LNC’s Top 10 stories in 2018

Jan. 2, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing dominated the Top 10 news stories last year, as measured by views.

Displacing Airbus at Hawaiian Airlines, which ordered the 787-9 and canceled the A330-800, led the readership.

Boeing’s flip of the Hawaiian Airlines order for the A330-800 to the 787-9 was the most read story of 2018. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines.

Airbus’ launch of the A350-900ULR came in second.

Here are the Top 10 stories on Leeham News for 2018:

  1. Boeing to implement structural design changes for 787-8

The 787-8 was plagued with design and production issues. By the time Boeing fixed all of them, production commonality between this model and the larger -9/10 models fell below 50%.

This meant higher production costs and inefficiencies. Last year, Boeing redesigned the aft portion of the fuselage to become common with the larger siblings. This reduced cost and increased production efficiencies. This article tells the story.

  1. Boeing’s growing 777X challenge

Boeing hailed the development of the 777X as a great advancement. Officials touted the 777-9 as significantly more efficient than the Airbus A350-1000. This comparison, of course, is unfair and a classic case of apples-to-oranges, since the 777-9 carries about 60 more passengers than the -1000.

Sales stalled for the Boeing 777X. The Big 3 Middle East airlines have 72% of the orders. Challenges remain. Photo: Boeing.

Boeing also claimed the 777-8 is more economical than the A350-1000, a claim backed neither by LNC’s analysis nor by airlines we’ve spoken to who have done their own evaluation.

There are only 326 firm orders from a handful of customers. There hasn’t been a sale (as of this writing, before Christmas) since 2017. Orders are highly concentrated with the Big 3 Middle East airlines, Emirates (150), Etihad (25) and Qatar (60). These represent 72% of the orders.

Emirates and Etihad previously rescheduled some deliveries and Etihad reportedly wants to cancel some or all of the orders as it restructures. The “bridge” between the 777 Classic and the 777X is now longer than planned.


FAA AD may severely limit ETOPS of some RR-powered 787s: sources

Grounded 787s had been piling up for months across the globe due to problems with the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. So many engines were involved that Rolls-Royce couldn’t fix or replace them fast enough.

The Federal Aviation Administration was compelled to restrict ETOPS certification, which is the amount of time a 787 can be from an airport on one engine, until fixes or replacements were made.

Airlines had to lease in A330s, 777-200ERs and even 747-400s to make up for the airplane that were grounded, many for months at a time.

  1. After Boeing yields, what’s next for Bombardier CSeries?

It was a story that puzzled everyone: Boeing filed a complaint with the US Department of Commerce that Bombardier’s deal with Delta Air Lines to order the CS100 (now the A220-100) was illegally below cost.

If allowed to stand, Boeing claimed, the CSeries would kill the 737-7, which would kill the 737-8, which would kill Boeing, which would kill the entire US aerospace industry.

It was a preposterous claim on many accounts. Nevertheless, Donald Trump’s Commerce department found for Boeing and levied a 292% tariff on the plane. Commerce completely ignored the realities of how airplanes are sold in the process.

The International Trade Commission had to find harm to Boeing in order for the tariff to take place. In a stunning rebuke to Commerce and to Boeing, the ITC on a 4-0 vote found no harm to Boeing.

Boeing elected to not appeal the decision.

  1. Southwest CEO sees 60% of fleet becoming the 737-7

There have been fewer than 70 Boeing 737-7s sold, 30 of them to Southwest Airlines.

Seven are scheduled for delivery to Southwest, which deferred 23 for four years.

Many observers believe Southwest eventually will swap most or all of the -7s for the larger 737-8s. But last year, CEO Gary Kelly said he saw 60% of Southwest’s fleet becoming the -7.

Only time will tell.

  1. Airbus readies A350-1000 for delivery, dismisses Boeing 777-9

The first A350-1000 was delivered to Qatar Airways last year. In the runup to the delivery, Airbus officials dismissed the viability of the 777-9—an unsurprising position, given Boeing’s oft-stated claim the -9 is more competitive than the -1000 (see story #9).

  1. In new blow, Boeing defeats Airbus at American, sources say

First, it was Hawaiian Airlines that flipped from Airbus to Boeing. A short time later, American Airlines also flipped.

It was an embarrassing and disappointing move for Airbus, but hardly unexpected.

American’s decision to order 47 787s replaces the A330-200/300 and 767 fleets. It also avoided introduction of a new fleet type, the A350-900.

Fleet simplification around the 787 (at the time, 35 of 42 orders already had been delivered) was the only decision that made sense.

  1. Boeing’s automatic trim for 737 MAX was not disclosed to pilots

Lion Air’s crash of flight 610, a three-month old 737-8, revealed that a flight control modification made in the MAX from the 737NG apparently wasn’t highlighted to the airline’s pilots.

This story, by LNC’s Bjorn Fehrm, a former fighter pilot and an aerospace engineer, explains the system involved.

  1. Airbus launches longest range widebody in the below 300-seat market

Singapore Airlines for years operated the world’s longest flight: Singapore to New York/Newark, using an Airbus A340.

When fuel prices spiked well above $100/bbl, the A340 became uneconomic and the route was discontinued.

With the creation of the A350-900ULR (Ultra Long Range), Singapore reopened the route.

  1. Boeing displaces Airbus at Hawaiian, wins 787-9 deal; airline cancels A330-800 order

The move by Hawaiian Airlines to cancel the A330-800 order in favor of the Boeing 787-9 had been rumored for months.

At the time, Hawaiian was the only customer for the -800. Boeing wanted to displace the order in hopes of killing the A330neo program, in addition to the satisfaction of giving Airbus a black eye.

Boeing succeeded with the latter. It didn’t with the former.

This means Airbus will be able to exert price pressure with the -800 on the prospective Boeing 797, a program widely expected to be launched this year.

17 Comments on “LNC’s Top 10 stories in 2018

    • That is interesting, my comment posted immediately (it has been quite delayed) and I have 10 minutes to edit when I didn’t even have the 4 minutes previously after about mid year.

      • Next two did not post immediately, no edit of course , so maybe back to normal, odd stuff.

  1. Looks like everyone is asleep at the wheel!

    I would put the 737 debacle ahead of the LR A350.

    Its a niche market in LR (170 some pax) where as the 737 has multiple areas of significant impact in regards to Boeing’s snark attitude, loss of a customer, and the ramifications of how it got to where it did.

    • The ranking criteria is clearly stated in the first line of the post.

      “Boeing dominated the Top 10 news stories last year, as measured by views.”

      Apparently, more people viewed the A350-900ULR post than the one for the 737.

    • The ranking isnt a judgement call
      “Top 10 news stories last year, as measured by views”
      Its LNR after all, they like and so do I, their calls based on solid numbers

  2. Scott, do you have any update on progress of the noted BA 787-8 commonality project from your sources? Thanks, and Happy New Year, MO

    • I also am most interested in will they get it more or fully common to the -9

      note: posts after a bit are coming up with in view and with 10 minute editing time. Multiple close posts so far not.

    • I remember reading about the A310, the short version the A300. They did some major changes to the aft body section that were transferred across when they A300-600 was introduced.
      The other reason for having the same aft-body for 787 is it might speed up the production rate in North Charleston enough to allow all 787’s to be made there. All aft sections are made in Boeings factory next to the FAL.
      The original changes for 789 were
      Larger tyres + brakes, wider gear trucks
      a 2-piece tailfin on the 789
      hybrid laminar-flow control system (leading edge of fin, tailplane)
      lighter + simpler cockpit surround structure
      increase in engine thrust
      more flap settings
      increased MTOW

      plus the ‘stretch’ , oh and dont forget list price difference is nearly $100 mill from the -8 to the -10

      As well Boeing moved the ‘Dreamlifter’ Operations Center from Everett to Charleston.

  3. Are you going to do a ranking based on numbers of comments?

    Might offer an interesting comparison.

    Interesting nothing on the B797 MoM’ster.

    • Good catch, I would think the 797 rates above a long distance route of extremely limited scope.

  4. Leeham is established as one of the most objective channels. Still a article starting “In new blow, Airbus defeats Boeing…” would be unpractical.

    • Hello TransWorld,

      The 1-4-19 FlightGLobal article at the link below reports on the early experience of several operators with their A32X neos. Below are some excerpts from this article about Lufthansa’s experience to date with the PW engines in their A32X’s. Lufthansa, by my reading, reported more problems than any of the other operators quoted in the article.

      “Lufthansa’s in-service experience with the Neo has entailed a series of technical issues – mainly with the engines – separated by periods of relative stability. The latest issue centres on vibrations of the high-pressure rotor (N2) shaft, which have been observed on several PW1100G engines. Froese says the vibrations are not noticeable by occupants on board, but have been picked up by engine instrumentation.”

      “As P&W mandates operators to replace engines once a certain vibration strength or event frequency has been reached, Lufthansa has had to take several powerplants off wing. “This is something that has kept us busy indeed over the past months, because we repeatedly reached a [vibration] range where we had to replace engines,” Froese says.”

      “On average, per day, the Neos were operating for 73% as long as same-age Ceos and 92% as long as Lufthansa’s oldest Ceos.

      At the same time, the Neos’ unscheduled ground times were five-and-a-half times as long as those of same-age Ceos, while maintenance costs were around 60% higher, the airline says.”

      “He suggests that any fuel savings could be wiped out by additional costs generated by maintenance or reliability issues. “The engines are highly expensive [and require] a lot of maintenance, I would say, but [have] much lower fuel consumption. I am curious how the [overall] bill looks like in 10 years’ time.”

      With a nod to the fuel price, he quips: “God forbid it falls.”


      • It is interesting that of the 50 plus A220-100s and 300s flying that they have had much less problems with their UTX GTFs. The engine must have been designed with the CSeries wing in mind more so than the 32x’x.

    • Seems like P&W is really out of touch with making engines. Its a pity their GTF is really a marvel. Guess we’ll have to wait for RR with their Ultrafan to see how they do…

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