HOTR: Airbus, Boeing R&D spending continues decline

By the Leeham News Team

Nov. 5, 2020, © Leeham News: Research and Development spending by the Airbus and Boeing commercial units declined year-over-year.

The movement is in keeping with cost-cutting by the Big Two OEMs. For Airbus, the reduction is due to the coronavirus pandemic. For Boeing, it’s due to the 737 MAX grounding and the pandemic.

Boeing’s spending typically lags Airbus. Richard Aboulafia, a consultant with Teal Group, for years criticized Boeing over its smaller spending, favoring instead shareholder value. Airbus overtook Boeing is innovative single-aisle airplane development years ago. Boeing’s choice of creating a 777 derivative instead of a new design to compete with the A350-1000 proved to be a weak move. There are only a handful of customers and the skyline is weak.

COVID-related airline bankruptcies, etc.

Sundair of Germany is the latest airline to enter a restructuring under a “protective shield” during the COVID-19 crisis.

Spirit, supplier to Airbus and Boeing, shows production rates

Spirit AeroSystems, a supplier to Airbus and Boeing, listed productions rates in its 3Q2020 financial information.

As of October 1, 2020 the overall rates announced by Boeing and used by the Company in the third quarter of 2020 are as follows:
•B737 MAX, including P-8, of 72 shipsets for 2020, increasing to 31 airplanes per month (“APM”) in 2022;
•B787 average production volume of 10 APM in 2020, decreasing to 6 APM in 2021 and 2022;
•B777/777X average production volume of 3.6 APM in 2020, decreasing to 1.8 APM in 2021;
•B767 current and future production volume of 3 APM; and
•B747 current production volume of 0.5 APM and ending production in 2022.
The Company is attempting to calibrate its cost structure to the lower production volumes and manage the impact of excess production capacity across our sites. The Company’s strategy to recalibrate its cost structure is likely to lead to a consolidation of sites where excess capacity exists.
Airbus Production Volumes
As of October 1, 2020 the overall rates announced by Airbus and used by the Company in third quarter are as follows:
•Single-aisle average production volume of 40 APM;
•A350 average production volume of 3.5 APM in 2020, increasing to 5 APM end of 2021; and
•A330 average production volume of 2 APM.

74 Comments on “HOTR: Airbus, Boeing R&D spending continues decline

  1. Cutting on R&D requires smart choices. Not halting small, continuous but important research, loosing capabilities, loosing research partners outside the company, loosing smart creative guys.

    It think the 777x can hardly be named a 777 derivative. 777 is more the certification strategy than anything. New wings, new engines, new cockpit, new landing gear, new fuselage. Sound like a new aircraft. I think FAA has also come to that insight.

    • I agree, I think ALL regulators are looking much more closely at certification in the wake of the MAX fiasco. I do think certification of the 777-X will take more time than Boeing had originally planned.

      With some two dozen -X airframes already manufactured, I wonder if they’ll slow production of the -X until they actually get certification ? My guess is that they will just carry on as before.

      I do wonder if any of these production aircraft have any modification in light of the Sept 5 ultimate load test ? I presume the current fleet of test aircraft have not been modified ?

      I hope Boeing haven’t missed anything important, they really need to start moving forward again.

      It’s the 21st Century, I think if major tech companies don’t invest in R&D, they’re on borrowed time. Do not become complacent, innovate or die…

      On a similar track, look at NASA with the SLS, compare with SpaceX.
      If the GPS-03 launch proceeds successfully later today, that will be 12 launches since launching astronauts to the ISS, and the 20th launch this year.

      Look at the way Starship prototypes are being developed at Boca Chica, not assembled in a clean room after 15 years on a drawing board, but assembled in public view on a dusty construction site using off the shelf heavy plant.

      If you’re currently a highly skilled Boeing engineer looking at your career path, aren’t you even slightly tempted to go, and work for SpaceX or Blue Origin ?

      • JakDak, just to clarify, the 777x load test was a success, and occurred before main production had really begun. Whatever mods were required (if any) would be incorporated into production.

        The 777x certification may take more time, but as Patrick Ky said, the intent is not to delay, just look more closely, and Boeing can support that by being forthcoming with the needed documents and data. I believe that is what will happen. Boeing will go slower now due to the downturn, and to conserve costs.

        SpaceX has had great success with their small Falcon 9 mostly-reusable rocket. That rocket is ideal for its launch market, and NASA has no desire to compete with it, in fact they heavily funded its development with the commercial programs.

        The Falcon Heavy has found a much smaller market, only 3 flights thus far. At that level reusability is much less of an issue, which is true also for SLS. And the Falcon Heavy lift capability is greatly diminished in reusable mode.

        For SLS, reusability was preempted by Congress when they required NASA to reuse the shuttle components, and also specified only 5 total flights. The RS-25 is a launch-to-orbit engine, which meant the core stage must enter orbit. At those energy levels, there is no opportunity for reusable reentry. This is why Falcon 9 first stage separates at suborbital velocity, and the second stage is not recovered from orbit. Just not feasible. And since the SLS purpose is to maximize lift, reusability lowers the lift that is achievable. That is acceptable for low launch rates, but not at the launch tempo of a smaller rocket like Falcon 9.

        SpaceX will attempt full reusability with Starship, which will still have less lift capability than SLS, and also requires on-orbit refueling to get out of LEO. NASA regards Starship as an extreme high-risk endeavor, since none of its technologies are proven. Also many of the cost-saving techniques SpaceX developed for Falcon (horizontal assembly, large numbers of engines) will either not be possible or will have cost penalties at scale, for Starship.

        Whatever SpaceX can achieve with Starship will be welcome, but they have a very long way to go. NASA follows a different development path due to public funding. NASA acts as chief engineer and works with contractors for construction of the components. This leads to duplication of effort & staffing and higher costs. There will be an eventual evolution away from that path for heavy lift, as there was the smaller lift market. But we are not there yet.

        Lastly NASA public funding means that if they fail, there is a Congressional inquiry. When SpaceX fails, they get an attaboy. Thus NASA has an abundance of caution with SLS. Starship will not be man-rated by NASA, SpaceX will assume that risk alone for their employee crew. That is also one of the major risk factors for the SpaceX lunar lander concept based on Starship, it will require man-rating by NASA.

        Bottom line, I think some engineers may be attracted to SpaceX, but some will also recognize the benefit of larger and more stable industries. SpaceX has a high turnover rate and makes frequent adjustments to their workforce, both up and down. That’s one of their cost management strategies.

          • He has very unusual personal definitions for a whole scala of concepts.
            In this case it’s “success”, but other examples are “fact”, “science” and “consensus”. Definitions are also fluid, and can change to suit a particular situation-dependent narrative.
            For the rest of the world: the load test produced structural failure at a load that was below the mandated level…in other words, the plane failed the test. Period.

          • SpaceX has lost vehicles, but the program was continued without interruption. If the SLS has a vehicle loss, that would likely be the end of the program. So the response, and public perception, is very different for NASA and SpaceX.

          • Rob:

            By your methods of assessment then the KC-46 was a slam dunk successes it was government funded.

            Of course we ignore the wiring issue, the vision issue, the FOD issue, the cargo clamp issue. Ignore those billions more Boeing has spent to fix its screw ups folks (and that its not exactly cutting edge tech here that has been done since the late 50s).

            Interesting dismissive choice of words ala “small Falcon 9”.

            It is not small nor do they call it small. But we know what you mean (wink wink)

            NASA did not set specs for the Dragon, they set requirements.

            Nor did they spec the interior for manned flight.

            Space X beat Boeing to a pulp. It must be fun to go to work for them vs the way Boeing treats its cowering workers.

          • Bryce, the FAA rated the 777x ultimate load test as a success. Airbus has also had failures just below ultimate load, that were deemed successful.

          • That was the A380 wing, not the fuselage and it was predicted where it would break.

          • TW, the A380 wing failed at 1.45 times the limit load. It was estimated to have no margin at ultimate load so failed just below. 777x did the same, failing at 1.48 times the limit load.

            Boeing had planned to stop the test at 1.5, as they did also with the 787. So it’s not known if there was an expected margin. For the original 777, it was tested to destruction at 1.54 times limit load, so a small margin.

          • Rob:

            You continue to mislead.

            A wing break at 1.45 and where predicted is not an issue. All the AJH agreed it needed no further test, beef up and ok.

            A fuselage rupture which I have never hear of occurring and NOT in a predicted manner or area is totally different.

            They may agree on a remedy that does not require a re-test.

            But their models were very wrong and that is not how it should work.

            So yes its a failure. Fatal, no. But clearly a failure.

          • TW, the models were equally “wrong” (in your words), as in both cases it was expected to reach the ultimate load of 1.5 times limit load.

            In reality, both tests ended successfully within the margin of error of the test and the analysis. Thus neither group was required to repeat the test, it was enough to demonstrate sufficient strength was present, with additional margin provided by enhancements to follow. This is clear to anyone with an understanding of the engineering involved.

            The A380 wing did not have an explosive decompression, as it was not pressurized. The 777x fuselage was pressurized at flight level for the test, even though it did not need to be.

            Thus when it buckled (as expected in the expected location), that compressive energy was also released. Again this is a matter of understanding the engineering, forces and energy involved.

            But your “love” of Boeing is on display here again. Not the management this time, the engineers and the technicians who work hard to produce a good aircraft, and the equally dedicated engineers and safety exerts of the FAA who observe and certify the results.

            And again, your conclusions are in complete opposition to the facts that are known and accepted, yet you insist that you are right and everyone else is wrong. Good luck with that.

        • Wow, there is a lot of “not really true” in that post.

          firstly, F-heavy is more of a Delta IV Heavy competitor (and actually loads more capable) than an SLS competitor. in fully expendable mode it nearly doubles load to GTO and in semi-reusable mode (recovering only the outer 2 boosters) it still exceeds DIV by 1800KG. at about 30% of the cost.

          we, the taxpayer are $20B into the SLS and it is still at least 4 years from first flight. by the time they get to first flight we will likely be over $28B, then each flight with be $1-2B… so $32-36B of taxpayer money for 5 launches of a dead end design.

          contrast to F9, the Govt only paid SpaceX $396M in total towards developing and certifying the rocket and Dragon Cargo and another $515M for Dragon Crew and man-rating F9. they currently pay SpaceX about $69M to launch a “flight proven” F9 on a reusable mission and under $100M on a new build expendable.

          taxpayer paid $0 for Falcon heavy vs $2.2B for Delta IV (not including DIV Heavy). launch price for Falcon Heavy is $125M, vs $400M+ for DIV Heavy.

          Taxpayer has paid $0 for starship (although they are throwing some money at SpaceX for the moon lander) and SpaceX is certainly designing the Starship using all the knowledge they gained in the process of man-rating the F9. Additionally, Starship will prove its man-rating through multiple flight tests, where SLS will prove it on paper and hope for the best.

          SLS Reusability was not pre-empted by congress when they mandated reuse of the shuttle components, as those components were designed to be reusable (and I believe they still expect to reuse the SRB segments), but apparently designing a method for recovering the RS-25s was both more expensive than just building new ones and the payload penalty meant an already marginal for mission design would not be able to do the mission.

          you may remember the early days of the US Govt space program. they operated like SpaceX. build it, fly it, it blows up, you learn something and you build another one. that is how we got to the moon. we did that with government funding, so don’t tell me we can’t do that now. ULA does it the way they do it now because it maximizes their profits, not out of fear of the congresscritters that they own outright.

          • Bilbo, the issue as raised by JakDak was a comparison of SpaceX capabilities to SLS. The facts I gave in that context were correct and I stand by them. The first SLS launch should occur in early 2022, if not sooner.

            You reference the cost of the program, but by definition, the government directed NASA to develop a new heaviest-lift rocket by reusing the shuttle components. So the cost of that is what it is, I made no arguments or comparison or defense based on cost. The comparison is irrelevant as there is no alternative to SLS for the lift capability that was requested.

            Each new NASA launch capability has cost far more than expected. Saturn, Shuttle, SLS. If commercial launchers can develop an SLS alternative at lower cost, great, I have no doubt it would be welcomed and considered. But for the moment, there is none. The reason is the development cost is very high, at that scale. SpaceX is beginning with Starship, but as I mentioned, have a long way to go yet.

            I do expect that to occur eventually, as does NASA. Commercial programs will be able to build upon the SLS experience and provide a superior platform at lower cost. That was the idea behind commercial cargo and crew, and it will be extended to heavy lift, as I mentioned above.

            For awhile, there was an uproar that Falcon Heavy could replace SLS with more launches. But the study that NASA did rejected that, it wasn’t viable and the cost to do so would be even higher.

            I was a kid when NASA was blowing up rockets in the late 50’s and early 60’s. It was heavily criticized as a waste, and held out as an example of government incompetence & embarrassment. That will always be true of any public program that blows things up. So these comparisons of NASA methods with the perception of SpaceX methods, are not valid, have never been valid.

            That’s why NASA favors the transition to commercial launchers, they know it can be done at lower cost by accepting higher risk than is acceptable to taxpayers. It will happen, but for those who insist it can be done now, let the launch-ready examples come forward. The truth is they are all some ways away yet.

            SLS will be unrivaled during its life. After that, there may be no need for another similar expensive NASA development program.

          • I don’t know what the SLS has to do with commercial aviation. Let’s get back on topic.

          • The 777X test was a structural failure. As it was not a predicted failure nor at a failure point predicted (A380 wing) then it was truly a failure.

            So, no, it was not a success, a success would be no failure.

            It does show Boeing is rushing processes and screwed up by doing so but that is nothing new.

            Can they correct it? 100% yes. Just sad commentary the same was the 787 wing join where they rushed to take out weight.

          • TW, these are your opinions as always. The fact is the test was a success, it demonstrated the load limits within a small percentage that could be understood and remedied. If it was not a success, it would have needed to be repeated. It was not.

          • Yes, the fuselage failure, while looking messy, was within 1% of meeting the FAA requirements. It was only unexpected because they were testing to compliance not beyond.
            The circumstances were wings at extreme deflection and fuselage at maximum pressure.

          • “”If it was not a success, it would have needed to be repeated. It was not.””

            It was not needed for the streamlined FAA.
            Independent regulators might come to different results.
            Regulators should have the expectation that there was cheated too. It wouldn’t be a surprise.

            IIRC foreign regulators were not allowed to join the test.

          • Foreign regulators will accept the test, just as FAA did, and for the same reasons of validity. The implication being made here, that FAA and Boeing did not follow accepted procedures, is false.

          • Sorry Rob,

            It seems I wasn’t very clear with the SLS/SpaceX comment.
            In line with this article what I was trying to say was that to remain competitive/relevant, tech companies need to invest in R&D. To adapt, and think of new ways to do things, not just throw money at the problem, but think of new more cost effective ways to spend their R&D money.

            So the SLS/SpaceX comment was more of a comparison of alternative thinking, how to keep costs down, iterative build etc. The old school safe, predictable way is to launch an entirely expendable rocket, the new way it to reuse as much as possible.

            Talented engineers tend to want to work on interesting projects, if Boeing don’t have anything for their talented engineers to work on, there’s the possibility some of them will leave to work on other interesting projects.

            I really hope Boeing start spending more on R&D, and make a big effort to look after their workforce.

          • So foreign regulators were really not allowed to to watch the test live? Did foreign regulators ask to watch the test?
            If they asked and were not allowed, I can imagine there could be a problem to certify the 777X outside the US because of all the shenanigans Boeing are involved in.

    • Boeing is pursuing certification of the 777X under the Product Change Rule of the 777 Classic. In other words, it’s a derivative.

      • Grandfathered by any other name (my wife of course thinks it should be Grandmothered and I think she has a point)

        • Simply reusing a certified design element that still meets all current regulations is not “grandfathering”. Grandfathering refers to something that is allowed because it met prior regulations even if it does not meet current regulations.

          For example I believe exit doors are supposed to be powered so they can easily be opened even if the aircraft is on its side. The 737 Max does not have them, the original design was grandfathered in.

          Is any of the 777X actually “grandfathered” in in this sense?

          • Under the new rules (as of 2018), if an amended type does not meet the current rules, it must demonstrate alternative forms of compliance.

            This was the basis of the MAX wiring changes. Boeing attempted to give the previous safe service history as alternative compliance, but the new rules said that history could not be used to defend the presence of non-compliance. It could only be used as justification in the remediation of non-compliance.

            For the MAX doors, it’s true that power assist was not possible (underlying EPAS system doesn’t exist), but the doors were designed to self-swing out and away as an alternative method of compliance.

            There is confusion between grandfathering and specific exemptions. Grandfathering really doesn’t take place currently, but exceptions can be granted with justification, and that has happened in the MAX.

            The certification documents list the rule versions that cover each element of compliance, and notes when exemptions are made. One of the findings of the JATR report was that the MAX documents were unclear and may have contained errors regarding rule compliance, so that will be an enhanced focus of future certification.

  2. Classifying the failure of uk regional flybe as covid-related in the table is wrong – it collapsed prior to the virus becoming an issue and in any case had been a dead man walking for many years since the family who inherited it recruited a CEO to create a fairytale vision which would massage the apparent value of the then private company by 10+ times so they could get their money out using an IPO which they then did. The subsequent share price then went progressively into freefall to end up at one penny without any help from covid.

    • I worked for a company like that.

      Pretty funny, they thought they could emulate a venture operation and pull a lot of werid stuff into a company (commercial lawn care, commeril building filter changing (really), a meat plant sanitizing company, individual mechanical repair (me) and I forget what else.

      Huge surprise, no one wanted that all that stuff bundled (well they did want the part I worked for separately). Belly up they went.

      Good times though, I got a huge raise, Bankruptcy on that scale is interesting.

  3. Regarding “COVID-related airline bankruptcies”:
    KLM has been saved…for now; the pilots agreed this week to a 20% pay cut for the next 5 years. However, the company will almost certainly need an additional injection of cash above the currently-committed 3.4 billion euros. Meanwhile, the Dutch government has “strongly discouraged unnecessary foreign travel” until mid January…as a result of which KLM announced yesterday that further layoffs are inevitable. So this soap opera is far from over.

    Interestingly: KLM pilots’ salaries are on average 50.000 euros per year *higher* than their counterparts at other European carriers. Widebody captains with a long period of service at KLM can end up with a salary of 275,000 euros per year just prior to retirement. A senior purser at KLM can earn up to 95,000 euros.
    In contrast, pilot salaries at Ryanair saturate at 85,000 euros per year.
    No wonder legacy carriers need bailouts!

    • that Senior KLM pilot making 275K is also long haul flying a 777, 747 or A380, with 3-500 lives in their hands, and there are about 3000 guys world wide certified to be Captain for those aircraft.

      Ryanair pilots fly 737s with 150 people on them short haul and there are about 75,000 737 Captains….

      so, there is both a qualitative and market availability difference between the pilots in question.

    • As I recall, Ryaniar runs an independent contractor model of business.

      Single Aisle only vs KLM wide body?

  4. If you lack a vision for your future products it makes a lot of sense to cut down your development department. Instead you should beef up research. Fail that and you forfeit the future of the company.

    • Several downturns ago I was in a school in an mfgs diesel engines.

      They had found a situation with oil and what type to use they needed to explore (it had huge ramifications and wound up saving them huge amounts of money)

      They had to wait 3 months to get a test cell to check it. They were so busy with new engine development there was no gap.

      That was in a downturn. They never took their eye off the future.

      Oddly they are one of the worlds most successful diesel engine makers. I guess there are always bad examples like that that make Boeing/GE look bad.

  5. There is a risk Boeing are waiting for the US Goverment to tell them what to do thru a Goverment order for a troop transport Aircraft. Lots of work was done one NSA “New small plane” before they switched to 737MAX. So reviewing the NSA to size it right and make sure it can be made by Electroimpact and M Torres robots cheaper than Airbus can make the A321XLR. Boeing needs to understand how Airbus new LH2 Aircraft will look like and its payload-range-price besides its LH2 version. Boeing must decide to move ahead with the Truss braced Aircraft compatible with LH2 or if the NSA with 777-9 type design (carbon wing and Al-Li fuselage) is good enough. Airlines can indicate what they want to order when they have Money to buy again..

    • @claes
      The real reason for abandoning the NSA has not been discussed in earnest and having had the view from the inside at Boeing, I’ll shed some light on that topic. The (public) party line was that it took too long to develop and ramp up the NSA vs. the MAX. This is a trivial statement. Did they mean to say that they didn’t know this prior to working on the NSA for 3 years (2008-2011), i.e. they didn’t know that it would take much longer to develop and bring up to rate an all-new airplane vs. a derivative? This is a dishonest representation of the reality of what happened – everyone knew the different time table from day 1, and the hope was that the performance of the FSA would be so much better than the 737 re-engine study (later know as the MAX) that it would still have better sales prospects and consequently a better business case, while being more expensive and arriving later and at lower initial rates and slower rampups, etc. The truth is that the NSA design never attained the level of performance (BF/seat) required to garner substantially larger sales vs. the MAX business case – the NSA design had only slightly (few percent) better fuel burn performance than what later became the 737 MAX, and the NSA program was 5-7X more expensive. The main reasons for that result is two-fold: 1-The technology requirements going into the NSA were set far too conservatively (for both the engine and the airframe), while a 737 NG derivative benefited from (albeit unfair) advantages of grandfathering rules, vs. a new airplane that would have to be certified fully to the latest regulations (NSA). This was a major technical error at leadership level (VPs and up) 2-The team involved in designing the NSA was primarily made up of green, egotistical, ambitious, and unlikable configurators who made several attempts at “cheating” in the design process to produce and present fake and overly optimsitc numbers. Once discovered, it did not reflect well on the product development teams and their leadership never recovered the ground they lost with the higher echelons of the company. There is nothing from the NSA study left that holds any value today (I guess maybe besides the old maxim of “don’t cheat” sinking in, but that should have been trivial). The same group of people who “led” the FSA, later gave us the NMA with remarkably similar consequences.

  6. Around 1996, Boeing made a judgment that the airplane business is “mature,” meaning less innovation, less disruptive technology, and less need for new products or R&D. Ron Woodard talked about airplanes “approaching theoretical perfection.” The Board and executives concluded Boeing was better off diverting cash flow to investors.

    The exact same thought process took place at McDonnell Douglas. They followed a glide slope out of the business, steadily losing market share, while making money for shareholders all the way out. AND they found a buyer at the end to take what was left.

    • Its always interesting to see what grown adults can talk themselves into,.

      And they say teenagers have immature brains.

    • But you forgot the most important thing, Stan;

      On the way out the door of MD, the C-suite boys managed to parachute into positions in a completely healthy company following engineering principles, change it’s philosophy to something similar to what they had in the old company they drained – then get out from THAT company when the habits they instilled slowly wreaked havoc and brought it, to it’s knees.

      I swear, those type of people are like a virus. Slowly killing the patient while feeding off it’s healthy cells…

    • What a great idea, sell into a down market all your old stuff.

      Desperate times indeed.

      • From the details most of it was almost 20 yrs or older. The A340s were a bit younger but worth even less

      • And some of the planes were already parked for 3 years.

        I would sell the six 787-8, two 787-9 and 12 A350-900. Too bad Thai only owns four A350-900. Still selling those four should generate money.
        One day if needed buy used A330-200.

        • I don’t think the purpose of the sale is to generate money.
          Rather, I think its purpose is to reduce overhead…which saves money, but doesn’t actually generate it.
          One way or another”what a load of old wrecks still in the fleet!

  7. On 28 October, has asked a federal judge to order the FAA to release some 100 documents related to the pending re-certification of the MAX.
    It says the FAA, following Boeing’s request, has failed to release information that can help “independent safety experts and the public review the basis on which the FAA intends to unground the plane”.
    The documents relate to MAX certification plans, testing methods, regulatory compliance, flight-test plans and safety analyses.
    FlyersRights previously requested the documents, having filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
    The FAA did release some 100 documents, but those papers were heavily redacted, leaving them void of essentially all of the substantive information.
    Court papers show that Boeing objected to making details public, citing the need to protect proprietary and “highly detailed technical” information. FlyersRights insists the information it seeks relates not to proprietary information but rather “the process by which the FAA would determine whether Boeing’s proposed fixes work and are satisfactory”.
    “These documents included information that is not normally considered proprietary, such as means of compliance with federal regulation,” says FlyersRights.
    “Despite numerous assurances by Calhoun and FAA officials that there would be full transparency going forward, Boeing and FAA seek to keep all of its documents secret,” says FlyersRights president Paul Hudson.

    Seems Dickson will be soon history 🙂

      • Laugh of the Day: Who would want to follow Boeing and its propriety failures? Secrets on a 45 year old aircraft? Wow.

        Oh, we plan on a cable and pulley control system on our next jet and this information from Boeing is invaluable, its so like cutting edge – circa 1912 – (teehee, can you say FBW? – sure you can)

        Well, maybe as my brothers teacher told him once, this is an excellent example of how not to do it!

        • It is indeed laughable.
          It’s like trying to protect proprietary information on a steam locomotive in the age of high-speed trains.
          Or maybe they’re trying to hide shortcomings rather than highlights, and are window-dressing to try and mask reality?

    • This is an old lawsuit, it had no legal basis and has even less validity after the FAA certification actions have been vetted and accepted by regulators around the world. The argument for “independent safety experts” went out the window with approval. It will go nowhere.

      Whether Dickson stays on will be up to Biden, but he’s not vindictive as Trump was, so he may evaluate Dickson’s record (which is excellent) and keep him in place. We’ll have to see.

      One thing we should see in general now, is a moving away from the agenda-driven nastiness and misrepresentations of the truth that have become so common. Back towards civil discourse and factual discussion. That will be very welcome.

      • This is new. This is all about FAA. Dickson keeps it secret what he’s doing but clowned a flight test.
        Fact is most parts on the MAX which were self-certified with Jedi-mind-tricking are not checked again. FlyersRights want to know what FAA did, to avoid what FAA did before, calculating 15 more crashes and still didn’t ground the MAX.
        I would want to know too, how Dickson certified “landing with spoilers only” and many other parts.
        FAA also knew for months that there are quality issues on the 787 and it took months till they ground some 787. This is unacceptable.
        It seems FAA was forced by law to show documents and they showed garbage, a federal agency. The judge should pull Dickson on his ears till Dickson is doing his job.

        Now, after the election, Transport Canada and EASA should wait with certification because things might change.

        • No, it’s the same lawsuits. They started with a FOIA enforcement action last December, saying the FAA had failed to respond to their request for the data. That went nowhere.

          Then they filed a related suit to force the FAA to release the data in February, on the grounds that safety experts had a right to the data in order to protect the public. That also went nowhere.

          Now they are seeking summary judgement in those same cases, in a last-ditch effort to force the release before the MAX recertification. It won’t be granted because they have no legal right to the data. Nor is their argument valid that other safety experts need to be involved.

          It’s basically the same issue as with Congress. The law is set up to protect confidentiality and you can’t break it without just cause. The FAA is properly carrying out the law.

          FAA also allowed other independent safety agencies, who are similarly bound by confidentiality, to participate, so as to eliminate the argument of bias toward Boeing. Those agencies have now concurred with the FAA.

          • “”The FAA is properly carrying out the law.””

            Elwell and others should be behind bars for calculating 15 more crashes and doing nothing.

            “”FAA also allowed other independent safety agencies, who are similarly bound by confidentiality, to participate””

            Other regulators never saw documents about “landing with spoilers only” because FAA only allows parts which are related to the accidents. FAA didn’t pick up JATR’s “novel” use of the stab too.

            So when Dickson talked about full transparency it was a LIE.
            This is all about FAA not Boeing.
            Chao will be gone and then the chaos will be cleaned.

          • MAX / 777x certification by FAA first, while other authorities “need more time”, wouldn’t be progress, but another credibility disaster, so they’ll prevent that.

          • Leon, no authority has raised the issue of the Elevator Jam Landing Assist feature on the MAX.

            It was evaluated by all the regulators prior to certification, who agreed that Level B training was sufficient. It was evaluated again by the JOEB, with no change in that position. Thus there is no need for pilots to fly that scenario as part of the MAX special training.

            There was no lack of transparency in certification documents. Again, no authority has raised that as an issue. Nor was there any lie, as you have so often falsely claimed. No authority has raised that as an issue either.

        • The process by which the 15 crashes were calculated has not been explained. Once there was a non-compliance found, a risk assessment is conducted to gage the severity of the problem. The 15 crashes is the summation of that analysis based upon the entire fleet over its expected life. The decision as to whether to ground the airplane or not would be dependent upon the exposure level of the airplanes that are currently flying until corrective action was taken to rectify the situation. It has been reported that Boeing was about to release a fix to MCAS when the Ethiopia Airlines accident occurred. The probability analysis is subject to engineering judgment and I am sure that individuals involved are second guessing their decisions. Fundamentally, this is a tragedy where too many assumptions were made and the industry needs to learn from it and move on.

          • Just to add, the statistical method used by the FAA is the standard method used around the world by aviation regulators. It was published on-line and commenters here at Leeham analyzed it at the time. There is extensive discussion in those older links.

            The analysis was based on the historical evidence of 737 AoA failures in flight that resulted in autopilot disconnect. Those were the precursors to the MCAS accidents. These events are listed on Peter Lemme’s site.

            Since the analysis was statistical, it predicted the probable frequency of these incidents that would occur over the life of the MAX fleet. However since the source of failure could be random, an actual event could occur at any time during that life. That is what happened with ET302.

            The FAA believed that a pilot bulletin would adequately prepare pilots for another occurrence, until the MCAS fix was released. This turned out not to be true, and was verified in random pilot testing conducted after the accidents. The results had considerable variation among pilots. That altered the scope of the remediation to include not just MCAS, but pilot training as well.

  8. “Boeing’s choice of creating a 777 derivative instead of a new design to compete with the A350-1000 proved to be a weak move. ”

    Wiki shows 777X firm orders as 309 and A350-1000 as 168.

    I have no doubt both manufacturers backlogs are equally strained in the current environment.

    What is the basis for Leeham’s assertion in the article?

    It reads like the talking points for Airbus salesmen and does not appear to be factually based.

    • The 777-9 does not compete with the A350-1000; it’s in a larger category airplane (+425 seats vs 365). The 777-8 has 35 orders.

      • LNA is comparing a single-class seat configuration when most airlines don’t use single-class on WB. If the 10-abreast class on the 777-9 would be used only on a part of the cabin, the difference in seat count would get smaller, because in other classes 777-9 and A350-1000 would be used with the same seat configuration.

        LNA is using the same seat pitch for comparisons, so each row has the same amount of lavatories and galleys. But when comparing 10-abreast on 777-9 with 9-abreast on A350-1000, 42 pax on the 777-9 won’t get food and can’t use lavatories.

        777-9 and A350-1000 can be compared, but not 425 and 365 seats.
        Even in 8-abreast single-class the 777-9 might not be able to beat the A350-1000 on long range. On every other range the A350 can go to war with reduced MTOW and will burn even less fuel.
        So what are very narrow 10-abreast seat rows good for?
        How much cheaper must the 777-9 be to make sense?
        The 777-9 might be ordered on wrong assumptions.

      • The 777X and A350-1000 are close enough in the eyes of the airlines. Both large long haul twin ~350 seats in 3-4 class layouts, positioned above the A330, 787, a350-900. It seems the A350-1000 is already operating significantly cheaper than the 777-9 ever will. No proof, but it’s 30-35t lighter. That’s huge in terms of costs, fuel. The first, business cabins do not offer extra seats because of the 777 being slightly wider.

        To have the 777-9 look as efficient, you need to choose favorable seat counts from a site, specification, “typical” seat map, you can find it.

        Seatguru reveals the reality that counts.

        Cathay A350-1000 3 class : 334 seats
        Cathay B 777-300 3 class : 340 seats

        Who is begging for anything larger?

        • Keesje,

          six seats difference between A350-1000 and 777-300 is a good number.
          LNA is calculating with an average 50″ seat pitch, including lavatories, galleys and middle doors. But one pax less per row result in less lavatories and galleys needed. Calculating with 48.5″ pitch for the A350-1000 result in 376 seats.
          The 777-300 must have 408 seats with LNA calculation. One row less because of the additional middle door result in 398 seats.
          If calculating the cabin configuration with only 60% 10-abreast it will result in 382 seats.
          376 seats A350-100 vs 382 seats 777-300.
          The 777-9 would have 398 seats.

      • LNA is using the same seat pitch for comparisons, but for 425 seats the 777-9 needs 5 door pairs. The A350-1000 has only 4 door pairs.
        The 777-9 cabin is 2 rows longer but one row can’t be used because of the additional needed door pair.

        The 777-9 comparison should be with one row less and at least 6 seats less for lavatories and galleys. So 409 vs 365 seats should be better.

        • 426 seats is Boeings numbers in a ‘typical’ 2 class arrangement. For the smaller 777-8 , equivalent to 350K, they say its 384.

          Who said they need an extra door pair to make 5 ?

          • The 777-300 has 5 door pairs too.
            There is an Airport Planning PDF on the Boeing website for the 777-9. It shows two seat configurations, one with 4 door pairs (3-class) and another one with five (2-class).

      • Of course they compete with one another. The idea that all airline requirements neatly fall in 425 seat or 365 seat categories as OEMs would have you believe is a non-starter.

        I would be shocked if there is any airline in the world in recent years that did not evaluate the A350-1000 vs. the 777-8 AND 777-9 as part of an acquisition.

        • Then why did Airbus spend considerable time studying whether to create an “A350-2000” with the same seating capacity to compete with the 777-9?

        • Interesting is that the 777X were ordered in stages, maybe because of special pricing.

          2011, 11 = 6 Emirates
          2013, 11 = 25 Etihad
          2013, 11 = 20 Lufthansa
          2013, 12 = 21 Cathay
          2014, 07 = 20 ANA
          2014, 07 = 50 Qatar
          2014, 07 = 150 Emirates
          2015, 06 = 10 Qatar
          2015, 06 = 10 unidentified
          2017, 06 = 20 Singapore
          2019, 03 = 18 BA

  9. On CNBC this weekend: Chinese airlines are reticent about taking Airbus deliveries. Using CoViD infection risk as an excuse, but may be an indicator that domestic demand isn’t as robust as we’re being led to believe. If it is indeed a fear of CoViD infection risk, then it reveals an amazing level of paranoia, and also shows that a policy of trying to completely eliminate the virus within borders is a highly metastable situation that requires incessant zeal to maintain.

    • No different really than EASA having to test the MAX in Canada rather than the US. Chinese crews don’t want to go to Europe and risk quarantine coming back. But there is a solution if Airbus crews fly to China, they don’t have to risk quarantine. So a hiccup maybe but not a major issue.

      If Chinese airlines don’t need those aircraft, that’s a different issue they will have to work out with Airbus and/or Boeing.

      In other related news, reporting now is that the ET302 final report may be issued before the end of the year. That was one of the conditions of CAAC for RTS.

      • Ethopian Airlines picked up two new A350s in Toulouse yesterday, so it seems that quarantining isn’t an issue for African crew.
        But then, of course, Ethopia isn’t trying to seal itself inside a bubble.

        • Lot of their traffic is just using Addis Ababa as a hub and like most countries dont require quarantine for transit passengers.
          Qatar airways kept most of its routes flying this year based on the same model.
          As for your claim of the country is ‘not a bubble’ back in April they did indeed institute one for those ‘entering the country’- not transiting the airport. Im not sure what the status is at present but like a lot of Africa the virus is widespread

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