Dec. 23, 2019, © Leeham News: The Boeing 737 MAX crisis clearly dominated the news this year.
It’s felt like the aviation stories have been all-MAX, all-the-time.
Believe it or not, there was aviation news other than the MAX.
Boeing couldn’t catch a break this year.
The 777X’s first flight was delayed when troubles with the giant GE9X engine required removal and some redesign.
Some taxi testing appears ready to take place. A first flight may occur as early as January, although this is far from certain.
Orders were canceled, reducing the backlog to 286 from 344.
Troubles with the KC-46A tanker continued throughout the year.
Soft demand for the 787 led to a decision to reduce the production rate next year from 14/mo to 12/mo.
And as if to rub salt in the wounds, Boeing’s new space craft failed to achieve orbit in its first flight attempt to reach the International Space Station.
Let’s hope Boeing will see a turn-around in 2020.
The launch of the A321XLR, with hundreds of sales, is probably the highlight of the year for Airbus.
It’s also very bad news for Boeing and the MAX.
The 737-9 and 737-10 already struggled against the A321neo and A321LR. The A321XLR, with its advertised range of 4,700nm, is better than the advertised range of the Boeing 757W. The XLR’s capacity is slightly less.
Boeing badly needs a replacement for the MAX, setting aside the crisis issues. The product line simply isn’t competitive with the A320 family.
Embraer achieved first flight of the E175-E2 in December. But there are no firm orders for the airplane.
The joint venture with Boeing is on hold. The European Union regulators paused review because, it says, it hasn’t had enough information from Boeing to reach an anti-trust decision. (Some think the pause may be a not-so-subtle response to the Trump Administration tariffs on the EU and Airbus.)
MITAC redesigned the MRJ to the SpaceJet, announced at the Paris Air Show. The M100 competes directly with the E175-E2, but as yet, only 100 commitments have been announced. The MRJ90, now called the M90, is likely delayed again. Japanese regulators, certifying the first commercial airliner since the YS-11 in the early 1960s, if taking its sweet time. The certification controversy surrounding the MAX has a negative halo effect in Japan.
“e-planes,” as electric or hybrid airplanes are called, gained traction this year.
Harbour Air of Canada performed a test flight with the first electric motor on a commercial airplane. The flight was only five minutes long. Remember, the Wright Brothers’ first flight was 12 seconds, followed by one that lasted a minute.
It’s a baby step. LNA’s Bjorn Fehrm remains highly skeptical of electrically powered airplanes. There are plenty of other skeptics, too. But Embraer last week announced an agreement with the Brazilian military to develop a small airplane, possibly a hybrid.
Pontifications will be off next week for the holidays. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
It’s official: Airbus last week terminated the book project commissioned by the Tom Enders administration to provide the historical account of the “Airbus: the First 50 Years” by veteran aviation reporter Nicola Clark. The book was supposed to make a big splash at the Paris Air Show last year.
After Enders retired April 1, the administration of Guillaume Faury, hit successor, halted distribution and publication of the book. Two reasons were circulated: one, it contained a chapter about the fraud investigations that were then (and still are) incomplete. The other: it wasn’t the usual puff piece book commissioned for coffee tables, filled with happy pictures and containing only sunshine accounts.
Based on information and Airbus’ own press release last week, it seems the underlying reason is the desire for a puff piece. “This decision reflects a shift in Airbus’ communication content goals,” the company announced in a terse release.
So, a comprehensive, important history of the first 50 years has been killed.
I was provided an advance copy for a book review, published here.
This decision is inexplicable. If Airbus wanted instead a puff piece, commission one. But don’t kill this detailed history at a cost of money already paid and flush it. Retitle it and let it publish.
This decision is to Airbus’ everlasting discredit. Officials should be embarrassed.
At least I have my PDF copy. It’s a book that will have a permanent place in my aviation library.