Top 10 aviation stories of the year on Leeham News

Dec. 31, 2017, © Leeham Co.: Airplane development and the whimsicle made the Top 10 stories on LNC in 2017.

The Top 10 are a statistical listing of the most-viewed posts, not some judgment call on the part of LNC.

Here is the rundown.

10: Singapore 777-9 order pressures, but does not kill A380

When Singapore Airlines ordered the Boeing 777-9, some suggested this killed the Airbus A380. LNC didn’t think so.

Rather, the A380 was dying under its own weight for its own reasons.

Half the backlog, which is now less than 100 airplanes, is questionable and unlikely to be delivered. The only airline expressing serious interest right now, at least publicly, is Emirates, for 36 aircraft. China is looked at as a possibility, but this has been the case for several years. China falls into the category of “we’ll believe it when we see it.”

Some at Airbus and elsewhere talk about turning the A380 into a Low Cost Carrier asset. This is fanciful.

The 777-9 hasn’t killed the A380. The greater capabilities of new twin-engine aircraft and market segmentation has. The Boeing 787, 777-300ER, Airbus A350 and improvements in range for the A330 combined to kill the business case.

9. Analyst: Airbus could eventually terminate CSeries program

Boeing’s trade complaint against the Bombardier C Series quickly became one of the top topics. Two posts made the Top 10. No. 11 was also a trade complaint piece; it missed making the Top 10 by a mere 100 views.

Bernstein Research issued this note shortly after the Airbus-Bombardier deal was announced in which Airbus agreed to take a 50.01% share of the C Series program. Bernstein went on to compare the C Series with the McDonnell Douglas-Boeing merger and the MD-95 inherited by Boeing. Boeing closed the program after 156 sales. The MD-95 was an orphan, in the 100-125 sector. Boeing wouldn’t launch a larger version, which would compete with the 737-700.

Bernstein thought the situation comparable and predicted Airbus would close the program.

8. Airbus augments A350-1000 capability

The Airbus A350-1000 was still in testing when LNC discovered a document on the Airbus website with specifications for some enhancements. LNC’s Bjorn Fehrm wrote up the changes. Airbus denied it and took down the document.

It wouldn’t be the first time a document or text was loaded onto the Airbus website that resulted in an LNC post. It wouldn’t be the last.

7. Delta shoots down Boeing’s CSeries dumping claim

Delta Air Lines was blunt: the Boeing 737-700 is an uneconomic airplane for Delta. The carrier has only 10 of them, for difficult airports, and didn’t want any more. The 737-7 MAX was also an airplane it didn’t want. The 737 is an outdated airplane based on 1960s technology. The Bombardier C Series is better. Boeing didn’t compete with a new airplane for Delta’s business because it doesn’t have an airplane that competes.

This should have convinced the US Department of Commerce that there was no case to the underlying merits of Boeing’s trade complaint, but it didn’t. Commerce was fully expected to find for Boeing, which has done a great job of massaging Donald Trump’s ego. It did.

Except for Boeing’s extreme partisans, there isn’t an independent analyst that believes Boeing has a meritorious case. Almost all other commentators agreed.

The US International Trade Commission has the case now. A decision from ITC is due in February.

6. Is Norwegian in trouble?

Norwegian Air Shuttle ordered more than 400 Boeing 737s and Airbus A320 family members, plus a bunch of Boeing 787s. It’s expanding aggressively, it created a leasing company and the airline company is losing a ton of money.

LNC examined NAS’s finances and gave an assessment. It wasn’t pretty.

5. Boeing company uses A321 in website promo

There’s a Boeing subsidiary named Inventory Locator Service. It created a timeline for Boeing airplane development for its website that created worldwide mirth and which became LNC’s fifth most read post of 2017.

Why? It used the Airbus A321for its opening and closing airplane illustration.

It also got airplanes throughout the timeline wrong.

All-in-all, quite the embarrassment. Furthermore, the illustration went live on Friday. It wasn’t taken down until Monday.

4. Boeing ponders restart of 767-300ER passenger line

With Boeing studying whether the launch the New Midmarket Aircraft (NMA), finding it difficult to close the business case and shooting for an entry-into-service in 2024-25 (or, market intelligence tells LNC 2027), what does Boeing do to bridge the gap to the EIS?

Relaunching a limited run for the 767-300ER was studied. A decision was targeted for the end of 2017, but no word has issued by year-end.

3. How Airbus can kill the Boeing 797

Speaking of NMA, LNC hypothesized how Airbus can kill the challenging business case for the NMA by launching the “A322,” a larger, re-winged, improved engine, longer-range A321neo that could sell for $20m less than the Boeing airplane and be ready years sooner.

Airbus continues to say it’s not interested in a new winged A321, but it is openly talking about an A321neo Plus that has everything but the wing.

This story came in at No. 3 for the year.

2. Is Emirates in trouble?

For many years, Emirates Airline could do no wrong. It became the best customer for Boeing and Airbus in the Middle East, it ordered hundreds of airplanes, it was the backbone of the A380 orders and it expanded aggressively throughout the world, fending off home airlines in countries EK invaded.

But, then there was a wave or terrorists attacks in Europe which depressed traffic and the US, where the Trump Administration declared no laptops would be allowed in the cabins of any Middle Eastern airline. Traffic plunged.

The campaign by the US Big Three against the Middle East Big Three against alleged unfair state subsidies began picking up steam. Delta Air Lines made life miserable for Qatar’s expansion to Atlanta and American Airlines dropped Qatar from its code sharing. Profits began dropping for all of the ME3; EK’s dropped 80%.

Plagued by over-capacity, EK deferred orders.

LNC took a couple of close looks at Emirates in 2017. This one was the No. 2 post for the year.

1.      Airbus working on new Sharklets for A350

A planespotter spotted the Airbus A350-900 test bed with new sharklets. LNC’s Bjorn Fehrm dug into the change and publish the first story anywhere about the change and what the upgrade could do. This became the No. 1 post of the year.

26 Comments on “Top 10 aviation stories of the year on Leeham News

  1. Thanks Scott and Bjorn, thought the BA-CSeries show would take the “LNC Oscar”. Good to see people more interested in aspects where the “tires hit the tar”.

    Good 2018 for all.

  2. I assume views are highest for articles that get a direct link from a big site? How much views did the #1 and 10 get? Best wishes for 2018!

  3. #1 : longer sharklets. Who would have thunk!
    #0 : Nice Interesting New Year 🙂

  4. The top stories are original research and revelations. Kudos for the timely work.

    • Special new years wishes to Transworld, if we make it, lets share a serious amount of single malt on a 767’s last flight and/or a “revives” 1st flight.

      • We do have 1/3 of a bottle of Balvenie Double Wood left, no I am not a world traveler (anymore) a non drinking friend gave us. Her ancestors are Scotts and involved in the Distillery there and they gave it to her on a visit.

        So, tonight before I go to bed, Balvenie on ice and a toast to Leeham and the participants one and all.

        • Goodness that Belvenie is some outrageously good Scotch.

          Small shot was plenty for me.

  5. Helpful analyses during the year (and in previous years, as well), but #9 on this list states that #11 missed making the list “by s mere 100 views”. Is 100 a lot? What’s the denominator? Citing an isolated number is not particularly meaningful.

    • A bit hard as well as some multiples of the same subject that add up to a lot more.

      I find it hard to fathom new Winglets on the A350 is that exciting but……

  6. I had to blow up the Graphic to see the details.

    These are the people that think they will beat Space X?

    As delusional as someone with small hands.

    • I attempted to blow up the graphic using an Android smartphone. No luck in doing so, alas. Couldn’t read the fine print in the graphic as is.

  7. re: #9 ‘…would close the program’. So did I, several days before, and was verbally pummeled by some fellow posters. That changed my view somewhat to them courting Delta while making sure the CS500 doesn’t happen.
    Thanks for providing an intelligent, educational forum for the free exchange of ideas. Happy New Year all!

  8. A380 :” China is looked at as a possibility, but this has been the case for several years.”

    A380s are flying for China Southern right now (5) , but of course their Beijing based ‘cousin’, Air China operates 6 747-800s and still has 6 747-400s flying.

    • My guess is (and has been for some time) that Airbus will simultaneously announce 380 end of line and 350-2000. Their PR machine will emphasize that the right sized twin responds to market demands.

    • Always better to make your own product obsolete before anyone else does…

      • The 380 was obsolete the minute the first one rolled off the line. Not from a tech standpoint but from a market standpoint.
        Not only did the 350 kill it but the 777 had a big role as well.

    • I think stretched A350’s and 777’s can come close to the A380 passenger capacity (main deck).

  9. I attempted to blow up the graphic using an Android smartphone. No luck in doing so, alas. Couldn’t read the fine print in the graphic as is.

    • I can only just read it on my phone,but I know the reason. New glasses needed.

  10. It could be interesting with an analysis comapring a Max’d out CS500 vs. the 737-8. Can a modern 2+3 aircraft beat the economics of a 3+3 787-8 for similar or better payload/range. This does not give any other merits for comfort/speed/cargo containers/noice/cockpit space etc. I think Boeing knows it and thus reacts so voilently on the C-series but what is the Leehamnews conclusion? What improvement are in the pipeline for the 737-8, Boeing can put pressure on GE/Safran, so maybe the LEAP-1B can get a tech infusion from the GE9X before the LEAP-1A get it as before when the CFM56-7 was a bit ahead of similar improvements into the CFM56-5B. Mainly more CMC in the HPT including uncooler ceramic blades and also making the Burner liners in CMC, tweaking the aero in the HPC, make fan diameter a fraction bigger like +0.25″ and getting even higher pressure and temperatures into the burner. It can give 2-7% in improvement SFC but carries cost and risks. Boeing can tweak the aero like cover the wheel wells fully and reuse the old trick of refining the wing to fuselage fairing with a “digital George Schairer finger” for a maybe 1% improvement and ask Aviation partners Inc. for a tweak of the winglets maybe extending the upper one a tad to move the tip vortex further off the wing upper surface, perhaps a 0.23% improvement is hidden there, there is a difference to the BBJ that has a split scimitar winglet of different size.

    • BRB are contemplating when the best time to introduce wheel doors.The C series has lots of scope for improvement,it seem to me that its not really finished.

    • I think the potential PiP on the CSeries’ PW1500G look more promising than on the LEAP. The latter already has relative high temperatures / pressures architecture & materials incorporated.

      • The 35k PIP on the PW1100G is well communicated and driven by MTU with EU money. In theory the PW engine should be easier to improve but it depends on how well all sensitive parts have been designed and what other problems it will discover until first Overhauls. GEAE has a pile of technologies to pour from at GE Research Center and in military engine programs, many with up to 30 years of constant development and not yet in airline service. P&W also has a treasury to pull new technology from but I think GE has been more consistet pouring money into some materials and technologies for decades.

  11. Thanks for another great year of aerospace journalism. Leeham is an aviation treasure.

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