Boeing has dominated the news in recent weeks because of the tanker and the IAM contract negotiations. At long last, here’s some news about Airbus.
The company is actively talking about stretching the A380-800 to a -900, 1,000 passenger version. A new intereview with Louis Gallois, CEO of Airbus parent EADS, looks at 2010 as when this program might be launched. The story is here. Meanwhile, delivery of Emirates Airlines’ second A380 is delayed.
For all those Airbus-Northrop critics who whine about the prospect Northrop (the prime contractor, let’s remember) won’t protect and honor US restrictions on selling the KC-30 or its components to nations hostile to US interests, here’s a Reuter’s story about how Airbus won’t sell airliners to Syria as long as sanctions are in place.
Pratt & Whitney shipped its P1000G Geared Turbo Fan engine to Airbus for installation on an A340 test bed, according to this Flight International story. Airbus is considering offering the GTF on its A320 family.
Update 8:40 AM PDT, Aug. 29: EADS says there are no current discussions underway with Syria for a large Airbus order. The operative word in the statement is “currently.”
Northrop Grumman’s opposition to granting Boeing’s request for a six month response time instead of 45-60 days for the re-bid on the KC-X competition is predictable and disappointing.
Boeing also threatened to no-bid the contract if it doesn’t get its way on the request.
As readers know, we have always felt the KC-30 was the more capable airplane for the KC-X than the KC-767 offered by Boeing. We’ve sided with Northrop on any number of issues during the competition. But not this one, as we opined on August 22.
Northrop believes that Boeing is stalling on the bet that the Democrats will increase their majorities in the House and the Senate in the November election, and that this will increase Boeing’s sympathy in Congress. We have no doubt this is part of the Boeing calculus. So what? EADS decided to locate the KC-30 production facility in Republican Alabama at a time when the Republicans controlled Congress. That was hardly a coincidence. Politics have permeated this process from the start and while there is plenty of reason to stop now, that’s not going to happen.
Boeing, in its political gambit, is taking a risk that falls into the “be careful what you ask for category,” however. While it seems certain Democrats will increase their majority in Congress, it’s hardly a sure bet today that they will win the White House. Sen. John McCain is giving Barak Obama a run for his money and if McCain wins, this won’t be good news for Boeing.
We see no harm in giving Boeing the six months. We think both sides will produce a better bid, and that’s good for taxpayers.
Meantime, Steve Trimble at Flight International has an interesting take on his blog about how the re-bid can flip-flop some of the suppliers.
Update, 09:15 AM PDT Aug. 26: Innovation Analysis Group does a six minute podcoast with an Israeli reporter discussing Israel’s plan to update its aerial tanker fleet. The air force could use the KC-135/707 for another 20 years if necessary, but it really wants to buy the same aircraft used by the USAF.
Update, 2:30 PM PDT Aug. 26: So far, no final RFP has emerged from DOD; it was thought that it might be issued yesterday. We’re picking up rumblings that it may not come out this week.
Update, 350 PM PDT Aug. 26: Reuters now reports the final RFP may be issued next week.
Update, 12:00 PDT, Aug. 27: The St. Louis Post Dispatch has this piece looking at the strategic implications of the tanker competition.
(Updated 0730 AM PDT with references to EADS North America COO John Young and the “KC-35.”)
Giving Boeing six more months to come up with a revised bid is a prudent and reasonable thing to do. Here’s why.
Giving Boeing another six months will likely produce better pricing, perhaps a better plane and perhaps better life cycle costs. DOD should grant Boeing’s request.
Update, 2:00PM PDT: IAG has a new podcast with Boeing IDS spokesman Dan Beck on the Boeing request for six more months.
(Due to technical difficulties, our update on the Corporate Website was temporarily requiring a password to access this week’s Commentary. This was resolved at 0900 PDT.)
Our Corporate Website has been updated for the week of August 19. Today we talk about–what else, these days–the USAF KC-X program.
With all the talk about the prospect of Boeing offering a tanker based on the 767-400 or 777-200F, we pull together thoughts about this and a table comparing the KC-135, KC-767AT, KC-30, a “KC-764,” a KC-777 and the KC-10.
We also talk about the prospect of Boeing doing a “no-bid” in response to the Amended Draft RFP, or filing a protest against the Final RFP, which is expected this week. And there is more.
Byran Corliss of the business magazine Washington CEO (as in Washington State, not that “other Washington,” as we say here on the West Coast) has a short commentary that is inflammatory to locals but absolutely true. He writes that Boeing doesn’t need the tanker business. (Boeing has acknowledged that, financially, it would be small potatoes, but officials do want the business.) Corliss also comments on the current labor negotiations. Corliss used to cover Boeing for The Everett Herald before joining CEO.
Bloomberg just moved this story, reporting the Italy will fine Boeing for its late KC-767 tanker, following penalties assessed by Japan.
Update, 1145 AM PDT: We’ve been on the phone with reporters this morning discussing the tanker competition and what Boeing might do–the latter in the wake of the Aviation Week story that Boeing is considering adopting a no-bid position following the revised RFP that will give extra credit for extra fuel off-loading capability. We thought we’d recap our thoughts.
Update, 345 PM PDT: The Financial Times is reporting that Boeing is sticking in the competition, at least for now, after its meeting with the USAF. The FT reports that Boeing is continuing dialog with the Air Force to refine the Draft RFP for a final RFP. Here is the story, though a subscription may be required.
Reuters reports that Boeing remains “discouraged,” however, in this story, citing defense analyst Loren Thompson.
Update, 800PM PDT: Business Week has this piece about Boeing staying in the competition, probably plans to ask the USAF to extend the timetable and some discussion about a “KC-777.”
There are numerous reports today that the US Trade Representative may look at the proposed launch aid for the Bombardier CSeries airplane. This one does a good recap.
The CSeries is proposed to carry 110-149 passengers, which directly encroaches on the Boeing 737-600/700 and Airbus A318/A319 series. The USTR doesn’t care about the potential impact on Airbus, of course, but since the USTR filed a complaint against Airbus and the EU about launch aid to Airbus (the case is still pending), it’s only logical that the USTR and Boeing complain about launch aid to the CSeries.
But does Boeing truly care?
There were strong hints at the Farnborough Air Show by Boeing Commercial President Scott Carson that Boeing just might cede the market of 150-seats or below, though Carson declined to confirm to us that that’s specifically what he meant.
Aviation Week reports that Boeing may elect not to re-bid on the KC-X program. The story is here.
Update: 0840AM PDT: Boeing told us the Aviation Week piece is “news to us.” Boeing (and Northrop) meet with the USAF Tuesday (Aug. 12) to review the Draft RFP. If Boeing has anything to say publicly, it won’t be until Wednesday, we’re told.
Update, 945AM PDT: The Pentagon has issued what amounts to a gag order on any statement by the USAF or DOD on the tanker competition. See the report here.
Airbus took a comfortable lead in the orders race year-to-date through July 31 following the Farnborough Air Show, in which is announced a combination of new orders and inked a 100 airplane deal with Dubai Aerospace Enterprises that was announced at the Dubai Air show last November. DAE’s 100-plane order with Boeing, also announced at the Dubai Air Show, was completed in December and was posted to the 2007 order book.
Although 787 sales have stalled, there is a rumor of a pending new order for double-digit airplanes. Airbus in August announced a fourth customer for the A350-1000 that should be inked by year end, if not in August.
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There has been some time to digest the Pentagon’s announcement for the re-compete for the aerial tanker program. Predictably, Boeing’s supporters are unhappy. Anything short of a tailor-made RFP guaranteeing a Boeing award won’t make them happy, as their efforts to craft legislation in Congress demonstrates.
Here are a couple of stories that capture the flavor:
Having incorrectly called the competition once–we thought Boeing would win and were stunned when Northrop did–we’re going out on a limb and predict Northrop is the favorite this round. (In this we are not alone, but we weren’t last time, either.) But we have a somewhat different view than the hand-wringers over the revised RFP.
The original RFP contained a delivery timeline sought by the Air Force that was not challenged by Boeing in its protest and which the GAO didn’t address. And this timeline isn’t changed in the new Draft RFP, either. And that is the Air Force wants the “prototypes” (our word) of the KC-45 delivered in 2009.
Northrop already has two KC-30 platforms flying and two more on the way. Granted, these must be converted into tanker configuration. But Boeing doesn’t have a flyable airplane nor is it likely to be able to have the KC-767AT prototype ready next year.
This is because the “AT” is a combination of elements from the 767-200ER, the 767-300ER, the 767-400 and the 777. Deemed a “minor modification” by Boeing–and the “Frankentanker” by Northrop–the process of integrating the parts and producing the airplane most likely will take longer than 2009 once Boeing received a contract, if it did.
Boeing’s track record with the KC-767s for Japan and Italy doesn’t inspire confidence, and these are straight-forward conversions of the 767-200ER.
The delivery timeline outlined in the original RFP also argues now, as it did then, against Boeing offering a tanker based on the 777. This production line is already at capacity of seven a month and with a backlog of 358 at June 30 (the latest data available), that’s slightly more than four years before Boeing could deliver a prototype KC-777, even if 100% of the research and development were done and ready to go into production–which it probably is not.
Let’s remember that the re-compete is about eight points identified by the GAO, but there are other criteria involved. The desired delivery schedule is the main reason we think Northrop has the edge; Northrop has a plane ready to go now; Boeing’s airplane is in the computer.
The Pentagon today re-issued the Request for Proposal for the aerial tanker competition today.
As the press conference begins, here is a running synopsis:
End of conference.
Our immediate take:
Both sides got something in the rebid:
It didn’t take long for Boeing’s advocates to look for bias, according to this CBS News report. They’ve been advocating including the 40 year life cycle but excluding the extra credit, a position we find just plain stupid. If you alter the RFP to allow one, then you need to allow the other.
The question is whether Boeing will protest the changes; officials said at Farnborough that they might because they felt any changes to the RFP should reset the process from scratch.
Here is the Draft RFP, Part 1. 27 pages.
Here is the Draft RFP Part 2. 96 pages.
Here is Northrop’s statement. (No response yet from Boeing.)
Here is a Seattle Times report, quoting a spokesman for US Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Boeing) already whining about the new RFP. No mention of the 40 year life cycle element by Dicks’ office, which he advocated.
Update, 4:10PM PDT: Washington State’s other Boeing advocates are quoted in this article and this one, all complaining about the extra credit for extra fueling capabilities. The hypocrisy is palpable. Some of them are behind legislation in the US House that would all but require an award to Boeing rather than the “fair” competition they advocate, and all seemed to favor changing the RFP to a 40-year life cycle on the assumption that this will guarantee a win for Boeing. Yet they object to the extra credit change. These politicians, and those from Kansas who rival Washington, aren’t remotely interested in competition and all their rhetoric to the contrary is political pablum.
This just in from Boeing:
Boeing has received the amended Request for Proposals (RFP) for the KC-X tanker competition. Given the very narrow window for commenting on this draft, our team is focused on identifying and understanding any changes that may have been made to the original requirements and evaluation criteria. We also need to see how the document addresses the strong concerns the Government Accountability Office identified in sustaining our protest.
Despite the fact that the first competition appropriately addressed the aircraft’s intended mission, until we receive the final RFP it is too early to offer any details about Boeing’s path forward.
Boeing remains committed to providing the most capable tanker to the warfighter and the best value for the American taxpayer.
No comment on whether Boeing will protest the DRFP.
Steve Trimble of Flight Global has a series of short items in his blog. Rather than linking each one, here’s the link to his home page–select the individual tanker items as you will.