Bjorn’s Corner: The coin has two sides

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

22 January 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Today’s Corner should have been about something else. But we  learned yesterday that yet another order did not go Bombardier’s way, the 125 seat aircraft order of 40 units for United Airlines.

Normally I don’t care about who gets a single aisle order; the players that are active are all producing very good products and which one that gets chosen in not a big deal.

Boeing took this business with its smallest 737NG member 737-700. The 737NG was scheduled to take on aircraft like the CSeries and the re-engined A320neo while Boeing perfected a clean sheet single aisle for the end of this decade.

This corner is about national characters and what happens when this character gets under pressure. It’s also about the fact that the coin has two sides.

Boeing was deep at work on its clean sheet aircraft when Airbus proved with the A320neo at American Airlines that what the customers wanted was something more tangible, a “good enough” product that was available tomorrow. Out of this situation came the 737 MAX.

The MAX is a testament to the American creativity when push comes to shove.  (I have 40 years experience of working with Americas, so I know a thing or two about their character).

Given the situation, the MAX started out as very much a band aid update of the 737NG. I remember thinking, “this will be ugly.” The 737 is a 1950s fuselage and 1960s systems design that has now been re-engined and re-winged four times. The fourth time did not come natural as described. Boeing had prepared a bit, they had looked in a few corners what could be done with this amazing granny of an aircraft.

They put the MAX name on the creation and it kind of said “this is the last shot and it will be far.” The first announced 737 MAX configuration was not that impressive, neither in efficiency nor in technology. But gradually, one clever solution after the other was added and the present definition is competitive. Whether you think the 737 MAX or A320neo is the best choice for the job is about your preferences rather than outright “one is clearly better than the other.”

The US character showed how they bounce back when pressed. Bombardier is Canadian and I don’t know the Canadian national character that well. If they are tough and resilient, they will need it right now. The United order as I understood it was theirs to lose and they lost it.

Lets look at the loss of the United order for CSeries from its two sides:

One is for those that see a glass filled with water as half empty:

  • Bombardier lost another order to a major airline. The CSeries has therefore slid further in the direction of an unsuccessful program. There are simply too many large airlines that have looked at the aircraft and decided not to buy. Perhaps its superiority in technology and therefore efficiency is not enough to counter all the benefits the incumbent 737-700/MAX and A319ceo/neo has at today’s fuel prices.

The other sees the glass as half full:

  • “If Airbus and Boeing are so determined to keep us (Bombardier) from getting access and traction with their customers, we must have a heck of a product. If we weren’t a very credible threat to their business, they would ignore us. We just have to dig even harder and things will come our way.”

I can comment on what I’ve seen when I have investigated the CSeries and how it came about. An aircraft is one long list of trades to pick the right technology and solutions to different problems. When you are in the middle of doing these trades it’s challenging. You neve have enough of information. Every decision carries a lot of risk. Been there, done that.

Afterwards it’s totally different. Once enough time has passed, its easy to see whether these trade decisions were correct. We are now approaching aftermath and one can start to draw conclusions.

I’m impressed by at how many trade points the Bombardier team managed to take the correct path. On the pure technical side, it is hard to find decision they should have made differently.

On the strategic level, it becomes less clear. Here, Bombardier had to decide which market segment coverage it should go for. I would say the jury is still out on that decision.

With the decision that was taken, the Canadian national character better include perseverance.

115 Comments on “Bjorn’s Corner: The coin has two sides

  1. Amusing post, Bjorn. 🙂 As Churchill said, we Americans do the right thing but only after exhausting all other options.

    Can you point us to any leaks/disclosures of what the NSA was looking like a few years ago? Haven’t much solid info about it.

    • There haven’t been much disclosed about the NSA. The most revealing has been the patents on CFRP elliptical fuselages and the play with twin aisles 7 abreast design for seat counts around 200.

      • Airbus will counter any ‘Fattie’ or Boeing NSA with their own Wankel-shaped (tri-elliptic) 2+2+2 or wide-aisle 3+3 cross-section(s), pending customers’ preference ? Jan Carlzon will have his revanche !

      • I still think the “flat oval” fuselage does not make sense from a stress loading perspective as it introduces large compression forces into the floor beams.

        shoulder/head room for the window seats is also compromised. ( afaics )

  2. It’s clear you think Boeing made some good decisions and designs to improve the Max. Can you point out what some of those decisions /design improvements are?

    • You could start with the engines. The MAX engine sits higher and further forward from the wing than any other aircraft. The fan dia that Boeing got in there is a feat. They started with engines mounted high on the 737, 777 and 787 and now the MAX breaks the record. Mounting engines high requires a lot of knowledge or you create a lot of interference drag.

      Next are the elegant split wingtips. Airbus redid theirs recently but only did a blended design which was on the 737NG long time ago.

      Finally the solution with the ground clearance by a longer NLG. Simple and works, typical American.

      • This all is more of the “have to” than the “want to” kind.
        It reduces disadvantage ( successfully ).
        Same story as barrels, actually. For the same effort panels bring you better product quality.

        What should one take away from “Excelling at task that others are not forced to do”. 🙂

        • Oh, would you please shut up?
          Your endless Boeing bashing is getting tiresome.

          • Excuse my existence.

            Would you like to make some factual corrections to my observations?

          • @Rick Shaw

            Careful. You are coming up against the line in Reader Comment rules. No personalized attacks allowed.


          • Yes Rick, please keep it civil even though your aggrivation is quite understandable and justified.

            Cheers everyone! 🙂

      • Hi Bjorn,

        I must say that no matter what, MAX is a design that got the “MAX” use out of the flawed architecture – the 1950’s fuselage with its short LG and the need to mount even a smaller fan engine way way high on the wing. You are right about the ingenuity of us Americans, but Boeing engineers had to do what they could, not what was the best. In my opinion, this major flaw was compounded by a sole-source engine, although the less than optimum ground clearance might have meant that a GTF would not have served as well as it could have otherwise. The split wingtip is a mixed blessing because of potential damage by collision with ground vehicles.

        The imbalance in the NEO-MAX orders is quite obvious, but what is not so obvious is the fact that it is really the revenue from the sales that is ultimately more important. If Boeing had to sell the MAXs at less than desirable discounts than equivalent NEOs, even an order parity would not mean much, because the victory would be pyrrhic. Are the huge orders pyrrhic? We may never know. I just hope that after such a financial debacle with the 787, Boeing can make some real money out of the MAX.

        • Kant:

          Is not everything a split blessing (split winglet remark?)

          A fuselage is a split blessing as its something to hit but without it there is no aircraft

          MD11 has had those for ages (arguable higher in the air)

          Extensive retro fit now on the much better looking split scimitar winglet (I am annoyed Boeing refused that, it had much more panache and would have helped the old granny look better!)

          Boeing management let the company down in the 737RS, the engineers doing the best they can with what they had to work with and have done a pretty good job of getting Boeing some space to do the right aircraft.

  3. They better go for State Aid and develop CS 500 the only reasonable solution for me. The market is moving up. If they get the right discount and sell it to Easyjet, JetBlue , Frontier, Alaska will be a huge success.

  4. The last clean-sheet feeder design dates back to February 1987, date of the A320’s first flight. The freeze of the design itself dates back another four or five years. That’s more than 28 years ago, or more than a human generation.

    Given the time lapse, you’d expect Bombardier to do a minimum effort to at least stay with the feeder norm, if not to try improving upon that norm. We observe, though, that CSeries has no CLS. CLS based upon LD3-45 is today the feeder norm. This observation to conclude that, wilfully, knowingly, Bombardier actually designed another (slightly bigger) Regional Jet, not a feeder. Today BBD claim a right to play in the Ivy League OEMs’ yard, but that doesn’t pan out.

    • honestly, I don’t think I have ever seen a single LD3-45 used ever in all my flying in the US. I only see containerized cargo used on widebodies.

      I’m not convinced that containerized cargo for baggage is the panacea you make it out to be, especially for smaller single aisles.

      the weight and container management logistic penalties associated probably balance the cost delta to having an extra thrower, and given the baggage quantities on smaller aircraft are unlikely to affect turn time which is driven by the loading/unloading of the human cargo and their 57 carryons.

      • The MRJ is a clean-sheet RJ design, the question here is whether C Series (who pretends to play in the Ivy League ?) has the right credentials to qualify as a ‘feeder’, the answer is ‘No, it hasn’t, where’s the CLS ?’. The Japanese with their MRJ have no pretense of that kind, the MRJ is a RJ, no question.

        • Really, so a 737 is a feeder to a 777, but a Cessna 207 is not a feeder to a 737?


          At one time a 737 could not fly cross US with any paying load. So it was a feeder and is not now?

          All aircraft are feeders until they aren’t.

          An A380 is a feeder to a major destinations where people split out and go to other destinations.

          C series will be both a full up singles aisle as well as an RJ (and more likely RJ though I could see it being used as a 787 type in developing a longer thing route or a test route)

          Well after reading the tangled web of feeders I guess I need the official Frequent Traveler breakdown.

          • @ transworld : been there done this before … the 737 is a feeder because with their the 737, Boeing created the concept of feeder. As the founding member of an Ancient and Priviledged Club, it is difficult today to kick out the 737, as it is hard to dismiss the 737 sibling, offspring, young sister … I’m referring to MAX due to its illustruous lineage and noble extraction … but the fact is the MAX – as a feeder – is born obsolete in the egg : it has no CLS ! By co-optation, not being able to put up with the right set of credentials, the MAX ought to be disqualified and its ‘Notorious Feeders’ membership card should be withdrawn … but Transworld, what shall we do ? Are we authorised to rewrite History ?? I’m convinced, though, that Boeing’s NSA will qualify as a proper ‘feeder’ … then we can safely let the MAX (and the 737 NG) go, ‘Bon Vent’, they’ll have been around for three human generations, quite a strong breed, we’d say ?

            Other so-called ‘feeders’ are A32X Series (CEO, NEO), H2XQR Series (CEO, NEO), MC21 Series, C919 Series … have I forgotten anything ? … ah yes in theory also H3XQR Series MAX and H5XQR Series MAX, for full exhaustion of the genealogy.

  5. Let’s see if I have this right? Boeing and United Airlines once got a little too chummy. Bill Boeing took a hike. Boeing sold VERY few 247s because United stuffed Boeing’s production line. TWA and Don Douglas lateraled something called a DC-1, morphed-into a DC-2 (remember the Chinese early WWII “DC-2 1/2”?), and then came WHAT?….thousands of Douglas DC-3s!

    Hang in there Canada!

    • Agreed, hang in there. I would love to see them succeed with the C series.

      Good neighbor are hard to find.

  6. “Next are the elegant split wingtips. Airbus redid theirs recently but only did a blended design which was on the 737NG long time ago.”
    Aerodynamically the elegant split winglets are family of the split wingtips of the A320s and MD11’s. But that’s bad marketing.

    “Whether you think the 737 MAX or A320neo is the best choice for the job is about your preferences rather than outright “one is clearly better than the other.”

    Agree, when you ignore one has better comfort, cargo capability, engines, engine choice, range, payload range capacity and operating costs, they’re actually very similar 😉

    One sells 50% more than the other and I the other loves this old timer to stick around for many years to come.

    While hanging an engine in front of a wing might be an engineering accomplishment, I’m not sure if it is a unwanted compromise between weight/efficient or a creative enhancement.

    • Keejse:

      I find it amazing that you discount the expertise of an engineer like Bjorn over you own views?

      If Bjorn says that they are close to equal then that’s a fact.

      How much more comfortable a slightly wider A320 is, that is subjective. My take is I would rather have legroom than a 1.4 inch more width.

      Yes you can bring out the A321 as a far better aircraft that Boeing cannot compete with and that’s truly valid, but to say they are not equal is?

      Airbus cannot match the 737-800 right now either (they can, Boeing can’t match the A321)

      And you still do not bring anything discussion wise with the sales, Airbus is making the same number (actually a few less) single aisles as Boeing last year. Deliveries are what brings money into the bank not sales.

      Boeing is ramping up a third line, so right now they are making 42 a month, that’s 21 each. The third line kicks in and they have the capacity to make 63 a month.

      And I think we have a sea change with Boeing management and the 737RS will come out and then watch who gets what sales.

      Which would be artificial as well, they won’t get the revenue until they deliver and then a long time to make money. Long term it would ensure healthy Boeing competitiveness.

      In the meantime Airbus could do some of the things that Boeing did to the 737MAX (including a new wing) and be competitive.

      But the same old winglet thing that Boeing has done for years is pretty lame. Airbus could have done much better, so they rested on someone else laurels.

      • “I find it amazing that you discount the expertise of an engineer like Bjorn over you own views?

        If Bjorn says that they are close to equal then that’s a fact.”

        You are kidding right? Every coin has tow sides!

        Bjorn is giving it a shot against the mainstream, doesn’t mean you have to agree / obey

        • Keesje:

          With all due respect, I have been wrong at times and when its been proven I apologize and admit it.

          While Bjorn is as prone to being wrong about other aspects of aviation as far as what it means, when it comes to a technical issue like he presented of two aircraft in comparisons, then I accept his not only vaster but unbiased assessment. He has credentials that I do not that make it not an opinion but a fact.

          Its obvious Boeing had to pull all the tech rabbits out of the hat to make the 737MAX competitive but they did so.

          Airbus choose the minimal route . Their sales say it is highly successful and may in the long term swamp the 737, but for now the fact is that they did not and has not sunk it in the short term.

          I would no more argue with Bjorn about a aeronautical technical fact than I will that with anyone that the sun rises in the East.

          We can agree that the A380 is a technical achievement. We can disagree how well it will do. I think the evidence says not well, y0u believe it has a bright future. That is a reasonable disagreement. Right now I think the facts say its not doing well, but it could 2 years or 10 years down the road. I don’t think so but we won’t know until we get that far down the road.

          I don’t find any evidence that Leeham nor Bjorn has an bias in this, they are looking at it as best any of it can be as detached as possible. they bring tools to this that I only possess in my dreams.

          Frankly I don’t get the obey part. I take the facts and draw my own conclusions as to where it leads (which until it happens is not a fact but either and opinion or an analysis). At times those are going to agree with Bjorn and Leeham and at times not.

          But I am never going to question their statement that plane X has an X percentage fuel burn improvement of Plane Y.

          At one time I was passionate a devout Boeing fan. McNenerye killed that. Now I look at it as dispassionately as I can, though I still want Boeing to succeed, its one area where the US has maintained a outstanding technical infrastructure of achievements that is arguable the co best with Airbus in the world.

    • “Aerodynamically the elegant split winglets are family of the split wingtips of the A320s and MD11’s. But that’s bad marketing.”

      Aerodynamically, the elegant design of the Spitfire is in the family of the Wright Flyer, but to say that you’d have to be totally disingenuous about the genius of R. J. Mitchell’s design and the 30 years of advancements in aviation engineering.

      Or put another way, Aviation Partners’ patents disagree with you.

      • “Or put another way, Aviation Partners’ patents disagree with you.”

        The relevant ones ( litigating Airbus ) have been voided during reexamination afaik.
        Aviation Partner devices are rather good application of prior art.

  7. The situation of BBD is somewhat similar to that of Airbus back in the early 70s with their A300. Airbus started production on 15 (!) orders and they had to take very special measures (1977 trial-lease to Eastern Airlines) to place the jet in the USA. Compared to that sales of the C-Series are really quite comfortable, so maybe there not too much reason to be really concerned.
    When BBD shows that the C100 and C300 outperforms the 737-700 and the A319 both in cost and performance, and they deliver excellent service, then…

    • Can you you scale the c series sales to the size of the market in the mid 1970s?
      Beating the 737&320 is going to be very difficult and expensive for anyone and that includes Boeing and Airbus. Timing will be critical.
      I’m not sure about the upgaugeing argument, obviously there are plenty of airlines flying smaller aircraft than the c series.Does this market segment actually exist?
      The Russian’s technical abilities are pretty good but I just don’t think anyone has really appreciated how much money is needed to get a proper airliner properly launched.

  8. Having worked in sales I can also admit that the quality of the sales force, and programs/support they have to work with, really matters as well. I think that fundamentally set BBD back by over 5 years in their efforts as they fired their force after basically mismanaging the new product sales campaign during it’s nascent/important development years. The Boeing and Airbus teams may certainly not be perfect but don’t overlook the “human” side of the business decisions either.

  9. Clear now the airlines are just playing Bombardier to get dicounts off Boeing and Airbus. I don’t see much hope for the Cseries. The problem is pretty simple: Boeing and Airbus don’t want a third player and they price at Rock Bottom to make sure. The airlines care mostly about low pricing, so Bombardier is the new kid on the outs. There is an obvious strategy that breaks this logjam for Bombardier – since Boeing & Airbus have gone all start, BBD too need to find customers who will buy strategically rather than on price, and for that they need to give up some important things – but by taking Canadian government money rather than the promised “industry M&A that Beadouir promised – it looks like they already chose not to take it.

  10. The C-series needs to sell 100 to some leasers to get it tested by the industry, and suffer whatever price the leasers are willing to pay. That means another 2 billion in costs, but they should to look on it as invested.

    The B737 is America’s VW Beetle, amazing job keeping it competitive for what will be a run of 60+ years, but like the Beetle it is showing its age. I can see why Boeing would be desperate to keep the C-series locked out, they need free cash flow now more than they have at any other time in the last 40 years, so it’s an inconvenient time for a tough competitor to crop up.

  11. Marks out of 10 approach for CSeries:

    Market research: 3/10 (MFR chose an aircraft that won’t sell)
    Design: 8/10 (technical decisions and choices are good ones for the long term, if only there was a long term!)
    Development: 5/10 (it’s been a long time coming hasn’t it? Still, it’s here now so credit where credit is due)
    Sales and Marketing: 2/10 (what a disaster)
    Market development: Unknown – will they get the chance

    Overall: It’s hard to see how the recent shareholder support will do anything but buy time for the commercial failure of this programme to become more apparent. Great engineers let down by poor management that lacked the strategic perspective to sell the airplane while it had the chance.

    • Audacity: 10/10 for making open the door of fleet managers closed for 30 years (with representatives of Aribus and constantly Boeing in their office)
      Wings: 10/10 for having created a product that has not yet revealed all its secrets, its limitations and potentialities: they remain a source of growth and sales outside the group
      Vision: 10/10 for revisiting the niche of 100-140 seats and change the market in the US regional airline offering the future: short track off over 5000 kms: no one has yet thought enough about dynamic movements and ever-expanding travel
      Mission: 10/10 to have forced the industry to shift and adjust relative to that Bombardier will become after 2020; in short, to have redraw the map of the competition single aisle.

      We could continue to give ratings based on what holds, or what we do not see enough.

  12. Common now, the Max-7 has 100 orders, the A319neo 50 and the CS300 190 + more than 100 options. Not bad.

    The CS500 is a must for BBD to be able to play with the big boys. Then it will get interesting.

    • Yes getting a third or even fourth player to push the big boys would be a good thing!

  13. What about this scenario out of the Blue ?: Comac teams up with BBD……CS100/300 built in Mirabel…..CS500 built in China….(BBD Brings Expertise ….Chinese government brings in the Deep Pockets..).

  14. Why can’s C-series be a 6 across, it is just 10 inches narrower that 737. It has 8 inches thick walls, if BBD can shave 2 to 3 inches from each side it would be a LCC dream plane.

  15. Perseverance is also the own family businesses. Bombardier is a family business so we would like that it behaves like a printing banknotes. Not now. She is not in the cycle of checkout. The strategic capacity of an organization requires time, skills, expertise, experiences, failures and intellectual capital. Bombardier strategic capacity corresponds to their age: 30 years old, vs Boeing 100 years and 50 years for Airbus. What did this little player since birth in the aviation world? For example, if one relies on a measure of entrepreneurship: how many platforms launched since its creation? The beauty of Bombardier is the promise of his age and his level of entrepreneurship still alive. Admit it takes boldness to confront simultaneously the two Goliath! Give him time. Allow him to sell 5, 10, 20 CSeries here and there around the world. Let’s give him time to experiment and stop showing us impatient with the only accompany the big sales.

  16. I know it goes against Delta’s perceived grain, but I really hope they look seriously at the C-series. I think this could be an aircraft that has legs for Delta. At some point they will have to replace the MD-88s. They have taken up basically ever available B717. The C series would be an admirable augmentation to those aircraft from a paxex standpoint. Unfortunately I don’t think Delta cares that much about paxex (else they wouldn’t be relying so much on the 739s, which coach fliers tend to hate in Delta’s fitting out).
    I just hope Bombardier is able to stick with the program long enough for Delta’s leadership to see the C series in operation and recognise it as a viable offer for fleet growth/upgauging/replacement.

    • There are 14 800 kms between Montreal and Singapore ( from the east ) . One can have fun to bet on the number of frog jumps it will take to get there for the CS100… The nature of the flight of the aircraft itself , he will widen some eyes such as Riga / Montreal without a stopover ?

      • Well 737s manage all that frog jumping just fine.

        An completely empty single aisle has fantastic range but we seem them drop into Anchorage all the time. That positions them for a one hop jump over to Asia (probably Japan)

        In other words, the distance makes zero difference.

        the flew prop jobs all over the world during and after WWII, its just a matter of the right fuel stops or a single flight but its zero issue for sales as its a one time thing

          • With a max payload loadful of auxiliary fuel tanks, plus zero pax/zero freight, I’d guess you’d be able to ferry-fly an A320 NEO around the globe at least once … keesje’ll do a GC analysis to tell us if not close to twice ?

          • Just take the Payload/Range chart down to its bitter zero payload end 🙂
            4100nm for the A321ceo with 2 ACT
            For longrange transfer flights temporary main deck aux tanks are used on occasion ( if the frame is fuel limited. An A330-200 would gain nothing that way).

  17. United went for fleet commonality with its new 900ERs for a niche fleet of -700s.

    If the CSeries is to sell with United, Delta, or Southwest, it has to be a bread and butter 150 seat aircraft as a stand alone fleet in the hundreds. Southwest might need a 3m stretch CS400 and United or Delta might need a three class 5m stretch CS500.

    On the plus side for the CS is that if Airbus or Boeing build a new CFRP wing, it will be big enough for a 200 seat aircraft, so the CS will have the 150 seat market in the long term.

    • Hopefully BBD can get it up and running and available for that to happen.

    • When I was a Salesman, I got were adamant instructions from the top to “sell what we produce right now, not what we could produce in the future”. The Salesman is paid to bring home a SALES CONTRACT, for a slot SN in the production line. It pertains to Marketing/Product Strategy to discuss Product Development. Bombardier’s problem is too much Product Strategy, not enough Sales. You want to reach out a helpful hand to the Bombardier people ? Find ways for them to sell C100s and/or C300s in meaningful numbers ?!

      • A good field rep not only sells well, he also hands feedback from customers down the chain.

        When manufacturing does not listen to their customers …

        IMU lack of interest in their customer feedback from non US countries ( though sink for the majority of their production ) and pronounced NIH syndrome killed Atari in the computing market.

  18. United didn’t want 10 new 767-300ERs to go with the 737s? With cheap fuel for the future, why not.

    • They have 40 A350s on order, 25 787-10 and they currently have 35 767-300ERs.

      It would look that they have their mid wide bodies covered nicely.

      Boeing may also have gotten what they needed from FedEx for the program (and nice neat freighter so no interior layouts to muck with). They may have higher prices for any future buys.

      I would guess they have what they need for that slot and looking at future fuel prices go up on long haul and its got a more dramatic affect (using fuel to carry fuel)

      While it looks like it may take upwards of 5 years, the oil price will go up.

      Where it lands likely will be around $60 a barrel, as it rises other production kicks in.

      • True, but the 767-300 is a size down for thinner routes. With WestJet and Icelandair picking up used 767 even before the big drop in fuel, I can see demand for the 767 where there may be a case for some new orders. The 330-800 is too big, so there will be a vacuum for midsize aircraft until the MOM is delivered. There is a possibility it can’t be entirely filled by used aircraft.

        • It will be interesting to see. I think it would be great.

          But when you buy one you live with the economics for as long as you own it. So 5 years from now with oil back into the 60s?

          I think it needs help to overcome that, fine for a freighter but different for pax.

          There should be an awful lot of well maintained used ones on the market, we are seeing them come through Anchorage regularly as they are retired by ANA and JAL

  19. It’s crystal clear that the MAX engine mount on the 738 wing is an engineering feat. The brain people @ Boeing have excelled. NEO trip fuel on short missions is affected by fan drag + trim-induced drag with the 81″ fan diameter and CoG excursions with medium fuel loads, aspects which fall naturally into balance with the MAX’s 68″ fan and optimised engine mount. Shorter missions are the breadn’butter of feeder Operators. Neo advantages will pan out mostly for medium-to-longer missions where cruise fuel weighs in.

    • Airbus should have put the flattened 68.3 inch CFM LEAP-B’s on the NEO too, including the brilliant engine mounts. Now they’re stuck with the big ones.. a missed opportunity.

      • Keeje:

        That’s the tough part about anything. I am a deep reader of history and particularly the military part. You often see those same missed opportunities. We all come to the table with our less than 100% perfection and at times outright self defeating.

        In this case Airbus chose a shorter term plan of action that was easier technically to achieve. If forced to they might well have matched Boeing (that would be a good area for Bjorn to weigh in on, Boeing seems to have aspects of airflow down better than Airbus, certainly in wing tip design when they went all new wing or aircraft they used the crank wing design not the Winglets.

        Rather than a technical decision it looks to have been a strategic business decision that its “good enough” and get it to market first and with as long a lead time as possible.

        They might have hoped Boeing could not match it, if so they were wrong, again I don’t know if their engineers had a part of that or just business hope, I don’t know how Airbus functions in that regard.

        Publically we know how Boeing functions, a couple years back we heard the stupid “We have them boxed in” statement. I am looking at the line up and thinking, I don’t see that, maybe a bit of an edge but not boxed in.

        The A350 and the A330 NEO have proven how stupid that statement was. I suspect Boeing engineers would have told them differently if asked (if they were they were ignored for the publicity nonsense)

        What I continue to find amazing is how capable the original A300 airframe was, its morphed into its 3rd major iteration and successfully.
        I would also be interested if Bjorn had an insight into that, did they just design well and its worked or did they see it and designed that in?

        As you have noted, Airbus could easily come out with a A320 that match the -8MAX for pax count and hit them there as well.

        And longer term, they still have the upside of an all new wing for the A320 series where as Boeing needs an all new aircraft.

        Interesting part is can Boeing come up with something that beats the Airbus improvements or winds up with a draw or slightly better?

        That I think is the next big $64 question to be answered.

        • Is there still a question mark on the leap performance? History tells us it is all about the engine. If the big leap ( a320) has a natural benefit over the small leap (max), it will be an uphill battle to be competitive. This ignores GTF potential superiority

          • Nothing out lately. Getting close to where its cards go on the table (A320 version). Pretty subtle aeronautics of more weight and drag vs lighter weight and drag and slightly less engine efficiency.

            GTF should outdo both long term, but currently it needs to mature as its obviously still got teething issues.

            Once it does I think its got more upside, but GE may have more rabbits to pull out of their hat as well.

            Another interesting one to follow.

          • It’s “potential” right now as the gtf is the one having teething problems. Time will tell how well they hold up to the dialy grind of flight. The second generation shoul be gangbusters!

          • The thing is the A320 CEO engines have about the same diminsion as the LEAP B. The flattened cowling could have been copied and they would have to dvelop an eqaully brilliant high engine mounting to achieve the efficienciew of the MAX/ Leap combination. They could have easy narrowed the cabin too and remove the optional belly cargo system, reducing weight! Even get out some fly by wire and reduce the landing gear height/ airfield performance.

          • The only reason for the flattened cowl and the wing forward location is the requirement for the engine not hit the ground when the nose wheel collapses. Duh !
            Its not alchemy guys, its no great secret that no one else has cottoned onto.

          • “Its not alchemy guys, its no great secret that no one else has cottoned onto.”

            Humor, it is a difficult concept.


        • Boeing seems to have aspects of airflow down better than Airbus, certainly in wing tip design when they went all new wing or aircraft they used the crank wing design not the Winglets.

          Airbus definitely is less spectacular in their public presentation. On the actual ( and synergetic overall) achievements side Airbus is definitely not lagging behind Boeing. afaics you are falling for well placed PR.

        • Boeing seems to have aspects of airflow down better than Airbus, certainly in wing tip design when they went all new wing or aircraft they used the crank wing design not the Winglets.

          That will certainly qualify as one of the most ignorant statements ever uttered on this blog.

  20. No offense, keesje … it wasn’t meant personally … maybe your mother made an excellent “pain perdu” dish when you were a kid, that’s what the Boeing engineering feat is all about, making the best with what you have at hand …

    • It is more the insinuated “the competitor could never achieve this feat” drawing some commentary.

      Or in other words:
      premeditated excellence is regularly valued lower than curative excellence. No idea about the why.

  21. Huh?

    In simple terms does that mean we get innovative only when we have to?

    I do find that true, I need my back against the wall and then the inspiration flows and on a very low tech level I have pulled some interesting rabbits out of the hat.

    • War-times’ legendary upsurge of innovative excellence is a token to Uwe and Transworld’s co-signed axiom.

      • That may be less simple than it appears to be on first blush.

        For Germany things went into research and invention overspeed during the interwar years and it continued into WWII ( to its end )
        1945 onwards others ( primarily the US .. and the SU ) used that stash of knowledge as step up for further fast progress
        applied to a conflict continuation.

        I’d change the postulate a bit:
        conflict and progress are in a mutually assisted relationship
        as the conflict landscape ( and thus the relative position of the involved parties ) is changed by innovations.

  22. Meanwhile ATW reports that Gulf Air would really like to look into the usefulness of the 10 CSeries it has on order….

  23. Now that it is slowly becoming clear the A320 NEO has no real advantage over the 737MAX, Bjorn pointed out some brilliant design moves that could help the NEO catching up to the MAX.

    The MAX’ brilliant wing tips, engine cowlings and superior light 68 (69?) inch engines were mentioned. In a learning experience for myself I put the light, optimized CFM LEAP-B and ingenious engine mountings under an improved A320NEO as a start.

    Pretty subtle aeronautics of more weight and drag vs lighter weight and drag and slightly less engine efficiency.

    I learn something new every day.

    • Keesje:

      On a good day we all do. Tends to be something new each day.

      And one key item is that Boeing has probably pulled all the available rabbits out of the hat.

      Airbus has all those rabbits and a couple of its own (like a stretch A320 that’s been mentioned to beat up on the 737-8Max)

      One thing I have learned, don’t get emotionally attached to one or the other, saying that with a hope that Boeing does better than Airbus, but admiring what Airbus has done the last few years.

  24. Is there any particular reason why Canada/Bombardier appear tardy on the Iran situation? With Bombardier’s situation I can’t believe Airbus is set to announce an order for 114 jets next week and what we hear is Canada is still reviewing their sanctions regieme. really? Seriously?

  25. Meanwhile, Iran, Airbus strike deal for 8 A-380, 16 A-350 jets.

    Iran has struck a provisional deal with Europe’s Airbus to buy eight A-380 superjumbo planes to be delivered from 2019, the deputy transport minister told Reuters on Sunday.

    A deal for 127, mainly new, aircraft which it hopes to complete this week also includes 16 A350 jets, Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan, deputy transport minister said in an interview on the sidelines of an aviation conference in Tehran.

    Could Iran Become the Next Dubai, an Aviation Superpower?

    It took a few renegades with vision and a new generation of jets able to fly longer distances to upend this system. The challenger came, literally, out of the desert. In 1985 Tim Clark became head of planning for a new airline, Emirates, based in Dubai. Clark was no lover of cosy cartels—he had run a small independent British airline, Caledonian, and seen and felt how the hidden hand of price fixing and route monopolies worked in Europe.

    Clark saw the significance of Dubai’s location, halfway between Europe and Asia and equally well placed for connections to Africa. He understood that for long haul routes between continents the old hubs like London, Paris and Frankfurt were a logical stop only for passengers bound for those cities.

    Emirates, he decided, could shift the ideal center point for interconnecting flights to a new airport unconstrained by limits imposed by a surrounding city or the night curfews that go with operating out of those cities—an airport that could have multiple runways and operate round-the-clock with terminals that looked more like a fusion of shopping malls and resort hotels. Thus was born Dubai International.

    Today Dubai is the world’s busiest airport for international flights. In 1990 it handled 4.3 million passengers; in 2015 it topped 70 million. A new airport complex with five runways and four terminals, due to be completed in 2020, is designed to handle 160 million passengers annually.

    Clark (now Sir Tim) has built the growth of Emirates on the back of two airplanes—the Airbus A380, the world’s largest, and the long range version of the smaller Boeing 777. Emirates has been the world’s smartest exercise in the sizing of jets to specific routes, using the larger jet for the most densely traveled intercity routes and the smaller for more dispersed routes.

    This year Emirates will introduce the world’s longest flight, 8,600 miles, from Dubai to Panama City. (In the U.S. Emirates now flies to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Washington, San Francisco, Boston and Orlando; passengers invariably rate the quality of service at a level that is shaming U.S. airlines.)

    For Dubai itself the airport and its airline have been rainmakers—bringing in nearly $27 billion a year, representing 27 percent of the GDP.

    Looking at this, the Iranians can only dream “what if?” If they had not become international pariahs, could Tehran have been to airline routes what Dubai now is?

    Geographically, Tehran was as well placed as Dubai—perhaps, even, a tad better placed, being further north and closer to the traditional flight corridors between Europe and Asia. Also, Tehran had the potential to be a lot more than a pit stop in the desert. It was the gateway to a country with some of the most exquisite sites of the ancient world.

    • And remember the recent OT prepper from Leehamnews.

      Iran seems to also want to take a largish batch of A340 ASAP.

      Will be interesting to see if there will be sniping or acts of sabotage done in the political field from some interested party or other.

      • Yes, 20-plus second hand A340s and now, apparently, up to 40 A330s as well – all new?

        Another Iranian official said the talks, which appear to have accelerated as President Hassan Rouhani prepares to visit Europe this week, included about 45 short-haul A320s and as many as 40 of its A330 wide-body jets.

        Iran marks comeback with talks to buy 160 European planes

        • 114
          160 frames

          Is this the “rumors reach light speed after the 3rd relaying and then only grow larger in mass” effect we see ? 🙂

          • Iran will, in all likelihood, not buy any Boeings until after the US Presidential election – in order to see if the GOP candidate wins. From Iran’s point of view, the GOP is not exactly “friendly”. 😉

            Many of the Republicans’ statements on Iran in the past few months have just a word salad of insults – “evil”, “malevolent”, “corrupt”, “terrorists”, “the devil” – as though there were a contest to see how many despicable adjectives they could fit into one paragraph. Many of today’s statements then immediately condemned the fact that in Iran crowds sometimes chant “Death to America”. Gee, I wonder why a few people in Iran say hyperbolic things about the US? It’s not like our leading politicians would ever sing songs about blowing up Iran – oh, wait.

            For Republicans, the Iran nuclear negotiations have never been about getting “a good deal” for the US. They’ve simply wanted to preserve their ability to kill people in the Middle East whenever they want, and continue to indulge their fetish of American superpower. It doesn’t matter to Republicans whether bombing Iran virtually guarantees that actually will pursue a nuclear bomb (which, again, right now they’re not), or that a deal will hurt the hardliners in Iran that Republicans profess to hate. It only matters that they continue to have an enemy to bomb in the Middle East, and a President to criticise here at home.


          • Addendum

            40 A330s – it may seem as if Iran wants to emulate the ME3, sooner, rather than later.

          • @ Uwe : selling aircraft and taming nucleons in an accelerator are two different things. The Iran symptom is known as “battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud”, a much more prosaic and ancient art.

          • Pfft.

            you are seeing a finished wrought iron artwork
            that just needs some finishing for final presentation to the public.
            IMHO what we see is a bit of the “internet thing”:
            US obstructionism is viewed as a damaged network segment and routing goes around it.

            Though I had not expected that much progress yet.

          • That’s just it : if Supersalesman John Leahy sees a high speed packaged transfer of Mega-Octets passing through the Web where the key-word “aircraft” is detected by his webwatchers, he’ll hack his way into that package and change the “Scope Clause” to Airbus’ best convenience.

  26. Bjorn makes a few complimentary statements about the 737 MAX and has the “audacity” to claim that the MAX can do the job as well as the A320neo, and that throws the Airbus fans here into a dither. Who would’ve guessed?

    As a break from all this nonsense, the KC-46A completed it’s first fuel transfer to an F-16 yesterday. It was only 300 lbs but it is an indication that the testing is going well.

    Boom compatibility checks with a C-17 are on the docket for tomorrow.

    • “audacity.”

      have you seen the mechanics developed to explain in a geocentric model the movement of stars ( easy ) and other planets (difficult) ?
      Unequaled brilliance, I tell you!

      • Concluding that Bjorn is being Boeing-centric in this article requires the tortured reading of a desperate fan.

        I believe his statements here are informed by his experience, his aircraft performance model, and the extensive data set he has collected from all the various OEMs. I (and most others here) will take that over anything based on fandom or even statements by the OEMs.

  27. The verdict is still out between the Neo and Max. Neither have proven themselves in revenue service. My feeling is the lighter Max may surprise us all with its superior performance and begin to narrow the gap in this orders race once it has proven itself.

    • Who knows? I can’t help but feel that Bjorn has put too much faith in CFD. The a320 seems to be up to spec, but we only have Airbus and p&w’s word for that.

    • And we’ll enjoy again many new and enticing toreadas and verónicas in the arena between Boeing (presenting charts @ 500 nm) and Airbus (ditto @ 850 nm), followed by passionate debriefing sessions @ Leeham …

  28. The verdict on the NEO and MAX is out.

    By booking 1000 unidentifieds, pulling in Southwest/Lionair , lessors, “early” slots and aggressive discounts they kept up the 40% marketshare for years. In 2015 the bottom fell out.

    Boeing saying it’s just beginning is denial, management by confusing.

    Specs, sales, customer base and prospect are clear enough. I assume margins & performance too.

    For Boeing fans it’s unacceptable & will always be. No problem with that at all.

    Bjorn just pointed out the smart solutions Boeing found to make the best of it. But it’s cherry picking from a second best program.

    Boeing boosting production is just for short term income before the “unidentified” ‘s can change their mind and to benefit from NEO being sold out <2020. Not an unexpected rebirth or exceptional engineering or something.

    I assume Boeing is busy wind tunneling NSA concepts (cheaper than CFD).

    JAL, UA and a few more MAX customer jumping ship for A321s and there's an (internal!) go. It's all business logic; deny the problem until there's a solution.

    • From reading all these posts I get the impression that the Boeing 737 is going to be more focused on short journeys. I. can’t remember ever going very far in an A320 or 737.Come on lads, only 2 more posts and we’ll be in the 100 club!perhaps if I mention the A380……..

      • blog comments stuffing is frowned upon methinks 🙂

        Someone noted that the 737 is more Europe while the A320 better fits the US :-)))))))

  29. 162 on a JetBlue A320. The A320 platform is too capable for 150 passengers. The CSeries is the right balance of fuselage width, wing, and engine to move into that size node.

        • That Boeing first tried to progress financially without having to prove adequate progress for the tanker project.
          ( which was denied. Someone learned something 🙂

          • So, you’ve gone to that response? That must mean you don’t have any facts. I’m not going to waste my time searching for something nonspecific. If Boeing really did something like that, you would be able to be more specific.

            As far as I can see, the only thing that Boeing can do to get more funding with out performing (as you claim) is to somehow short circuit Milestone C. I haven’t found any evidence that Boeing ever tried that. If they did and the AF agreed then your criticism should be on the AF, not Boeing.

          • you probably also want to read page 19 para just ahead of “conclusions”

          • While I do appreciate the GAO link, the information therein doesn’t at all change my previous comment. The report is dated so the schedule has changed. The KC-46A has been flying for 3 months now, and the Milestone C decision won’t happen until April 2016. So, that will be 5 or 6 months of EMD-2 flight testing before the decision on LRIP, not 3 months like the report states.

            The report does make clear, however, that all of the schedule changes were agreed to by the AF program office. Yes there is reduced testing before the milestone but nowhere in the report does it mention any reduction in the required airborne refueling demonstrations for Milestone C.

            So where was it again that the AF denied Boeing’s schedule, or request for more resources, or anything??

            Your interpretation again requires a tortured reading.

  30. United will always go for the Boeing alternative no matter what. Continental had deep seated ties with Booeing and that is just the way it is. In fact, I’m surprised they kept the A350 orders and didn’t switch to the Boeing alternative.

    • Jose, I think that’s old school nationalism. You don’t survive if your can’t choose the best for your requirements. Boeing would go bankrupt too, the US market alone is too small.

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