May 13, 2015: For the first time Boeing has detailed how it plans to bridge the production between the 777 Classic and 777X, according to aerospace analysts attending the May 12 investors day.
Boeing previously said it needs to sell 40-60 777s a year to maintain current production rates of 100/yr (8.3/mo) to the introduction of the X. This pledge has drawn a great deal of skepticism from analysts and this column.
Boeing’s detailed explanation, its first, does little to lessen doubts.
Boeing said it will feather the X into current production rates, with the X becoming the equivalent of two or three Classics, thus, it claims, maintaining current rates, according to Wells Fargo.
Boeing also claims that it will maintain rates by managing its skyline, advancing deliveries, according to Buckingham Research.
There are several problems with these claims.
backlog to advance orders to maintain rates. The numbers just don’t add up. Further, customers would have to adjust fleet and capital planning, not out of the question but challenging nonetheless.
The 777 Classic program is under pressure. Sales are hard to come by and pricing is dropping. Boeing initially said it would maintain production rates through the EIS of the X on 2020. Few believed this could be achieved. Boeing’s convoluted reasoning that it will is hardly reassuring.
Why the attempted obfuscation anyway ? Observers understand the problem and will readily accept an announcement by Boeing of a 777 classic throughput slowdown, no sweat ? Airbus have been there before them for the A330 CEO. Is McNerney obsessed with the Boeing Stock Exchange quotation ? He’s not fooling anybody with this kind of magic, better play cards on the table !
You would think so, wouldn’t you?
However, as witnessed all through the 787 debacle, Boring has shown it will continue to paint a pretty picture until the absolute last moment.
I guess that’s the problem with short-sighted Wall St analysts who are driven by “next quarteritis” and will hammer Boeing when they announce a production cut.
Its the stock market. The bad news for Boeing isnt broadcast when the tyre is giving judders, they wait till they have to climb out of the wreck on the side of the highway.
This means production of the Classic will be reduced from 8.3/mo to 6.3 or 5.3 and adding back in the X only truly adds one, at least initially.
So in other words, Boeing is maintaining an 8.3/mo production rate by only producing 6.3 or 7.3 but counting one of those planes produced twice or thrice. Genius.
Why the attempted obfuscation anyway ? Observers understand the problem and will readily accept an announcement by Boeing of a 777 classic throughput slowdown, no sweat ?
That’s what I’ve been wondering throughout as well.
Instead, we get a mix of obfuscation, semantics, playing with numbers, and – eventually – backpaddling.
Wall Street analysts are not after Boeing as such but are in constant search of (be it artificially spurred) short term stock erratic bursts, which will be played by proficient Harvard-trained GI haircut Golden Boys into massive takes by application of sophisticated trader softwares … stock-watchers are there to set off the bloodhound flock running. The hammering is neutral and not aimed at Boeing, never was ! It is just looking for the next ladder to jump on the ride !
WHat did you say?
I believe Boeing expects an uptick in cargo. Have freighters been accounted for in the analysis?
The next dirty little secret is that closing the 787 surge line and stuffing them all down the main line is likely to create absolute chaos and a large number of increasingly incomplete aircraft being rolled out.
We don’t have to match a crazy Boeing escape with a crazy Airbus one. Airbus said an A380 is equivalent to 7 A320s, not to 8 A330s.
@keesje I was in the crowd then it said eight. Hamilton
FWIW, Keesje is right that the comparison is with the A320 and not the A330; but the number is 8, and not 7.
I.e. one A380 is roughly the equivalent to 8 A320s, production-wise.
The most meaningful number here is not eight but two. Here is my reasoning.
In a two-class configuration, the A320 sits 150 people whereas the A380 sits 644. That is a ratio of 4 to 1. This means that, everything else being equal, the effort required to build an A380 should be four times that of an A320. Since it actually requires eight times the effort it menas it is two times more difficult to build a big aircraft than a small one.
Conclusion: A large aircraft like the 777 is two times more complex to build than a smaller one like the 737.
Perhaps this can be explained by the relatively low production rate of the A380? Moreover, the A380 will only break-even on an unit cost basis at the end of this year.
Looking at it via the aircraft weights:
A380 is at 277t empty and MTOW is 560t
An A320 is 43t empty and 78t MTOW
Using the highest figures we get 7.2 x, which is a much better comparison than passengers, as that doesnt take account of the much longer range.
IMO, the most meaningful comparison should be the difference in the total usable fuel volume. An aircraft is designed around the wing structure and the A380 could conceivably be stretched to beyond 100m. On the A380-800, the total usable fuel volume is 315292 litres. However, the centre wing box/tank is dry on the A388. With the centre tank activated, the total usable fuel volume would be 357,054 litres. In comparison, the A32X-series has a total usable fuel volume of 23,858 litres in the wing (i.e. no including auxiliary fuel tanks). BTW, the area of the flaps on the A380 wing is equal to the entire wing area of the A320.* 🙂
Hence, the A380 wing has a total usable fuel volume about 15 times greater than that of the A32X-series. Of course, the A380 is a long range aircraft, but this nevertheless should indicate how much bigger the A380 really is.
Now, it’s my understanding that it takes 8 times as much manpower to build an A380-800 than what’s required for the A320. Thus, this has really nothing to do with the level of complexity. The bigger an aircraft gets, the lower the cost as a function of weight. When you compare the airframe weights of the A320 and A380 and their list prices, you’ll get significantly more hardware per dollar when you’re buying an A380. Most of the expensive systems of an airframe (i.e. engines not included) will cost roughly the same in a smaller plane as they do in a big one, which helps explain why wide bodies have a higher profit margin than single aisles – and larger wide bodies will have larger margins than smaller wide bodies.
For example, the A380 and the A350 has the same, or very similar, IMA, AFDX, -double-hydraulic/double-electric (2H/2E) flight-control architecture and the variable frequency electrical generation system philosophy, 5000 psi hydraulic system.
With all things being equal, the A380 should have a higher profit margin than the smaller A350 when production has matured.
* Page 10
Hamel, I don’t buy the ratios.
Building a larger airplane takes bigger and more awkward handling and shipment of parts, including trucking at night and flying instead of railing as well as higher capacity cranes etc.
But the larger airplane does not have your ratio of parts different – one flight deck, one set of avionics (a few additions for nodes perhaps such as for more flight control pieces and of course pax control & IFE), number of engines is obvious in the comparison, same empennage components, landing gear is obvious in the comparison.
Checkout and production flight test won’t vary significantly with size, except for fuel and landing fees.
Are people factoring in less economy of scale due fewer units built?
What really counts is sustained profit. Obviously that depends on total cost to produce (development and unit replication) and willingness to pay.
With high fuel prices willingness is higher, depending on price and maintenance costs
Hi Keith, please note that Hamel is my last name. You can call me Normand if you want.
In the first paragraph you say that “building a larger airplane takes bigger and more awkward handling and shipment of parts, including trucking at night and flying instead of railing as well as higher capacity cranes etc.” Personally I view these logistic problems as a direct consequence of the surface to volume ratio I was discussing in my other posts.
Scott heard it, but Keesje is still right? What difference does it make, the A380 production was a mess no matter what you compared it to, right?
Well, compared to the Dreamliner it was rather tidy. 😉
You know how to rub salt in the wound.
IMO its a feel good escape, fewer count for more & the others do it too. Not.
I talked to airline people this week and they expect a lot from the -9x. I have not seen wildly positive reaction to the -8x specs though.
Everybody is looking at the GE9x development. Will be another GENX or another LEAP-B?
Also the time has come to conclude the Boeing 777X is a bit late. Boeing hesitated and/or underestimated the XWB.
“I talked to airline people this week and they expect a lot from the -9x. I have not seen wildly positive reaction to the -8x specs though.”
I think that the -9X significantly outsell the -8X. This aircraft is also a serious competitor to the A380,
“Also the time has come to conclude the Boeing 777X is a bit late.”
Perhaps Boeing was bleeding so much money with the 787 that it can’t develop at that time the 777-X.
“Everybody is looking at the GE9x development. Will be another GENX or another LEAP-B?”
It is more likely to be a GEnx (or better) than a LEAP-1B. The reason is that GE does not have the constraints that CFMI was facing with the short-legged 737. In other words GE will be able to optimize the fan diameter. That is a luxury CFMI did not have with the LEAP-1B. Proof of that is the performance of the LEAP-1a which is reportedly 3-4 % better than the 1B.
The GE9X will have a fan diameter of 133.5 in (larger than the 128in of te GE90-115B). It will be the largest turbofan of the world.
The Leap-1B is only 69.4in when the Leap-1A/C is 78in. In fact, the Leap-1B is even smaller than the 73in PW1500G
Okay, okay, this has some trouble written in to it. Trouble that is concerning? Are you saying that the -9X has airlines claming merit in the frame? Is this the same program that you said would not get any sales because the A350-1000 was simply a better solution? Is that why you pepper it with the “bit late” part? Okay, nice try but stick with the script you came to the party with. Don’t change now under the cover of airlines you’ve spoken to. The A350-1000 is the better frame and desipte sluggish sales of 169 the frame has far more market potential than the 777-9X with more sales. Keesje – what is that number again? Whether an A380 is equal to A320s or A330s, is not the story here!! It’s that airlines (not Keesje) are expecting value from the -9X. Wow.
The butthurt is strong with that one.
“Is this the same program that you said would not get any sales because the A350-1000 was simply a better solution?”
I do not remember saying so, but you obviously have a link? (I wouldn’t spend too much time looking 😉 )
Only repeating what some airline people said to me. Do I still feel the 777X is a bit late, heavy and has narrow seats/aisles for 10-14 hour flights? Yes!
Do you feel the 777X is right on time, light and comfortable? Or should I claim you said so? 😉
Where do you think most WB twins will be sold? Around 300 (789) and 400 seats (779) but less so in between? Except some medium range (-10) and ULH (778), but nothing in between?
I feel Boeing has some homework to do 350 seats /8000NM. Maybe they are constrained / in denial again?
Besides airline staff, what constitutes “Airline people”?? Fleet planners? Fleet purchasing directors? The sad song of the the 777x being over weight and late is getting old. If the 7778/9 was as heavy, late and uncomfortable as you portray it to be it wouldn’t be selling. Doing a simple search the last A351 was ordered by Air Carribes for 3 planes in Dec of ’13. Nothing in 2014 and nothing as we approach the mid point of this current year. Meanwhile the 777 (77W and the 778/9) have outsold the A351 9:1 since ’13 to present day.
As of recent Boeing was on record saying that the surge line being used for the 787 would be closed down and transitioned for the 777x with the first frame rolling off the FAL in 2018. Not late, if anything it’s par.
“Where do you think most WB twins will be sold? Around 300 (789) and 400 seats (779) but less so in between? Except some medium range (-10) and ULH (778), but nothing in between? I feel Boeing has some homework to do 350 seats /8000NM. Maybe they are constrained / in denial again?”
There is no perfect plane to cover every aspect of seating there is. As of right now, in a 3 class arrangement, you can order the 779 if you need to seat 350+ and travel 8k nm. Less seats and less range? 781. More range less seats? 778. More range and less seats with better efficiency? 789. Homework not necessary. Your welcome,
Well, Boeing has 2 years to create flexibility to the 777 line.
Instead of mothballing the site when classic production runs dry, they can do some 737 Final assembly. Maybe not at the same rate but at least keep the machinists and fitters working.
The 777 platform is as suitable as any other platform for being developed into an Ultrafreighter. There can only be one ! The OEM who shoots first will control the market ! The use of 777 Lego modules to conceive an AGA-liner would save three to four years of development time and up to 7 G$ in programme NRD&D costs. A 777-based UltraFreighter could EIS by 2020-21 if launched sine die ? The alternatives are the A350-based or the A380-based Airbus UltraFreighter, or a clean-sheet solution (by whom ?) or staying put ?
300 units of UltraFreighters equate in industrial terms to some 400 x 777 classic, or in list price value, to some 600 x 777 classic. Worth while considering !?
Basically it is not a bad idea to launch a 777F but this will clearly create a huge internal competition with the 747-8F. And Boeing is desperately trying to sell the 747-8F.
The existing 777F ( which is based on 777-200LR with same wing as 300ER) wasnt delivered till 2009, while first 777-200s were delivered in 1995.
The interesting question that hasnt been asked is the 777F going to be continued in production once the 777X is up and running ?
The backlog isnt great but maybe 2 a month would do.
I think it will be quit expansive to maintain the 777 CEO production line only for the 777F, particularly for a low producation rate (maybe 10-15 air-frames/year). So, I assume that the 777F will be discontinued after the transition to the 777-X,
The wing is essentially the only change for the 777X. I dont see how its ‘expensive’ to continue using the jigs and production chain for the 777-300ER wing.
If the production rate matches the order rate, its making money. More so than end of line 300ERs, as the F has essentially no competition until maybe 2025 + when its replaced by an X version.
“The wing is essentially the only change for the 777X.”
You need to consider systems and integration considerations. The cockpit, engines, nacelles, landing gear? and various systems will be different. Also, there are some differences between the fuselage even if the 777-X will NOT be composite. Furthermore, Boeing will probably be forced to keep the current 777 assembly line working at a very low production rate (10-20 units/year) in parallel to the 777-X production line.
“I dont see how its ‘expensive’ to continue using the jigs and production chain for the 777-300ER wing.”
The profitability will probably significantly decreases with a low production rate of 10-20 units year instead of 100 units.
I’ve asked that question several times on Randy Tinseth’s blog, but have received no response.
From my understanding, Boeing is closing the 787 surge line in order to produce the 777-X. So I don’t understand how the 777-X can be equivalent to 2-3 777 CEO since the production rate of the 777 CEO line will be decreased anyway with all the implications it means.
Furthermore, discounting an aircraft like the 777 means up to 30 millions less profit per air-frame (assuming a 50% discount instead of 40%). This will significantly reduce the profitability of Boeing for the forthcoming years. Boeing will probably be forced to sell the 777CEO at almost zero margin in order to bridge the production gap.
Question: What is the 777-x rampup rate going to be?
Presuming it starts in early 2020 at 39, goes to 2021 at 80, 2022 at 100. That would leave 60 in 2020 and 20 in 2021 777-classics to be produced in that time period. So that would leave 60-17 firm = 43 classics to be sold for 2020 and 20-3 firm = 17 to be sold for 2021. Sizeable, but not impossible? But why buy a classic when the -x is available in a year or two? Cost I presume… although not ideal, it still creates cash flow…
The problem years will be 2018 (need 84) and 2019 (need 87) for classics. If options convert, then a little better (73) and (84).
It also presumes Boeing will be able to sell the slots for the 777-x in 2021 (80-33 = 47) and 2022 (100-38 = 62) and that the rampup proceeds smoothly.
So my (optimistic) guesstimate is that they will be able to keep the line at 100 for 2016 and 2017 but then will drop to 60-70 for 2018 and 40-50 for 2019…
I would also guess that there will be large 777-x orders over the next few years as there are 47 slots open in 2021, 62 slots in 2022, and 65 in 2023…
“But why buy a classic when the -x is available in a year or two? ”
There is a 5% improvement with the PIP. So, it may be interesting to purchase a CEO if Boeing accept a significant additional discount (10% = 30 millions). But, everyone know that the production gap between the 777CEO and the 777-X is an important issue.
The argument goes that the 787 is sold out in the near term. But why not operate three lines and exploit the demand, unless they are starting to hit market resistance? Looks like there is, and will be overcapacity of widebody production capability.
How’s the pie chart look in 2014, and in 2019, once the A350 is up to speed? How the forces rationalize for the 777 and A330neo remain to be seen.
I would guess that the suppliers are unable to ramp up that quickly and thus Boeing is constrained from accelerating the rate quicker. Also, the demand is likely going to be over a time period, not all in one or two years as aircraft are retired and replaced. It’s not like making simple widgets in a simple market.
I remember the A380 comment but I too thought it referred to A320 vs an A330. I would think an A330 is more like 3 of an A380?
That said I think what is missing here is a number of aspects of the move up.
Usually there is not as large a market in the next size up, you make fewer, sell for more. That was the A380 model based on the 747 Model (but the situation changed so not doing as well as the more steady selling (for the most part) 747 did (and note did, not current)
The A350 undercuts the 777-8 market and to some degree will push the 777-9.
I call it market fragmentation, where it gets sliced and diced by new models or derived model (A330NEO) and obviously the A350 found an opening, how good we will see but its clearly and opening.
Ergo, the other aspect being market fragmentation where you don’t have to take second best (along with everyone else) you can more narrow focus the fleet seats to what you at least think your market is (Kenyan giving up 777s means you make mistakes of course)
So until your model sells comparing it on a successful pervious mode by the same name it typical board spin.
I don’t think the 777X will sell in the numbers the 777 did. Not a failure, just not meet that threshold of the right product in the right place at the right time out of pure luck that did far better than expected (though of course the powers that be will want everything to think it was their brilliance.)
And then in lies the 3rd aspect. Boards being in bed with CEO and its all keep the party going at all costs so we can get everything we can out of this before it goes South (and blame someone else when it does).
Years back my brother came up with the phrase, “you lie to it and I will swear to it. “
Not bad but the A350 came before the 777-8, so the formula you have should be the inverse. Better said, the A350-1000 has consumed all currently available demand for the 777-8? Airbus has no A350 solution for the 777-9, so the competition alternative is the A380? Not to say that Airbus will not produce a competitive alternative in the A350 line, right? Your market segementation story has merit and I appreciate the alternative POV. Thanks
Most observers so far have mentioned the supply chain as the potential roadblock or bottleneck for the 777X manufacturing. Few, if any, have mentioned the 777X development itself. What guarantees do we have that the 777X will be ready not long after the 777 Classic production will have started to dwindle down?
Most scenarios imply a 2020 EIS for the 777X. My understanding is that Boeing has learned and integrated several lessons from the 787. But the 777 is an even bigger aircraft and could be quite challenging for Boeing for several reasons. The first one has to do with the fact that the wing will be made in-house when it used too be made in Japan. The second is that it will be made of composite. Now, to make a composite wing is something that requires quite a bit of expertise. It also requires a new factory.
I have no doubt that Boeing will be successful with this enterprise. And so will be the airplane itself. But all this might require more time than is currently expected. As mentioned in this editorial, as the number of customers for the Classic will gradually diminish Boeing will have to lower the prices considerably just to keep the assembly line operating. This means this important cash cow will no longer supply as much money at a time when plenty will be needed to cover the development cost of the 777X.
And all this will come at a time when the 737 backlog is likely to be somewhat smaller than it currently is, and as a consequence production might then have to come down as well. Luckily for Boeing the 787 will have started to bring in fresh cash. But a large chunk of that money will be used to absorb the existing deficit of the programme. So when I look at the future I see a not so rosy skyline for Boeing.
Except for all of those CS500s rolling out of the old 747 assembly bays.
That assembly bay would already be free today if Boeing had closed it down when it was time to do so. That is not long after the A380 was introduced. If they had done this (instead of the 747-8I) that bay would be available today for the 777X and the 787 would be able to keep its surge line open.
The new wing factory for the 777X is all ready under construction since Aug 2014, 1.3 million sq ft and is due for occupation in start of 2016.
“The new wing factory will house three of the world’s largest autoclaves used for curing composite material. Each autoclave is large enough to hold two 737 fuselages, Boeing said.”
Large enough for two ‘737 sized fuselages’ is the interesting bit for the future
Bombardier built a new wing factory in Belfast for the CSeries composite wing. This factory has autoclaves that are only big enough to cook a CSeries wing. So I can imagine how big the 777X wing factory will be. But what I want to point out is that Bombardier spent 1 billion dollars on that ‘small’ factory. I don’t know how much money Boeing will have spent when its own new factory will have been completed, but I can imagine it will have cost several billions. If we extrapolate that to the rest of the 777X we can derive a hefty figure for the entire programme.
What I am getting at is that Boeing will not make much money on the 777X for an extended period of time. And this will happen at the worst possible time, as I have pointed out before on numerous occasions.
The Bombardier factory in Belfast is 600,000 sq ft, so is around 1/2 size of Boeings new shop.
Just trying to find if the curing process is essentially the same . For the future nasa is doing the heavy lifting (and spending) to work out how to do ‘out of autoclave’ larger barrel s
“For the future nasa is doing the heavy lifting (and spending) to work out how to do ‘out of autoclave’ larger barrels.”
Are you sure? I always thought Boeing was not subsidized by the government… 😉
“Most scenarios imply a 2020 EIS for the 777X.”
I think that 2020 is very realistic. At that time, Boeing claimed that they can develop the 787 in 4 years instead of 6.
“The first one has to do with the fact that the wing will be made in-house when it used too be made in Japan. ”
Producing critical components in-house is not necessary a bad things. A lot of the 787’s problems are due to various subcontractors. Global Aeronautica was particularly problematic and the three Japanese “Heavy’s” required help from Boeing.
Normands comments are not without merit.
The breakup of the engineering department continues apace. At what point to you break up critical talents, teams and relationships before the breakdowns become apparent?
I don’t claim all engineering is mandated in Everett but the parts made there should have the engineers working on them not only in the same area but same factory.
The wing indeed is all new and something they don’t have background in.
Issues like the Lialu fuselage panels still not resolved. Maybe they don’t have to at this point but you resolve all you can to deal with those you get surprised by.
“The breakup of the engineering department continues apace. At what point to you break up critical talents, teams and relationships before the breakdowns become apparent?”
This is a small tragedy that has been unfolding at Boeing for many years now. As various commentators have pointed out on several occasions, Boeing used to be an engineer company before becoming an MBA company.
When the number of passengers is increased, everything else being equal, the floor area will increase to the second power, whereas the fuselage volume will increase to the third power. Incidentally, this was pointed out by a dutch engineer upon European certification of the DC-10 (that is why after a couple tragic accidents blowout panels were installed in all widebody aircraft). This proportionally higher volume does have an impact on the fuselage structure and hence the increased complexity.
I think you meant to say “fuselage area” instead of “floor area”. Floor area scales with passenger number.
Technically you are right Bernardo. But I did mean the floor area because in my initial comment I based my comparaison on the number of passengers. Since the floor area automatically increases to the second power with the number of seats, the ratio remains valid. We can then extrapolate, like you did, to the fuselage area itself (which like you pointed out is more directly related to fuselage volume).
I’m sorry, but you better check your geometry.
Cabin floor area increases linearly with the number of seats. 1 seat, 1 m². 2 seats, 2 m².
10 seats, 10 m².
Given equal fineness ratios, fuselage skin area increases to the second power and fuselage volume increases to the third power with the number of passengers.
That is correct Bernardo. I did not phrase my comment properly. What I had in mind was that the number of seats is related to the floor area, which is itself calculated in square feet or square meters (second power), versus cabin and/or fuselage volume, which is calculated in cubic feet or cubic meters (third power). In other words I do equate seat counts to floor area, and indeed they do grow linearly with each other, but the aircraft volume does not. In relation to seat count and/or floor area the aircraft volume grows much faster. The end result is an aircraft proportionately bigger than a smaller one. The consequence of this, among other things, is that because of its size it will be more complicated, if not more complex, to build. This may explain, at least partially, why it takes more time and more people, proportionally speaking, to build a larger aircraft.
This is not about pressurised fuselages/cylinders only. For example, the wing typically accounts for about 40 percent of the weight of an airframe, while it’s somewhat less for the fuselage. Furthermore, the airframe structure accounts for slightly less than 30 percent of MTOW for single aisles, while it’s slightly more than 20 percent (of MTOW) for long range wide bodies.
As for the square cube law and aircraft; it’s got more to do with the lifting ability of the wing vs. MTOW. Also, the structural strength required to contain the pressurisation loads acting on a fuselage scales linearly.
Please do check out this link:
+ this link:
Case: 777 fuselage vs. A380 fuselage
1) A380 fuselage is nearly a perfect ellipse. Surface area of an ellipse is pi x r1 x r2; thus the area of a slice of the constant fuselage section of the A380 is: pi x (8.41/2) x (7.14/2) = 47.16 m2. Since the 777 has a circular fuselage with an exterior cross section of 6.2 m, the area of a slice of its constant fuselage section is 30.2 m2.
Hence, the constant fuselage section of the A380 has about 56 percent greater volume than the constant fuselage section of the 777. However, the A380 can carry 18/19 economy passengers per row compared to 10 for the 777X; or, 80/90 percent more passengers per row in the constant fuselage sections for the A380 – which would seem to indicate that the A380 has indeed a significantly more efficient use of fuselage volume than the triple seven.
2) Looking at the fuselage wetted area (i.e. data provided by Bjorn Fehrm in the link below), the 777-9X is at 1337 m2 and the A380 at 1564 m2; or, the A380 has only about 17 percent more fuselage wetted area than the 777-9X, while the cabin floor area is about 54 percent larger on the A380 – and the fuselage wetted area (i.e. minus the empennage) is obviously very relevant for estimating total pressurized surface area
3) The pressurization loads for the elliptically shaped A380 fuselage is obviously higher than for the circular shaped fuselage of the 777. On the A380, the main and upper deck floor helps to bear the pressure loads in addition to the “extruded” frames that are thicker in depth and which are installed in the sides of the fuselage. However, these weight gains due to the additional structural strength required to contain the pressurisation loads acting on the A380 fuselage does not change the fact that the pressurisation loads as a function of passengers carried is still significantly lower than what’s the case with the 777-9X.
Also, I’m still comparing a relatively structurally inefficient A380-800 ( i.e.which looks more like a shrunken version of an A380-1000), with the structurally very efficient, “double stretched” 777-9X. Imagine how much more efficient an 85 m long A380-1000 would be.
Thanks for this highly technical dissertation OV, but I was just trying to say that on any commercial aircraft the total volume grows faster than the total surface. But I don’t mind you going into the details of it. Like I have said before, I always learn something whenever I read one of your enlightening posts. And I also appreciate your highly entertaining videos too! 🙂
Long and short of it, if Boeing says they have a plan they have a plan. Whether you like or do not like it, Boeing has the responsibility of making that plan happen. I know this gets comments but Scott, both Airbus and Boeing are dealing with end of life issues for their older programs. Neither wants to go quietly into the night, so you get to write these continuing sagas of strange accounting.
Airbus, at least, has faced the music with the A330ceo. First it announced a rate reduction from 10 to nine and then from nine to six (which we don’t think will be enough). Boeing hasn’t. If it’s Boeing, it must be blowing.
“Both Airbus and Boeing are dealing with end of life issues for their older programs.”
End of life issues at Airbus are nowhere near what they are for Boeing. This is precisely what I have been talking about in various threads on this fantastic aviation blog. So here I go one more time.
Yes Airbus will have to manage the transition from the A330ceo to the A330neo. This is not a big problem because Airbus is at the beginning of an upturn in terms of cash flow. This has to do with accounting practices at Airbus which force them to provision in real time, with no appreciable deferrals. It is the exact opposite at Boeing and this is catching up with them, or will soon do so. For the same reason the A350 will soon start to turn a profit. And a substantial one as this is a high-margin programme like the 777 Classic currently is for Boeing (but not for very long unfortunately).
Now we come to the A320. With new engines, especially the remarkable GTF, this aircraft is buying a lot of time before it will become obsolete like the 737 MAX already is. There is plenty of room left for improving this long underestimated engineering marvel.
Last, but not least, is the Airbus flagship: the A380. In my opinion a neo is a must, and the sooner the better. Which makes me believe it will quickly fall back into negative cash-flow (the ceo is expected to become cash-flow positive shortly). This is the most serious issue at Airbus presently. But it’s not as big a problem as the 30 billion debt that has kept increasing at Boeing on their exceptionally advanced 787. It is so advanced actually that it might be considered as overdesigned (but not in terms of reliability I am afraid).
So where does that leave Airbus versus Boeing? Let me first consider the development of the 777X. We are talking Big Machine here. It is not exactly a new design but it’s coming close. Boeing was late launching it and many observers are expecting a production gap with the Classic. And only one variant is likely to be successful. Very successful I might add. But it will take time, lots of time, before it becomes profitable. Of course we can expect Boeing to defer the development costs like it did with the Dreamliner. But time will eventually come when the bills will have to be paid. Where will the money come from at that time? Certainly not from the venerable 737 whose retirement is long overdue.
Speaking of the 737 it will have to be replaced, I mean it HAS to be replaced right now, by the NSA. But it will not come as cheap as the CSeries is for Bombardier. Eight to twelve billion dollars is a safe bet. Where will the money come for that one? Future military contracts? Well, good luck!
“For the same reason the A350 will soon start to turn a profit. And a substantial one as this is a high-margin programme like the 777 Classic currently is for Boeing ”
I think that the A350 will be only cash positive in 2019 partially because of the cost incurred by the A350-1000.
Yes I agree with this figure. But for me 2019 still means ‘soon’. Incidentally, this is approximately the year when I expect Boeing to start feeling the impact of its shortsighted planning. Absence of longterm strategy (and vision) would actually be a more accurate statement.
I generally agree with your previous comment. By the early 2020s the A350 will probably generated a few billions of cash flow (assuming a profit of 30 millions per air-frame with a production rate of 120 air-frames/year) . I also think that the A380 will be cash negative again in the forthcoming years in the case of a NEO. That’s why Airbus is tergiversating the launch of the A380NEO. Airbus is probably analyzing if it is more profitable to continue to produce the A380 and implementing a PIP or to launch the A380NEO considering all direct cost (R&D) and indirect cost (reduced profitability of the CEO, early NEO production loss, etc.). Adding all those indirect cost will be probably much more than the official $2.5B otherwise I think that Airbus would have already launched the NEO.
The good thing for Airbus is by 2020, the A320NEO, A330NEO, A350 will be all cash positive and it will be possible either to launch a clean sheet successor to the A320 or a fill the gap between the A320 and the A330 (true clean sheet successor to the 757)
On the other and, the 777-X will probably be cash negative until 2024-2025. At that time, the 737MAX will be already almost out of date and the 787 will barely recover its production losses. And because of the program accounting, the 787 will no be as profitable as the A330NEO at that time since part of its profit was already accounted. That is why Boeing is delaying so much the NSA. It can’t simply afford it. Some people say that the EIS is due for 2024-25 but McNerney said that the NSA will only ready by 2030. In my opinion, because of the mismanagement on the 787, Boeing “lost” 10 years in R&D).
“The good thing for Airbus is by 2020, the A320NEO, A330NEO, A350 will be all cash positive.”
“On the other and, the 777-X will probably be cash negative until 2024-2025. At that time, the 737MAX will be already almost out of date and the 787 will barely recover its production losses. And because of the program accounting, the 787 will no be as profitable as the A330NEO at that time since part of its profit was already accounted.”
With those two extracts you perfectly summarize my current thinking. Many Boeing fan boys do not appreciate how difficult the coming years will be for Boeing. Perhaps manageable, but not very comfortable, that’s for sure. But if anything major was to happen to the economy, Boeing could then find itself in dire straits.
As for the A380neo, I believe Airbus does not have much of a choice. Because I think PIPs might not be sufficient to position the A380 favourably with its only competitor: the 777-9X. Other than that I agree almost word for word with everything else you have said it this insightful post.
“As for the A380neo, I believe Airbus does not have much of a choice. ”
If Airbus want to produced the A380 after 2020-25, they don’t have choice. In my opinion Airbus shouldn’t have launch this aircraft in 2000 because the market doesn’t justify it. Result, low production rate and higher unit cost. The production rate was only 25-30 units/year comparatively to 100 units/year for the 777, ans 120 units/year for the A350 by the end of 2018. If the earlier market estimation was correct, Airbus would have produced the A380 at 60-80 units/year. Moreover, Airbus is probably force to significantly discount the A380 in order to sold it. For an aircraft like the A380 an additional 10% discount means 40 millions less cash flow. Results, Airbus probably lost ~$ 10B in production cost over the last decade.
Actually, Airbus should have launched the A350 first and then launch the A380. If Airbus have did this, the NEO question would not be an issue. The truth is that the A380 did’nt benefit from the latest development in engine efficiency and structure so the A380 will not be so competitive comparatively to the 777-X/A350.
Right now Airbus is probably gauging the market. Launching the A380NEO too soon will mean too much production lost due to too low production rate and launching the NEO too late will mean production gap issue.
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Once Airbus’ engineers are through with the A350-1000, the A320NEO and the A338/339 and all programs are cash-flow positive then they would have both the recources and the manpower to do a lot more than just hang some updated engines on the A380, right?
The larger a plane, the bigger is the advantage CFRP components offer. I bet my hat that Airbus is already working on some studies how they can apply the carbon panel technology of the A350 with the A380. It might enable them to build a significantly larger second generation A380 with an empty weight of the current version!
In the meantime RR, GE or PW might be able to offer a large geared engine. All combined it might improve the efficiency by 25%.
“All combined it might improve the efficiency by 25%.”
Increasing the wing span to 95m with two 7.5m long folding wing tips should increase efficiency by another 10 percent.
Airbus is forced to cut A330 production to bridge the gap to the A330NEO in 2018 Thats a big problem for Toulouse.
Boeing doesn’t have that issue bridging 777 production to 2020. They are just feathering the X into current production rates, with the X becoming the equivalent of two or three Classics, maintaining current rates.
Apparently a good part of the press / analyst/ public inhales just about anything big Boeing feeds them.
“Apparently a good part of the press / analyst/ public inhales just about anything big Boeing feeds them.”
That’s because the stuff they “inhale” has recently been legalized in the state where Boeing Commercial Airplane is based. 😉
@ Jacques Xing
The fact that the A380 will soon be cash-flow positive is for this observer a small miracle. Frankly I never thought this aircraft would generate a profit one day. I was quite shocked when I heard the news abouts its eventual profitability.
But more importantly, what Airbus has achieved with this phenomenal aircraft is to show the world what it could do. Boeing already enjoyed an enviable position with the 707, but its well deserved reputation really took-off, literally, on February 9, 1969 when the 747 made its first flight.
When Airbus introduced the A380 more than 35 years later I thought it would never surpass the 747 in terms of prestige, despite the fact that it was considerably bigger. That’s because 747 was synonymous with ‘huge’. But I was wrong. Today when people want to impress others they brague that they flew on an A380 between London and Singapour. If they mention that they flew on a 747 they will illicit little reaction, if any.
The sad reality is that in spite of its phenomenal track record the 747 is passé. In the imagination of the average citizen this extraordinary aircraft is now viewed almost as a dinosaur. Only the aviation buffs still appreciate what this aircraft has accomplished. And Airbus knew better than anybody else how important it was to make an equivalent statement.
In my own imagination the 747 will always remain a giant leap for mankind. Incidentally it made its first flight only a few months before Neil Armstrong made ‘our’ first step on the Moon. Those were the Golden Years of aerospace. That was the time when United States firmly established itself as a Super Power. But things have changed a lot since those glory days.
It’s interesting to note that the Concorde made its first flight less than a month after the 747. It was then a first opportunity for Europe to say to the rest of the world that they too could produce ‘out of this world’ machines.
Sounds like blather from Boeing and pontificating by outsiders.
I presume the desire is to maintain a production rate to avoid the efforts of inefficiency of reducing then increasing. I don’t have a grasp of why it is so difficult if people can be deployed elsewhere. Companies have to get more flexible, Boeing has come far with that and space efficiency but it took decades.
Boeing should keep in mind that sustained profit on investment is the proper goal. (That requires smarts, good values, and a majority of good decisions.)