Pontifications: There was other news in 2019 besides MAX. Really.

By Scott Hamilton

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.

Other Boeing stories

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.

Electric Airplanes

“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.

Airbus terminates book project

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.


18 Comments on “Pontifications: There was other news in 2019 besides MAX. Really.

  1. Really? 😉

    I wished to have the Nicola Clark book about Airbus, sad thing, disappointing.

    • You mkae your own break or luck.

      When I first got started I had weeks where everything went wrong.

      5 years in, I could stop most of it and it was just a few really tough problems that were an issue.

      What it amounted to was there are always tough issues, but if you have cloud of mistakes (chaff) you are just lost.

      Boeing is lost. We will see if they continue running around inside the chaff cloud they created . No real hopes.

  2. Will them send you a request to destroy any copy of the book? Is that legal and enforceable?

  3. Will there be another “top 10 stories” this year (based on visitors or comments)?

  4. The demise of airlines continued in 2019, Thomas Cook mostly likely the biggest”event”. What going to happen in 2020?

  5. “Retitle it and let it publish.”

    Maybe that’s the best idea. We are half a year further, maybe insights softened, things became more clear. Please accept 98% correct is good enough for anybody. If legal this might cause problems, add disclaimers & move ahead.

    Typical propaganda publications lose their value quickly. A more complete all containing book is a sign of real strenght to most.

  6. Enders always seemed a smooth calm visionary guy, affable and calming. Faury looks like the kind of guy that would’ve run Renault in the 1970s.

  7. I would add that the large Air France order for A220-300/new mods was quite a significant order.

  8. To sum up in a few words the year 2019, I would say that it was “annus horribilis” for Boeing and “annus mirabilis” for Airbus. Everything went wrong for Boeing, except for the 757 program (just because it’s terminated therefore Boeing’s management can’t hurt it anymore). On the other side of the big pond, everything was fine for Airbus including the A380 (just because it is terminated as well, Emirates doesn’t need to be subsidized any longer).
    Scott forgot to mention the A350 very symbolic victory for the Qantas sunrise projet. With a book-to-bill greater than 1 for all the programs and all the potential future developments (A220-500, A320/321 ++, A350Neo and/or stretched, etc…), the next decade is for Airbus. My 2 cents (of pontification).

    PS : my Santa Claus list includes only one item : a copy of the PDF (“Airbus: the First 50 Years”). Just in case Scott ever comes up with the idea to grow a long white bare… 🙂
    Merry Christmas folks !!!

  9. Excellent synopsis of the main events affecting the Global Aviation Industry during 2019.
    Merry Christmas, and a Jolly 2020 for the Leeham News Team.

  10. David Calhoun is CEO of boeing now and boeing
    Board fires Dennis muilenburg is a sad news
    Will boeing launch the FSA and later the NMA.

  11. I hope Boeing can be turned around, focusing on building quality planes instead of chasing short term investor returns. Trying to kill the c series with questionable tarifs backfired
    Horrible quality control on the c46 (unfairly won) contract
    Hiding a design flaw on the max

    They are running a proud pioneer into the ground

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