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.
Airbus’ launch of the A350-900ULR came in second.
Here are the Top 10 stories on Leeham News for 2018:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.