Pontifications: There is no good news

May 18, 2020, © Leeham News: There simply is no good news in commercial aviation right now.

By Scott Hamilton

Yes, airport traffic is upticking in the USA (and elsewhere) slightly. But in the USA, it’s still less than 10% of last year’s totals.

There remains a tremendous amount of uncertainty.

  • Airbus plans to lay off some 10,000 employees, according to press reports. Another production rate cut seems inevitable.
  • Boeing’s CEO revised the forecast for air traffic recovery from 2-3 years to 3-5 years. Production recovery will take another 2-3 years after that, he said.
  • Embraer’s biggest customer for the E195-E2, Azul Airlines, deferred deliveries from 2020-2023 to 2024. There haven’t been announcements about deferrals by US carriers for E175-E1s, but there is no reason to believe these won’t be deferred.
  • Delta Air Lines says 7,000 of its 14,000 pilots will be surplus to its needs this fall.
  • Spirit Aerosystems laid off about 1,700 employees due to Boeing’s production planning.
  • Qatar Airways will retire 50 airplanes, defer new orders from Airbus and Boeing and cut the workforce by 20%.

The list goes on and on and on.

Ugly to get uglier

A mere two weeks ago, I wrote that a fundamental shift in the aviation industry will be ugly. It’s clear this doesn’t begin to describe things.

The US federal payroll aid for airlines expires Sept. 30 unless a new assistance package is adopted. Airlines and airline trade groups already say their will be huge layoffs beginning Oct. 1.

All thought of a new airplane program from Boeing is on indefinite hold. Airbus cut R&D funding on all airplanes except the A321XLR. Embraer ash-canned its prospective turboprop. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries suspended development of the M100 SpaceJet indefinitely.

Things are so fluid that’s what’s true on Friday as this is written may not be true on Monday when it’s published. It may not even be true within a day, or sometimes, within hours.

Airline recovery

At this point, looking ahead toward recovery in the airline and aerospace industries is at best a matter of speculation. None of the companies seems anywhere near hitting bottom yet.

But deep within all the companies there should be a team considering how best to make opportunities out of chaos.

For example, Delta Air Lines was clear early that it will shrink its operations. The new size is unclear, perhaps even to insiders. But CEO Ed Bastien said in a television interview that plans were also being made to capitalize on growing at the expense of the competition (read: American, United and maybe even Southwest airlines).

Alaska Airlines was engaged in a multi-year market share battle in Seattle with Delta. Alaska, too, will shrink. But while Delta has bigger fish to fry, Alaska should plan how to consolidate its position even greater in its home hub.

United hasn’t announced firm aircraft retirements. While many speculate its Boeing 757s and 767s will never return to service, CEO Scott Kirby is a shrewd, opportunistic leader.

Southwest didn’t shrink as much as other airlines after 9/11, nor, so far, now. Southwest took advantage of competitor weaknesses after 9/11. CEO Gary Kelly is in the position to do the same now—especially against a weakened American.

JetBlue, Frontier and Spirit all have opportunities to make gains, if their balance sheets are too decimated.

Aircraft manufacturer recovery

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said repeatedly that survival is at stake. Airbus is “bleeding” cash, he said.

There is no way the governments will allow Airbus to fail. But this doesn’t mean the next few years won’t be incredibly painful.

Oddly, one can argue that Boeing is in a better position than Airbus. Why? Boeing has strong defense revenues coming in. Airbus’ defense unit is much smaller. This OEM is more dependent upon commercial revenues than Boeing.

This is not to say Boeing has a cakewalk. The 737 MAX is still grounded and, in LNA’s view, the 777X program has a dubious future. Boeing may need to go back to the financing well.

On balance, Airbus has the better product line up. The 737-8 and A320neo are evenly matched. The 737-7 and A319neo are about evenly the runts of their litters. The A321neo kicks ass against the 737-9 and 737-10.

The 787 has a broader, more attractive family than the A330neo. The A350 is more attractive than the 777X.

LNA expects Airbus and Boeing to survive.

So will Embraer, but it has product challenges LNA previously described.

Mitsubishi’s foray into regional airliner design is now in limbo. The parent company suspended all work on the M100 SpaceJet indefinitely and is reassessing the market. Slowing the progress makes sense, under the circumstances. Suspending it does not.

This crisis gives Mitsubishi breathing room to design the M100, enter and complete flight testing and obtain certification just in time for the industry recovery. The consensus is 2023-24. Mitsubishi should be moving forward, not stopping.

Looking into the crystal ball

Over the next few months, LNA will take a deep look at OEM future strategies. These will be paywall articles, however.

However, as noted above: what’s true today might change tomorrow. Or even next hour.

56 Comments on “Pontifications: There is no good news

  1. Scott,

    If airlines survive in the short term (say 2 years) and use the opportunity to streamline operations, they may do well in the long run, when economies recover and people are not afraid to travel again. The virus won’t last forever and the demand for air travel will go back to what it was and might even keep increasing at 5% a year as it did before the virus. Economies will recover faster than a normal depression, because this is a self-inflicted wound to flatten out the curve.Perhaps 5 years from now, we may be asking what was that all about. But the danger is the immediate survival of airlines in the face of a catastrophic drop in demand and OEMs for the drop in demand for their products driven by the drop in demand for travel. If they can only get over the bump! As you said, Airbus and Boeing will survive. What would the world do without them? I see no one able and ready to step into their shoes.

    Could you please comment on the demand for airline pilots, short and long term? Before the virus, there was talk of pilot shortage, with many close to retirement age and traffic ever-increasing. Now DELTA says it needs only 50% of its pilots. What does your crystal ball say about the future demand for pilots. I am sure robots won’t take over, not yet anyway.

    • I think LNL is being a cheerleader int he case of MHI not an objective observer.

      As noted previously, MHI is a mfg of high cost high quality mfg.

      The MRJ and the regional market was and is not and has nothign to do with what MHI does.

      If not for the Japanese government MHI would never have ventured into this arena and that had no return to it (single aisle LCA would have been a possible target though extremely tough still)

      The real long term winner was and continue to have been BBD with the C series. That took a rescue by Airbus as BBD was failing on monetary grounds.

      It should be noted that Honda Jet is mfg in the US. Still a diversion and a toy line, but with a rational plan.

      • I would think….Bombardier, should have serious financial issues limiting its self to just one major product building only business jets. Going forward, I’d think businesses will be reducing there air travel for it executives and the supporting of costly leasing agencies that supply pilot services for business travel. Telecommunications and G5 technology will certainly change global business dealings. No need to fly to foreign countries that require self quarantine during someone’s visit.

        • There will be biz travel to sort out missunderstandings from on-line zoom meetings.

          • what business man is going to tell the truth I mean what he really thinks he wants to say online?

            No way– maybe the lower échelon types will stop, the top guys will travel only more, either they or their trusted go betweens

            zoom is only for ‘the record’

          • “High Value” people exposing themselves to corona?

            IMU business travel is more of a perks thing than effective work, even when the actors themselves talk about “so much wichtig work”.
            With corona around it no longer works as “perk” 🙂

            They’ll do Video conferencing from their reclusiv “Panic Datascha” away from busy places. 🙂

          • @Uwe

            How much corona are they going to let in to the sealed off seperate entry/exit first class cabin? with Hazmat neurosurgeons on stand by?

            I say they’re going to love travel even more – VIP from door to door

            In these track and trace the masses days this kind of exceptionalism is going all the more highly to be prized both for itself and for the prestige

            the mania for airtravel started with the rich and has stayed with them, they’ll be delighted the poor get cut out of their reserve

      • I used to buy injection molding tools from Mitsubishi
        Quality was much higher than European at same price

        However information may have changed since deals were made 37 years ago !!!

  2. What has gone unsaid: the bulk of airline profits was made from business travellers and corporate contracts — specifically those willing to pay to sit in lie-flat seats well ahead of the wings — pre-Covid, especially international/intercontinental. Now with teleconferencing as easily and cheaply available as a Zoom or Webex account (not to mention a high-speed broadband internet connection, which a good majority of households in the developed world already have), how many of those high-margin customers are going to need airline tickets even with widespread testing and vaccines?

    Plus, given little international coordination between governments (even between neighbouring countries!) with respect to lockdown/stay-at-home/quarantine policies, international travel will be the last to return. When domestic demand returns…. only for flag carriers to face competition from U/LCCs willing to throw densified narrowbodies with social-distancing-as-an-ancillary revenue driver on the same routes.

    • It’s about finding ways of doing things remotely that used to be done in person. So, for instance, the FAA is now allowing some airlines to do some FAA inspections via video.

      Covid has forced us into the future in that regard, as in many others (e.g. Covid kicking the last legs out from traditional retail).

      Businesses, govts, govt agencies, etc, have been forced to adopt ways of doing business remotely that they would not have before (or only would have done extremely slowly before).

      Also, this crisis is advantaging those who get good at working remotely, serving clients remotely, etc. So those companies and those people who get good at this are the ones who are likely to come out of this the most successful. I.e. there’s a natural selection process ongoing.

      Post-Covid, some but nowhere near all of this will return to the status quo ante.

      • inspection via video….er

        will they never learn- they could not -even- inspect in person, I mean with their own eyes, how are they going to inspect via another’s?

        material objects have to be seen to be believed

  3. There is only so much financing that governments can provide so, barring a major war, is it reasonable to assume that Boeing’s military customers will continue to spend at pre-Covid rates? My feeling is no. The economic contraction has been too costly for that. So, much depends on the cost base to know whether, and how quickly, cashflows might turn from +ve to -ve.

    Of course, as far as major deals go, looking at the KC46 and the T7 is instructive. Boeing’s approach to both was to low ball up front, recoup later. Didn’t matter much at contract time but the balance sheet is now priority 1 and this is not a good situation.

    Then there’s the MAX and how they compensate buyers. We’ve seen the reports of buyers moving the funds to 787s instead rather than requesting or demanding the funds back. But surely by now any MAX customer must be looking at travel forecasts and availability of parked 787s/330s/whatever looks most suitable and may determine the cash and/or profit position will be better with those parked frames than any new 787 Boeing may offer them in, say, 3 or 4 years time. In pre-Covid times those buyers may well have been able to afford to take some time to mull options, refine modelling etc before pulling the trigger on course of action. But not now. Speed is essential and only cash is king.

    For Airbus, I imagine employment flexibility in different countries could become a political issue, as well as an economic one.

    • There may be some military reduction, but for the most part governments are committed to their fleet plans because the existing airframes are already near end of life. So they would need to accept a major loss of those fleets, plus the very large investment already made in replacing them. It’s possible that may develop, we’ll have to see, but for now it may be premature to speculate.

      How the balance of commercial aircraft will fall out, I don’t know. It all depends on how the economics of air travel re-evolve with COVID-19. There are still too many unknowns to say with any certainty. We don’t yet know how quickly the virus may recede or be managed, or how things may be opened back up.

      There is a widespread trend of having driven the effective transmission rate below 1. The trick now will be so sustain that as the economy reopens. A lot to be learned on that yet, but I think it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

      I think whatever happens, people and businesses will do their best to persevere, including Boeing. and the airlines.

      • Woody: You need to include the MC25 in that low ball as well.

        The difference between the KC46 and the T-07/MC-25 is supposedly the production process.

        I am skeptical, but that was the core of any commercial offering as well.

        Stay tuned. I don’t believe anything Calhoun says but there are a lot of good engineers inside Boeing. While the 787 was a management disaster of biblical proportions, the tech worked.

        While a small part of tech did not work (battery and wing join) it had to do with the fowled (pun intended) organization and structure both in cut of Boeing electronics /electrical division and desperate management attempt to trying to shave weight (wing join)

        I was stunned when they were saying driving a nail into a battery had any validity as a test. If Boeing had had a functioning electrical division that would not have occurred.

          • Stridsvagn 103_A_ and the Boeing 502 :
            32gallons at full power, 30 gallons at idle.
            The fuel that gives you one horse power from that engine would give you 2.5 the horsepower from any reasonably good diesel engine. 🙂
            B …D models got a Caterpillar 553 turbine.
            ( did Boeing sell off some of that product line to Caterpilar?)

          • I understood the Stridsvagn had both small turbine and diesel engine.
            ” A flat 240 hp Rolls-Royce K60 opposed-piston diesel for slow cruising and maneuvering when aiming, plus a 300 hp Boeing 502 turbine[turboshaft] for high-speed travel and cruising on rough terrain. The latter was found in practice underpowered and soon replaced by a Caterpillar turbine (490 hp) on the B version. ” – Tank Encyclopedia
            Maybe the the Caterpillar 553 turboshaft seems to be a development of the Boeing unit.
            The advantage of the turboshaft is light weight and compact size, not fuel economy.

            Boeing GT division was bought by Caterpillar in 1966 and there were some Kenworth truck prototypes that were Boeing powered in late 50s which are collectors items now.

            Solar Turbine Company which built its own planes in the 1920s and specialised in APU sized units in the 50s before being sold to International Harvester and later Caterpillar. Solar branded Caterpillar units currently has a whole range of stationary GT running on various fuels including natural gas.

            An interesting flow on is those ( very) small turbo-shafts came onto the used market cheaply and I saw a photo of a turboshaft powered motorbike !

      • It doesn’t take reductions to size of fleet purchased, let alone orders being zeroed out (although I would be surprised if neither of these happen), to have the potential to turn Boeing’s military cashflow from +ve to -ve. Simply depends on the fixed cost base and how much governments stretch out their purchase schedules. If the money isn’t there (because it is being used to service debt, pay unemployment, boost health systems, whatever) for military spend, it isn’t there. And it isn’t as if many countries prioritised military spending even before C19.

    • Totally agree that BOEING military is not that strong!
      kC 46 and T7 still have some years of red ink. And their export potential is limited.
      F15 future is way behind it, and SUPER HORNET is not much better
      space programs are not shining.
      BOEING MILITARY profits come mostly from parts sales on oldish machines whose future is limited (B52, F15, ….)
      On the other side, things are not that bad on AIRBUS military.
      ATLAS (A 400M) problems are behind, and it has a 30 years profitable future, other turboprop transport (C295 ex CASA) are also rather good. Eurofighter is not as geriatric as F15, A330MRTT has a good share of its market, worldwide.
      Sorry Scott, but on the military side, things are much more balanced than what you say!

      • Airbus is merely ONE partner in the Eurofighter consortium ( Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH) with BAE (33%)and Leonardo(21%)
        The engines are made by EuroJet Turbo GmbH.

        Essentially its the German and Spanish side of Airbus with (simplified) Airbus Aerotec in Augsburg making the centre fuselage and EADS CASA the right wing.

  4. Scott, it was mentioned at several occasions, that most contracts contain a clause that customers can cancel an order and get the down payment back if delivery is 1 year late.

    > Can they then usually cancel the entire order or just the order for the one plane that would be delivered with a 1 year delay?
    > Is this clause also in the contracts for newly developed planes, such as the 777X?

    I wonder how many cancellations of 737MAX will be recorded in the month just before FAA re-certifies the plane. That will provide hard evidence of what airlines expect.

  5. I wonder where the A220 will be in 2 years. Delta is flying all of theirs. AirFrance, AirCanada and JetBlue have all recently indicated they will take theirs as they roll out and Airbus has not indicated a rate cut, merely postponed an increase.

    • We are seeing reports of older aircraft getting cut by some of the airlines.

      Longer term we have to see if its a lot of them.

      Delta is an oddball with their maint division which allows them to keep older aircraft. So far they are retiring older aircraft. So clearly for them return to service with newer fleet.

      Mostly its a watch and see and its not a fixed target of course as this is so much worse than most people have realized previously .

      Even during the great Depression it took place over a longer time frame.

    • I think if airlines look at flexibility, continuing the purchase on one (which during the BBD days may have come at a really sweet deal) can be smart as it can be used on “major” routes where demand is low now, and subsequently shuffled to smaller routes once demand recovers. Easy to utilize, ample range and wide flexibility all while comparatively fuel sipping.

  6. I think wise airlines will learn from this and not oversize themselves, relying on ‘full’ a220/320s and a321xlrs to rightsize their fleets. There’s just more flexibility in smaller frames… If you miss the 80’s… It’s coming back… Interlining and hub-and-spoke to the fore.

    The parked widebodies may become dedicated cargo carriers… With the new-style passenger cabin containers as opposed to costly permanent P2F conversations.

    But… Who knows. Business travel is unlikely to be so prominent and cabins so large.

  7. @ Kant ” The virus won’t last forever.” Not forever, but it could resurface this fall and winter with people ignoring guidelines and there is the chance for the virus to mutate. We are not anywhere near out of the woods yet.
    Airlines cannot survive with blocking off seats as load factors need to be high to turn a profit.
    It’s a hard thing to forecast but unlike the fake good news out of Washington, the new normal is here.

    • Much of the news from political sources is muddled or incorrect, that’s true, and there is still a long way to go, that is also true. But if you look at the general trend, there has been success in reducing the transmission rate to below unity, and the challenge now is to maintain that as things begin to open back up.

      That will be a learning process but it’s not an impossibility. It all depends on how the virus responds to the first steps. With good research and monitoring and testing, we should be able to see more clearly what is happening, and have a better understanding of what’s effective. We didn’t have that as this got started.

      • Dear Rob

        You are right about that – the bug only just got started

        All the people making definitive proposals and judgements counting on vaccines or any other palliative had surely best display some realism

        The logistics of the virus are far superior to anything the human may do to prevent it

        It is practical to address the root of the problem, the conditions of bug production, rather than play catch up with an entity far more efficient at his task than the human

        • Reality is short of nukes we can’t control where the bugs are coming from (MERs, (Middle East) SARs, Covd). We can try, you think China is going to be amenable to our telling them what to do? Iran?

          Try to squelch Ebola in worn torn Africa (they are doing an amazing job despite people being targeted at times).

          On the other hand, vaccines have a wide application so that one Covd vaccine can be modified to deal with others ones its baseline and established like a flu shot or polio etc.

          We have vastly more tools than when many of the main line vaccines were developed, simply no need to re-do them as they work fine.

          Whats missing is this has all been on a profit motive and what we need is a world wide network of support for non profit (Malaria).

          Competition is good so you want a number of the lab and approaches as you don’t know which one will work best (let alone national pride) but you also need a network of suppliers as well as production facilitates able to move in parallel.

          That requires consistent government support for a non money making operations.

          You also need to not tear down a system that your predecessor setup to deal with just this issue (or be in denial and or take and advocate dangerous drugs that don’t work)

          • @tw

            why is it you that has to tell china what to do – if you have learned anything from this fiasco it’s that they, Asia, handled it much better than you the ‘west’

            all your talk about containment or lockdown or war is merely the same, telling the bug what to do, or trying to force it’s behaviour – that’s worked badly and chaotically especially in the US

            war torn africa? look around you the wars rumbling are all US invasion scenarios and mostly in the Middle East

            once you get away from a little america outlook perhaps you’ll be able to reason instead of emote

            control the means of production or the context of production

            a vaccine? how much of your life would you bet on one? more than seasonal more than mutating bug or bugtwo

            You are day dreaming – guess how long they’ve been not inventing a malaria or AIDS vaccine for – and guess what, it’s not because you are not paying pharma enough it is because they can not do it, they can make viagra, well steal the plant and reproduce the recipe, and any number of useless drugs, but…invent something useful?

            What and when was the last – polio? penicillin?

            you leave the congo to it’s own, you get local out breaks of ebola easily enough contained, you go pilfering for gold etc you catch it and bring to -remember hazmat panic in Dallas a few years back – to an unhealthy poor immune poorer healthcare environment, it will kill even more than this mild mannered bug is now killing

  8. I guess with the Max grounded, it’s not as bad for Boeing as it is for Airbus.
    On the other side, Boeing has already a troublesome year behind it.
    Lucky they have defense, otherwise Boeing would be in severe trouble.

    Overall, Airbus has stronger products nowadays. The A380 is history already, but A359 still sells great.
    B789 is a great airplane, a fit for all airlines able to operate widebodies.
    Still the A339 is doing ok against, there are 320 sold already, which is pretty solid for a plane having a very strong direct competitor.
    Boeing has nothing against the A220 and another stretch is coming for sure.
    The A320neo and Max 8 might be en par, but the A321neo kicks it out, makes a ton of profit for Airbus.
    Together with a coming A220-500 to further weaken lower end Max sales, Boeing might be in trouble with its civil cash cow.

    The B777x might just have the worst timing ever, heavy, large and with low demand, if Qatar, Emirates or any other airlines cancel, they are already in trouble.
    I have no clue how Cathay Pacific should be able to take it’s 20 B779, they are hit so hard by protests and now Corona.
    No airline would be sad if Boeing would announce a delay or even a cancel of the B777x, and that’s a very bad sign.

    No easy days for Boeing.

  9. It surely is for the next few months or so a matter of surviving.

    However for the moment it looks like even Norwegian are surviving, looking to rerun with just 7 aircraft. I find it astonishing that they’re managing this. Perhaps the Norwegian gov has injected a bucket load of cash…

    A lot will also depend on whether or not the virus burns out quickly, or were left waiting for a vaccine, or treatment improves to the point where, by and large, people survive.

    Some people are saying that burn out is happening. There’s even some supporting evidence. Japan has found that their current strain of Covid19 is different to the one that was running round earlier in the year. So they’ve got rid of it once already, and they seem to be on top of this one now (remarkably so, given how lack lackadaisical their approach seemed). So it can be beaten with controls.

    The treatment front is improving too. Less people are dying here in the UK; the NHS has found that blood thinners make a big difference to people with advanced cases and requiring ventilation. They had noticed that blood clots were forming on the lungs, and the thinners are helping deal with that. So it’s becoming a less scary disease.

    And there’s promising signs from one of the vaccine development programmes in the USA. So we may be in a position to wipe it out permanently in a few months or so.

    So there’s more reasons to be optimistic than a few weeks ago. The challenge is more likely to be:

    1) Persuading governments that’s it’s under proper control and no long a significant threat to public health, at the appropriate time. Thing is you have to be doing a lot of testing and case searching to determine when that is, and a lot of governments aren’t looking. Eg the UK gov has been very slow to take up testing and still isn’t proposing to test air travellers.

    2) persuading the general public that it’s safe to go somewhere (and, for international travel, their travel insurance companies). I think this could be quite difficult. I’ve already seen a large difference in confidence; some friends are still deeply scared of it, others are far more confident.

    If 50% decide to not take a risk, then the airline business is in for a prolonged wait for business to return to normal.

    • One aspect that I believe continues to be missed and LNA has hit on the aircraft end is the rest of the business world (which they are not a nor claim to be an analyst for)

      How many aviation entities and others (cruise, small business like restaurants, hotels etc) are going to fail?

      And many of those who have lost work are low wage non skill, those will be the last to get back to work (if ever) the same as any other recession.

      The business climate was changing already, a downturn was over due per historic norm and this is a viper on top of that.

      No longer making money, no money to be spent, huge impact on the economies. Businesses are adjusting to communication and a significant percentage of that will stay in place.

      I was clearly wrong on the MAX debacle in regards to recovery, Boeing exceeded my expectations beyond belief there.

      I am seeing what Scott is seeing, this is a whole new arena just like the MAX is. Don’t underestimate it. I think 10 years from now we will still be seeing major impacts.

  10. Thinking a bit more long term, Airbus would do well to expand it’s military offerings:

    A330 NEO MRTT with a freighter deck.
    A320 NEO Maritime Patrol (P-8A competitor).
    A320 NEO AEW&C (E-7 competitor).

    Boeing has been successful at ensuring there are US options for these capabilities for the US market, and as there are few P-8A/E-7 competitors, they have export potential.

    The MRTT has a reasonable base that should be expanded on, a 330 NEO version with freighter deck, and fully automated refuelling probe would be an attractive offering for a KC-10 replacement, but lets face it, the US is not going to buy anything but a Boeing tanker.

    A320 NEO versions of P-8A, and E-7 could provide an option for a number of countries that would like an alternative to the US offering for a number of reasons. A320 NEO based aircraft also offers a slightly more modern airframe, and of course lower fuel costs / greater range / longer loiter time due to new engines.

    FCAS, and Tempest should merge into one product, there’s no sense in competing ! Take the best ideas from both projects, and add in controlled swarms of Loyal Wingman type UAVs.

    Medium to long term for Boeing ?
    NSA, there’s no way to get over the fact that single isle aircraft for both Airbus, and Boeing bring in the most money. NMA is dead for the moment. BA just get on with a NSA family. Start with a A321XLR replacement, and work down to a possible A220-500.
    What’s up with the Antonov dance ? Is Boeing going to market / support the AN-178 ? Long term would they design a future C-130 / C-17 replacement with input / build by Antonov ?

    • Any time Airbus has tried to compete with Boeing in military (A400) or in Freighters, they have failed.

      Military wise its a matter of a lack of cohesion in the European NATO countries. At last count they have 4 different Main Battle Tanks facing the same common enemy. While EU is not NATO, as the EU they match the US in population and economy. They have no coordination and they don’t invest what the US does (good or bad) and they will always be poor scale and even more costly than US programs.

      They never have agreed on a single fighter. So you have F16s, Typhoon, F-35, Rafael.

      P8/A320 Competitor: It won’t happen, they don’t have the base for it.

      You miss that the US did not just launch a P8 program. It was an air-frame that used a previous Sub Hunting and EWS suite form the P-3. The only changes were to deal with the change from very low level sub prosecution to higher.

      Part of that was an upgrade path designed into the program to add capability to the P8. Sometimes called spiral upgrade.

      Europe NATO countries have nothing close to base a foundation on let alone the world wide experience and build numbers the US has. UK recognized it and bought it, as have Australia, India, NZ, Norway. The US has corned the likely market (much like the A330MRT picked off that open area of the market as there was no US built competitor)

      A new A320 airframe brings nothign to the Sub Hunting table. Fuel efficient plays no significant part. CFM56 is a well proven reliable engine with decent with economy even by current standards. By the time that fuel efficney comes into play, we are into a whole different warfare systems.

      Their one moderate success is the A330MRT.

      A330NEO: MRT: Why would anyone buy an NEO when the CEO MRT has all its commonality including engines? Its not like these see massive use. There is no reason prior to Covd-19 and even less no reason with fuel prices where they are at. Airbus will simply continue to build the CEO and its MRT conversions at some low rate. It would work fine as a KC10 replacement though I think the USAF is going a different direction on the next tanker and will limp along with the KC46.

      Boeing someday will get on the far side of the KC46 learning curve. Australia took 5 years to be theirs up to full ops and the USAF has a whole different set of equipment and specification that Airbus has never built to, ie. learning curve all over again.

      In the case of the A330MRT, Airbus had no US competitor and due to the missions (its not easy but its not a P8 in complexity) stole the march (and did a nice job doing so).

      But there are a number of A330MRT variants and like the P8, those countries that had the money or need have bought it. They may supplement it some, but significant buys ahead.

      Did they make anything on the Australian program? Oz supplied used aircraft and did the conversions themselves.

      Airbus simply focuses on the commercial market and has an outstanding set of offering in Single l Aisle (with an A220-500 they beat up Boeing MAX8 badly)

      The A321 is simply not matched.

      They are somewhat competitive with the A330NEO and add in the A350 ans they have a decent mix though I think the 787 will dominate that area.

      Boeing 777 may well be the current 777F in the future with the A350 taking over the 300 territory.

      • @transworld:

        it’s not that Airbus didn’t try to strengthen military in the planned merger with BAE systems. It didn’t work out due to nationality reasons.

        Even with the new fighter project, europe can’t get its things together.

        Why do military, if anti-military parties play a huge role in major EU states?

        The A330neo is basically doing ok v.s the B789 and that’s a glimpse of hope.
        Airbus has 2 selling WBs planes, A339 and A359 while Boeing basically has one, the B789.
        If demand recovers, airlines might tend to take on A35K instead of B779,
        and I can’t see how Emirates takes on 115, Qatar 60 – not in their situation.
        They will phase out plenty of A380s and B77w.
        Etihad won’t take any B779.
        Cathay Pacific won’t take any.
        Lufthansa doesn’t want as many.
        Boeing has a major problem with the B777x program, its main customers have been in trouble before Corona and are now beaten down.

  11. TW,

    I agree to a point, if I was Airbus, why would I bother with the military path at all ? Just stick with commercial, and try to stay ahead of Boeing. More from a strategic long term view, technology moves on!

    You’re absolutely correct about the P-3 guts into the P-8A, here’s the thing though technology changes, so in the P-8A you have P-3 era functionality in a 737NG airframe. Perhaps time to do a complete update ?

    Reuters used to be the de-facto standard for trading, but they got leap-frogged by Bloomberg as he came from nowhere with more modern technology using cheaper data links.

    Fuel prices are not going to be this low forever, hence my long term view.

    If you’re a state that can only afford a few tankers, and you need a maritime patrol option, fuel economy matters, both from basic cost, and time on station.

    The A330MRTT I do think can grow.

    Why a NEO version ? So that AB don’t need to keep producing A330 airframes. The NEO is close enough that it wouldn’t be difficult for AB to build the NEO as a MRTT.

    Freighter main deck, why ? At the moment the current MRTT can transport troops, some cargo, and perform as a decent tanker. Add full main deck cargo, and it can be used to get equipment, or troops to the front line, and then fuel your fighters.

    The UK had been using it’s MRTTs to do passenger charters as well. A lot of countries don’t have the money to have tens of aircraft sitting on the ground until they need them, far better that they can earn their keep, and easier if they can do cargo, or passengers.

    The UK is going to have to fit the boom to their Voyagers, as the RAF’s E-7, P-8A, C-17, and RC-135 can’t fuel by probe-and-drogue.

    The MRTT is a far better fit for a KC-10 replacement than it ever was a KC-135 replacement.

    As far as A321/LR/XLR goes, I totally agree Airbus has an advantage, if they continue with incremental improvements they petty much have the market to themselves. I do think this is where Boeing should start with their NSA, it will take a few years to mitigate COVID-19, but long term, we should be looking 10 to 30 years down the line.

    • Jak:

      You missed a key aspect of the P-3 to the P-8. Its not your fathers Oldmobile!

      (not sure what county you are in, US it was a car sales pitch/add to get young people to buy an old guys image car)

      In this case the P-3 system was transferred but there was a major step upgrade there as well (might have been in development or Lockheed had it for their variant Turbo Prop they tried to sell).

      They also had a full path upgrade that is still taking place. Its no longer a P-3 (really was not just used that as an established base so not all new and the problems).

      Its also modular with some radar additions that are E-8+AWACS. Airbus would be shooting at a moving target in one of the most complex aircraft there is (it has some AWACS type capability, command control, EWS and ELINT as well as Sub Hunting). And that does not include the Wedgetail unit that is AWACS type but ELINT as well.

      A330: If Cargo is really needed you just beef up the floor of your existing. Its such a low rate production that I don’t see an NEO as that requires a whole new certification’s program.

      Boeing on the 787-8 should have made it common to the -9 and has only done the rear fuselage and the numbers are much higher. Far more -8 built than A330MRT, somehow the math says no.

      Airbus Military may dabble here and there and in non contested bids, they will have some success (training helicopter to the US) but overall Europe just is not setup to compete with successful US programs.

      Spain came out with a very good Frigate (F100). Good engine system, 48 launch cells s(which means 4 missiles per cell and 192 total missiles) Aegis systems, Its been a mild success (sans the Norway sinking and I believe the crew had zero damage control and abandoned it with hatches all open)

      Spain took 4 (5?) Norway 5 (sunk one) and Ausrail has 3 building.

      US just had a bid award that is 20 minimum and my guess it will run 50 before its all over (modified French/Italian FREMM Frigate)

      UK has its own ships, France has other than FREMM ships, Italy the Same, Germany the same and total is under 20 for the whole FREMM program.

      They are all NATO, sail the same seas, have the same enemy and they can’t standardize on a common Frigate, Destroyer, Carrier setup and build in numbers or work with US on common Aegis system (Japan and Australia have for good reason) Phew.

      UK spent years and tons of money on a missile that is nothing but a Hellfire knock off. Amazing.

      • If you are thinking that the Brimstone is the AGM-114 copy, it started out like that, but it’s quite different. In a blind test, Brimstone would win. Even the USA expressed an interest in it, I doubt they’ll ever buy it though.

      • The Norwegian frigate sank because the prop shaft glands and ‘stuffing boxes’ werent water tight, it was a slow sinking after it was beached.
        The reasons for the actual collision with the tanker mirror the US Navys findings for its destroyer collisions.

        • You don’t sink a ship on prop shaft glands. Massive self justification for a badly run ship with a messed up crew system.

          You don’t man a ship with civilian contractors and scatter in some naval personnel and call it a warship.

          The Norwegian Defense and Naval command were and are pathetic in their response.

          Norway runs a mixed Navy and full time civilian contractor crew who are going to run at the whiff of an issue. You can’t run a warship where the crew gets medals for bad behaviour.

          They simply abandoned ship. I have seen the underwater pictures with water tight doors all left open. The claim goes into hull breaches between bulkheads. that is pure bull. No Navy ship is built with those nor would it be accepted. This ship had full Spanish Naval Spec review as well as full Norwegian Naval Spec review.

          To claim that would be to claim they build a ship without a hull.

          You can tell a screw up by how long it takes to get the full report out (vs the reports that justify the screw up). We still do not have the report on what happened and they have the ship raised and fully to examine.

          Beached on a Fjord has a zero ref, there is no beach. They hit rocks off shore, where they tried to lash it to. Like the Exon Valdez was beached on Bligh reef, they ran into it.

          As per the US, when you don’t have trained crews let alone trained crews with the most modern combat system in existence – ergo, it was some kind of lolly pop cruise ship (of which the US has the same issue)

          You don’t run around in crowded waster in stealth mode and you don
          ‘t use newbie people with no training to maneuver a warship (and with US exhausted crews)

          • Beaching is the correct nautical term , deliberately grounding in shallow water, doesnt need a sandy beach.
            The rest of your information is just as suspect

        • A few notes on this accident:

          1. The construction standard is that the ship must withstand a breach of 15% of the waterline without sinking. The damage sustained in the collision exceeded this, and the ship quickly both gained draft and listed so as to further submerge the breach.

          2. The energy and momentum transfer in the collision were enormous. 25 knot combined collision speed with a 140,000 ton tanker. The frigate was rolled heavily onto its side and spun in place. That kind of shock could easily spring seals on bulkhead penetrations and shafts, without pre-existing defects.

          3. The hollow propeller shaft and/or tubing provided a pathway for flooding from compromised compartments to non-compromised, as well as from the stern. The ship is known to have lost propulsion and steering immediately on impact, indicating possible damage in those areas. The hollow shafts/tubes are sealed at both ends but those could have been among the seals damaged.

          4. The USS Cole was almost lost from sprung shaft seals resulting from the amidships explosion. The crew responded with an incredible repair effort (photos are online). So there is precedent for that kind of event. Also the HMS Prince of Wales suffered flooding after a concussive shock knocked the shafts out of balance, which then destroyed the seals.

          5. As to whether the crew responded properly and could have prevented the sinking, we don’t know. There is reason to believe they quickly concluded sinking was inevitable, abandoning ship within 15 minutes after the initial damage assessment, and without great efforts at damage control.

        • cite:WP::EN:: “The collision caused severe damage to Helge Ingstad, which lost control of engine and steering, with a large breach along her side from the starboard torpedo launchers to the stern. ”
          i.e. breached over several partitions.

          All these modern military boats are more flimsy than a dog food tin. ( see that Argentine Patrol Ship losing against a cruise ship, ok “expeditionary” cruise ship with excellent ice class )

  12. Monday morning, the United CEO says on CNBC: “We need more passengers. We will only fly planes at 70% capacity!” Delta said earlier: “We will only fly planes at 60% capacity!” I say I will only get on a plane if the middle seat is block! This is where the FAA has to step in and regulate a proper procedure based on the science that is available. But due to politics, this doesn’t appear to be happening.

    • I will only get on a plane that has all the passenger vaccinated, as wlel as the pole from where I leave and where I am going to.

      Its a system. You can’t cherry pick. A safe plane is meaningless if you get it at either end.

      The only place a safe plane has is in select transport (exposed people you are trying to move someplace) and are isolated off at the departure and isolated off at arrival.

      A break down of the evaluating flights and how much spread there was or was not would be helpful there, but only for that type of repatriation flights.

      • Planes themselves arent the problem….its the carrying of infected people to different cities and countries that is the issue.

        • And the people get carried to different cities and countries how?

          Yes, planes are a problem both as a possible cross contamination and spread as well as an enabler to make it happen vastly faster.

  13. The uncertainty is political panicking and reluctance to walk back.

    The risk is known – individuals in bad health, such as care residences/nursing homes whose residents are by definition in bad health, and others with deficient immune system who are living at home.

    Yet gummint failed to handle nursing homes (90% of deaths in CT, similar in NY, PQ, and BC). Individuals who are vulnerable are self-isolating at home, one man is living somewhere else as a child has immune system problems.

    I provide links to experienced epidemiologists and modellers at http://www.moralindividualism.com/cv19lnks.doc, who believe that ‘lockdowns’ are counter-productive and modelling is always wrong, and comment on politician behaviour at http://www.moralindividualism.com/polrprob.pdf.

    Aviation has a challenge of close quarters, that’s being worked on by the industry including Boeing.

    The big problem is the fear politicians have whipped up, compared to past corona virus pandemics including Hong Kong flu, swine flu, and SARS. (With mainstream media sensationalizing as usual, reporting every half-baked claim such as the supposed research showing reinfection is occurring – in one case they didn’t ask the sick person if she’d felt ill earlier, in fact she had symptoms suggesting INFLUENZA/covid-19.

    People who want to support aviation should push politicians to back off.

  14. I find the news that aviation is struggling hard to believe when I look at my Flightradar24 app. It cosntantly shows US skies full of aircraft.

  15. Cant resist a comment re Scott Hamilton in his mask with a true story.

    many years ago, early 1960’s while working at Boeing on Minuteman program we had a few jokers in our group- and were working in the Dev Center in a large room with a few hundred engine-ears and techs and secretarys. So after notifying the all male group in a 20 yard area he went to a phone about 30 yeards away and called our secretary. “This is the phone company- we need to clean the electronic dust out of our phone lines, please put your receiver in then wastebasket for about 30 seconds while we blow out the lines . .”
    Of course the secretary did just that ….

    Maybe we should tell Scott that us technical types are quite confident that COV-19 cannot be transmitted over the internet YET . ;))PP

    Of course some technical types do make mistakes from time to time


  16. International airline travel creeps back with ‘bubble’ corridors
    https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/05/19/world/plane-travel-bubble-corridors/#.Xsk2-knsa64 REF

    Some airports have been using IR remote thermometers, as they did in the last pandemic. Why didn’t more countries and airports buy them to prepare for the predictable pandemic?

    One manufacturer is Flir, who have upgraded some of their lesser/older models to be of more use for non-contact screening of people. (Which is not as simple as it may sound. IR thermometers have many industrial uses, but have limitations. Flir have been making IR sensors for aircraft for years, have other sensors including gas chromatographs, and were developing less costly products for consumer use.)

  17. How to handle a pandemic:


    Intelligent, thinking, focussed, strategic, successful.

    :Leaders not panickers.

    That’s what I’ve been advocating – look at actual risk, understand what went on in a country like Italy instead of theorizing.

    Observe that most deaths have been in residences full of people in quite poor health, yet many governments did not protect them. Among FL’s actions was to visit residences with a history of having difficulty – remember the perennially killing corona virus INFUENZA is always about.

    Gummints had not prepared for the inevitable pandemic – recall Hong Kong flu, swine flu, and Sars v1. And they should have forecast higher risk in care residences because we keep people alive longer today, with medicines, surgeries including organ transplants, and other treatments such as cancer – thus more people are in generally weak health.

    Recall there wasn’t the emotion mentality about then that we suffer from today.

  18. Gotta get Bjorn designing a better mask.

    Scott’s appears to lack the bendable strip that contours the top of the mask to the nose, to reduce air going around the mask and reduce fogging of goggles.


  19. Regarding turbine engines in surface vehicles:

    The Canadian Navy frigates have two turbines for dash speeds, somewhere north of 50 knots, and one diesel for regular speeds.

    One version of using the speed is to get to the other side of a carrier task force group.

    Looked like GE aircraft engines to me (a zillion moveable vanes).

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