          The magnitude is less, the basic screw up is the same.

          Its a screw-up of the same nature no matter how you slice it and how you add figure to it.

          I know in fact that wiring separation (at least used to be) a known core Boeing standard and they indeed removed a European supplier from their source many years ago as their presentation had the backup system running side by side.

          This is the equivalent of the boom falling off.

          Something is drastically wrong when clearly stated standard and specs in a program Boeing has supposedly thrown major resources in to get right from the start (all those so called Labs). Boeing has claimed they are the worlds premier and by far the most experienced tanker builder.

          What this says is basking in your past glory does not get you current product out the door with the way you currently manage your program and workforce. There is more to building an aircraft than talk.

        • It’s a good job Boeing has all this tanker experience, otherwise things might get really screwed up.

    • Dear KC, for a tactical aircraft the C-17 is just to heavy. The operational empty weight of the C-17 is higher then the maximum landing weight for the A400M! C-17’s main landing gear just has 12 tires just like the A400M.

      The C-17 is noway near to be a tactical according to required runway strength (see table 1):

      You should also check the fuel burn rates there for C-17. An A400M burns about half of that.

      For sure you can land on unpaved runways with any aircraft. The question is how many times?

      Cargo bay of the C-130 is just to small to carry a Stryker or Bradley ready for combat.

      I believe the wiring won’t be the last issue for KC-46.

      • And an A400 cannot carry an M1 Abrahams tank either (or a Leopard II)

        I understand the A400 cannot carry the full (Puma?) tactical vehicle it was supposed to either, it has to be taken apart and brought in with another load (Herc or A4400)

        And do we typically need to put a stand alone Bradley into that small a filed?

        Typically the Bradley fights with M1s. How about fuel? Ammo?

        Creating a scenario and having it apply are two different things.

        • Battle tanks aren’t flown around often. Advanced fast heavily armed lighter vehicles are the ones used in recent conflicts. Battle tanks often go by boat/ truck.

          The requirements are to move around the new armoured vehicles, heavy equipment, attack helicopters, medium transport helicopters, trucks etc. Far, fast and high through commercial airways, to soft short runways in EMEA. And be able to refuel helicopters and fighters in theatre after a quick refit.

          The C-130 proved an excellent tactical transport during the last 50 years, but requirements have outgrown this platform for the next 50 years. The C-17 is what it was made for, an impressive battle tank mover. For real prices, check out what the e.g. RAAF, RAF and RCAF paid. Production will be ended, despite congress efforts.

          Only futuristic concept have been the responds sofar from LM and Boeing, even stealth ones. Prices of those will likely end up being similar to other stealth aircraft such as B2, F22 and F35.

    • scarce defense dollars? surely you jest!

      And no the A400M is not designed for the C-130 missions… that would have been stupid, just buy the C-130. Neither was the C-17, but as you yourself point out, sometimes it is called upon to patch some shortcoming of the C-130 (usually payload/size restrictions I assume)

      Finally, I think you may miss some detail on hte A380 wiring issue. the problem was that different design offices worked using different software (or even just different versions of CATIA) – it should not have been a problem… should not. But when assembly started, some wiring looms were not long enough.
      sounds like Boeing did hit a similar snag. Either while digitizing paper drawing into a 3D program, or when porting a legacy 3D model to a newer software version, the digital routing of some wires was not in line with the assembly reality. So when the new wiring looms (designed keeping all redundancy and spacing requirements in mind) went into the airframe, some discrepancies were found.

      as you say, it may not be a biggie, but it is similar – engineers staring into their digital reality and assembly proving that reality will not be cheated by bytes.

  5. European governments have spent billions of dollars for planes and other military goods from US companies, some of them pretty weird like the F-104, so I wonder why everybody is going so crasy about buying some planes from Europe for a change. Especially as it would really fit a niche for which it would be an utter waste of money to develop another bird. Hey, the A400 took its time to mature, but is a really usefull plane after all. It would certainly improve trans-Atlantic friendship and heal some of the damage done through the completely unfair tanker project.

    • The U.S. sometimes buys European aircraft (the C-27J, CN-235, T-45, UH-72, and T-6A spring to mind). The upcoming T-X program will likely use a European jet trainer design. Other recent purchases like the P-8A and CH-53K had no European competitor to buy instead.

      So it’s unfair to suggest that the Pentagon always refuses to buy European aircraft. Sometimes it does if the aircraft adds a necessary capability and – more importantly – if an American manufacturer doesn’t already make a competing aircraft.

  6. Well said Gundolf, trade is a two way process in the modern world. Boeing should not be the automatic choice, the best product should be chosen.

      • No I don’t, but the idea of trade being a two way process is a general principle and equally applicable when we read “buy American pleas for commercial aircraft. The fact is that European airlines and air forces are replete with US made aircraft, but the minute a purchase in the opposite direction is mooted the cries of “but it isn’t US made!” begin.

        • Roger, you have to remember commercial airlines buy airplanes based on price and the potential profit they can generate. There are several US based airlines that fly Airbus products, just as several EU based airlines that fly Boeings.
          Military forces buy airplanes for the missions they are expected to fly, as well as their capabilities. Price per unit is important, but usually not the deciding factor to buy that airplane.
          I have always thought the USAF should have bought some Panavia Tornado GR-1s as the US lacked a good runway denial capability back in the 1980s. We had to rely on RAF GR-1s during Desert Storm for that capability.
          I also think we should buy some Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 2 Block-10/15s to replace the F-16 in the ground attack/CAS roles.
          But with US defense budgets being what they are, we can no longer afford them.

  7. KC, I admire your patriotism!
    Boeing screwed up the Japanese and Italian versions of this plane and appear hell bent on a repeat performance for the USAF.
    Don’t be dismayed if at sometime you will, as a taxpayer be asked to bail out this project, contract conditions notwithstanding.

    • Thanks, Andrew.

      Yes, Boeing initially got both the Italian KC-767A and the Japanese KC -767J wrong. But they stayed with it and eventually fixed both designs. OTOH, Airbus still has not gotten the RAAF KC-30A fully operational as the Boom still has problems. Airbus even had problems for the RAAF writing the initial flight and maintenance manuals, which added to the delayed initial delivery.

      Modern tankers, the A-330MRTT and derivatives, and the B-767 and derivatives (including IAI conversions) are much more high tech airplanes when compared to the KC-97, KC-135, and even the KC/KDC-10.

  8. I am sure the KC46-A will become an very valuable platform for the USAF. It will offer dispatch reliability and maintenance costs far better then the KC135s and raw long haul cargo capability (60k lbs over 5000NMi) at a fraction of the costs it takes a (refuelled) C-17. Reserving those up for other missions.

    It takes a bit longer/somehow DoD will pay, congress will make sure. Did anyone expect anything else really?

    • Yes, I do expect something else.

      I really think the US defense and govm’t found a good format for the contract, with a limited slip. It acknowledges that some cost overruns are due to requirement creep and/or definition details, and some is due to the contractor trying to make an additional buck or low-balling their bid.

      Boeing low-balled. I think even KC will accept that. If nothing else that was the value the competition added, Boeing couldn’t just ask what they wanted, and apparently didn’t even ask for what they needed.

      So neither the DoD nor congres will add to the KC-X program over and above the 4.9BUSD cap. (but Boeing could try to recoup it’s losses on the procurement contract)

  9. Any cargo airplane that does not need air refueling to fly the distance needed for the mission is cheaper than one that needs air refueling. Yes, the two engine KC-46 will also be cheaper to fly 60K of cargo 5,000 nm than a four engine C-17 with the same cargo and mission length.

    A C-17 flying this mission would have a TO weight around 475,000 lbs. (fuel load would be about full tanks), or so. The KC-46 would use its MTOW of 415,000 lbs. (fuel load would be about 150,000 lbs.), thus the tanker is already 60,000 lbs. lighter. The C-17 also carries some 40,000 liters more fuel that the KC-46 can. That’s because it needs it. But both aircraft will need air refueling to fly this 12 hour long mission, the C-17 will need about 30,000 lbs. of fuel (to meet USAF fuel reserve requirements) and the KC-46 will need about 60,000 lbs. of fuel (to meet USAF fuel reserve requirements).

      • The way I read the Boeing range chart (P&W engines), B-767-300ER (412,000 lbs. MTOW), 5200 nm, B-767-200ER (395,000 lbs. MTOW), 5600 nm, both with a 60K payload. But these ranges do not include USAF fuel reserves, which over most land masses base requires 90 minutes of fuel, over an island base, or in isolated mountainous base is 180 minutes of fuel.
        The KC-46A will be slightly heavier than the B-767-300ER at MTOW, and a significantly higher drag index, even without WARPs installed. The higher drag index comes from the LAIRCM, the air refueling receptacle doors, air refueling boom, exit shout for the centerline air refueling drogue, camera mounts for the air refueling Boom Operator, AFSATCOM, TACAN, external formation strip lighting, duel color air refueling anti-collision lights, and hard points for the WARPs.
        Just as with the A-330MRTT, the B-767 tankers have a higher fuel burn per hour than their commercial airliner sisters.

        • Kc: On the issue of the boom – I cannot find which of the two refuelling systems the F-35 will be using and therefore what demand there will be in countries not using the legacy USAF fleets for a boom. Can you advise me?

          • The F-35A for the USAF, IDF, JSDAF, ROKAF, and RAAF will have a receptacle for Boom refueling.
            The F-35A for the RCAF may have a probe for probe and drogue refueling, that question is still to be decided.
            The F-35B and F-35C for all customers will have a probe for probe and drogue refueling.

  10. USAF probably will buy hundreds of A400’s in the end. It is the only modern military transport in the market. C17’s are an overkill for most missions and C130 is a hopeless relic of yesteryear. As Boeing is shifting work overseas as fast as it can and still able to sell to Amerikan military. Alabama built A400’s will be no problem.

    • The A-400M has been a failure on the international market. It has only one order outside of the EU. Malaysia has 4 on order, and threatened to cancel it if Airbus tore up that contract as it did with the original EU orders.
      Airbus said back in 2009 the A-400M program would not break even without more international orders.
      The A-400M order from South Africa was canceled (because of price increases), Chile never firmed up their MOU, it failed in Canada, Australia, India, and all of the ME countries. Most of these countries ordered the much more capable C-17 and/or the C-130J. Chile ordered the KC-390. South Africa has yet to order a replacement for their retired KC-707 tankers and their old C-130BZs.
      The Malaysian aircraft are expected now to be delivered in 2015, ten years after they were ordered.
      The A-400M of today is less capable than the airplanes originally contracted for back in 2003. It has yet to prove its tanker capability, it cannot fly low level, nor can it land on unprepared runways. During testing it sank into a grass runway that was specially prepared for it to land and take off on.

      • The A-400M has been a failure on the international market. It has only one order outside of the EU.

        Funny how you won’t let the same argument you present in this whole post against the A400M count against the KC-46/KC-767.

        As for the A400M’s export potential – yes, it was late, yes, it came in way over budget, yes, it’s not able to do everything it was originally supposed to (back when the ordering countries effectively wanted to make it the air force equivalent of a swiss army knife)… just like so many other military planes that came before it (the C-17 wasn’t exactly on-time or on-budget, either).
        And yet, those planes that turned out to perform well found buyers even if they arrived late/dearer/less capable than originally envisioned. So let’s just wait and see what’s going to happen to the A400M.
        Although yes, I do see A400Ms as a tough sell to the US Air Force. Not so much because it’s a dud, but because of a lot of people being very well-trained to automatically respond to the idea of the USAF flying an Airbus with things like “the US Congress has no desire to employ French, German, and Spanish employees ahead of American employees.”

  11. “The A-400M has been a failure on the international market. It has only one order outside of the EU. Malaysia has 4 on order, and threatened to cancel it if Airbus tore up that contract as it did with the original EU orders.”

    That’s incorrect. European governments put enormous pressure on Airbus to get their aircraft right first before any export ambitions. They need(ed) them badly. Now production is ramping up this situation has changed. Interantional campaign’s will be much broader then just US (Brasil, Indonesia, Australia, most C130 operators they need something bigger then the KC390).

    I think no competition and excellent multirole performance helps A400M exports.

  12. Heck I’d bet on an AN-70 (or AN-112) partner/domestic production/new engine variant in USAF service before I’d see any RFP/production award going to an Airbus consortium A400 deal at whatever price they’d agree to. And does anyone really think the US model wouldn’t have to get P/W/American engines as well (meaning a lengthy flight test/certification process too)?

    I’m sure the A400M is (finally) a fine aircraft but it’s never going to work to deploy US forces to the middle east/africa/asia and intra-theater American airlift doesn’t need a tweener aircraft between those frames (C-17/C-5) and the much cheaper “fat” C-130 concepts that will eventually be revisited/developed.

    • Due to political situation we won’t see any An-70 production soon. FAL for An-70 was to be in Russia.

      Boeing could produce the aircraft together with Antonov.

  13. Beyond if the A400M is a failure or not, the C-17 is a WAYYY more capable aircraft, C-130 included. The C-130 Hercules family of aircraft is the closest competitor to the A400M. With that said, the A400M is by all comparisons a better aircraft but the C-130J is and has sold way better than the A400M and while I’m not an expert on this here topic, price may have a lot to do with it. If the price of the A400M is $120 million give or take, you can almost buy 2 C-130’s for the price of one A400M. The US Department of Defense is full of C-17s and low on cash to spend on anything else, including A400M’s. If they did all of a sudden need lift, the Hercules is cheaper, inferior but not by a wide margin and probably available sooner than it would take delivery of a A400M. Let’s not kid ourselves and think that if the D.O.D. DID think about buying A400’s, the lobbying team of Lockheed Martin and those of Boeing would be there faster than speed of sound to object. Do you remember what happened when DHL tried to enter the US market and deliver packages by trying to buy Airborne Express?? http://postandparcel.info/8081/news/ups-and-fedex-lock-horns-with-dhl/ I know that my last example might be a stretch but I seriously doubt the US DOD is going to appropriate funds to buy military hardware from its main competitor. Tom has a better chance of out smarting Jerry the mouse.

  14. ” I seriously doubt the US DOD is going to appropriate funds to buy military hardware from its main competitor.”

    DoD is not an Airbus competitor but a happy customer today. (Lakota’s).

    • I should have been more specific. The Airbus Group/EADS is one of many international competitors to the likes of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The point still remains that the US Marines and the US Army are not going to be so enthused to buy a military transport costs as much as 2 C-130’s. Besides, they are loaded with C-17’s and the is no argument there, not one entertaining at least. I’m not exactly sure how many more C-130J’s but last March they took delivery of a new copy. If they have more in the pipeline, it makes the sale much harder.

        • Finish the story, keesje. Those C-17 customers paid for each airplane, training, logistics, scheduling, spares, and maintenance packages.
          The fly away price of the C-17 alone is about $200M, while the price France has paid for their delivered A-400Ms is $207.74M. So an airplane with less than half the capability of a C-17 costs almost $8M more, not including the export loan pay back fee Airbus is required to charge in accordance with the “new” A-400 contracts with the EU countries. That charge is at least $5M per airplane to pay back the $1.5B “loan” to Airbus.
          Five years after the new sales contracts for the A-400M, there is still only 174 airplanes ordered, only 4 of them are from an international customer, Malaysia (who forced Airbus to stick to the ORIGINAL contract and price and Airbus is paying penalties to for delayed deliveries). But any A-400M marketed by Airbus sales department will have to compete against the 13 German A-400Ms and 13 Spanish A-400Ms for sale on the current market.