September 29, 2023, ©. Leeham News: We are discussing the Detailed design phase of an airliner development program. We have talked about program management methods, development techniques, and tools for Detailed design.
But there is one area that is more important than even the aircraft aerodynamic, structural, and systems design for a new Heart-Of-The-Market aircraft: how to produce it in higher volumes and at lower cost than before.
By Bjorn Fehrm
September 28, 2023, © Leeham News: We recently looked at the latest developments around Airbus’ A321XLR certification. When the certification is completed, it extends the A321 to a true Trans-Atlantic airliner.
After the A321XLR, what will be Airbus’ next development? A clean sheet replacement for the A320/A321 series won’t be needed until Boeing replaces the 737 MAX family next decade, and we have described why we think an A220-500 will not happen anytime soon.
The A320/A321 is Airbus main source of revenue and margin. It would, therefore, be a logical focus for further development to keep the success going into the next decade. But what can be done? Is the A321neo with the A321LR and XLR the end of the development of the A321? We use our Airliner Performance and Cost Model (APCM) to analyze A321 fundamentals and look at how to increase capacity and efficiency further.
Editor’s Note: As Airbus and Boeing consider new airplanes, their current generation aircraft are plagued with technical issues. The engines on the A320neo and 737 MAX families continue to have problems years after entry into service. The Boeing 787, which had ground-breaking technology when it was designed, has production issues. Flight testing early on revealed technical problems with the engine on the 777X, prompting the president of Emirates Airline to publicly suggest he won’t accept delivery until the engines are fully “mature.”
Aviation Week’s Check 6 podcast last week examined Boeing’s path toward a new airplane. Boeing CEO David Calhoun insists on waiting for new technology. But “new technology,” while in theory is a great idea, the phrase also scares people. LNA reported on this in March 2020. We’re reposting this article from then.
Now Open to All Readers
By Scott Hamilton
March 16, 2020, © Leeham News: “I can tell you from our perspective, we’re kind of sick and tired of new, new technology. It’s not proven to be the home run.”
This blunt assessment comes from the chief executive officer of the big aircraft lessor, Avolon.
Domhnal Slattery, the CEO, was giving his critique of whether Boeing should launch a new airplane once the 737 MAX crisis is over. (Update: Since this interview, Slattery retired from Avolon.)
Boeing was on a path to decide whether to launch the New Midmarket Airplane when the MAX was grounded one year ago this month.
Airbus was waiting for Boeing to move before deciding how to respond.
By Bryan Corliss
Sept. 18, 2023, © Leeham News – One of the continuing themes we’re hearing – at investor presentations and on quarterly earnings calls – is the shortage of skilled labor, which is disrupting deliveries up and down the aerospace industry supply chain.
The inability of suppliers to deliver parts on time – or to deliver correctly assembled parts – is hampering the OEMs as they attempt to ramp up production to meet high demand from airlines.
This is not just an issue affecting aerospace. There’s a general shortage of medium- and high-skill workers in the Western world right now, with shortages of every kind of worker from line cooks to truck drivers. Shortages existed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and there’s still strong demand, even with economies slowing as central banks move to tamp down inflation.
The issue is more pronounced in industries that rely on high-skill workers – like aerospace.
One outcome of this worker shortage is a rise in union activism. In aerospace, we’ve seen the strike by the International Association of Machinists against Spirit AeroSystems this summer, and the near strike by members of the same union against Boeing’s defense business in and around St. Louis last year.
Next year, both Spirit and Boeing will be back at the bargaining table; Spirit to negotiate with members of SPEEA, the union for aerospace engineers, while Boeing holds talks with IAM District 751, which represents hourly workers at the company’s plants in Puget Sound and Oregon.
IAM 751, in fact, is urging members to prepare for what it’s describing as a September 2024 contract vote that will “forever change the aerospace industry.”
The environment seems to be favorable to the unions, for reasons we’ve discussed before. However, with the OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers heavily in debt (and currently bleeding red ink), there’s going to be a limit to what the companies will be willing to offer in a bid to satisfy their labor forces.
By Bjorn Fehrm
September 14, 2023, © Leeham News: For more than a year, we have heard all the Airliner OEMs complain that they can’t increase production rates because of delivery problems in their supply chain. It’s a problem that is not easy to fix; it just goes on and on.
What is the root problem behind the persistent problem of increasing production of our airliners? There are specific problems for each aircraft type and time, but some fundamental problems are behind the overall problem of increasing the production numbers.
We analyze these fundamental problems in a series of articles.
Sept. 12, 2023, © Leeham News: The Next Boeing Airplane (NBA) may be a moonshot for CEO David Calhoun, but airlines will probably be reluctant to take a moonshot on the next new engine.
Service issues with the CFM LEAP and Pratt & Whitney GTF engines are driving airlines batty. The failures of the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 years after entry-into-service (EIS) cost RR hundreds and millions of dollars and a confidence crisis that hurt future sales. LEAP engines are coming off wing well before initial forecasts. Every aircraft model using the GTF faced groundings as engine failures piled up.
Boeing sorely needs a successor to the 737, now in its 55th year and fourth iteration. Ron Epstein, the aerospace analyst for Bank of America, was biting in a Sept. 7 research note.
“We note that Boeing continues to ride on the coattails of its past glory. The original Boeing 737 prototype first flew in April 1967, entering service less than a year later in February 1968 with Lufthansa. Fifty-five years later, the 737 airframe remains in service through a multitude of derivative models, including the most recent 737 MAX,” he wrote.
“However, we note that the model was never intended to be such a blockbuster long-term solution. Instead, the 737 was expected to be a band-aid for the Boeing portfolio to compete with the market share-winning DC-9. The Boeing fleet lacked a smaller narrowbody model to complement the company’s larger jets, like the 707. In the spirit of the General Motors model, the 737 was intended to be the ‘cheap Chevy’ of the portfolio. Fledgling carriers would operate the cheaper model before upgrading to Boeing’s large, higher-end products like the 707 and, later, the 747, which one could see as the ‘Cadillacs’ of the portfolio.
“In our view, while the longevity of the 737 is impressive, the aircraft is now a bit of an anachronism. Operating the aircraft is like driving around in a 1968 Chevy Impala with a semi-modern dashboard. It is important to note that the 737 is the only currently manufactured commercial aircraft without fly-by-wire controls, which are a staple in modern aircraft control system design.”
Epstein worked for Boeing from 1995 to 1999 as an Applied Research Scientist. He’s a technical advisor to United Airlines for the alternative energy sector.
By Bjorn Fehrm
September 7, 2023, © Leeham News: The advertised range of 4,700nm for the Airbus A321XLR enables true trans-Atlantic single-aisle routes that can originate further inland, both in the US and Europe. When EASA and FAA demanded that Airbus add extra fire protection around the tank that gives the extended range, rumors told of a substantial range loss.
Last week we could see that whatever the weight increase, the range loss is not substantial. Now we look at what Airbus could do to restore the range of the A321XLR.
By Bjorn Fehrm
August 31, 2023, © Leeham News: The advertised range of 4,700nm for Airbus’ A321XLR enables true trans-Atlantic single-aisle routes that can originate inland both in the US and in Europe. It was, therefore, worrying when EASA and FAA demanded that Airbus add extra fire protection in the area where the new center tank is placed, the tank that enables the longer range.
Extra fire protection increases the empty weight, which has an impact on range. How much is lost, and what can Airbus do about it? We model the range shortfall and possible fixes with our Aircraft Performance and Cost model.
By Scott Hamilton
Aug. 28, 2023, © Leeham News: The order in February by Air India for 190 737 MAXes involves a backstory involving China that until now hasn’t been told. A subsequent sale by a Chinese lessor of all 737 MAX orders to a Middle Eastern lessor further reduces Boeing’s exposure to China.
The Air India was finalized at the June Paris Air Show. When Boeing announced its second quarter financial results the following month, the MAX inventory accumulated during the 21 month grounding of the type was reduced by 55 aircraft. These 55 MAXes were part of the inventory of 140 737s that were built for Chinese airlines and lessors.
Subsequently, the Chinese lessor CALC announced a deal to sell its entire MAX backlog of 54 to the Emirates lessor, DAE. Purchase rights to some 50 more MAXes were also transferred to DAE. This transaction left CALC with no 737s on its order books.
In its 2022 annual report, the most recent CALC financial statements available, the lessor wrote, “As at 31 December 2022, CALC had 226 aircraft on its orderbook, including 131 Airbus, 66 Boeing and 29 COMAC aircraft.”
Aug. 8, 2023, © Leeham News: The cargo conversion market faces the prospect of oversupply of certain types, the consulting firm IBA said last week in a webcast.
The aftermarket conversion of Boeing 737-800s is already at 60 this year, according to IBA’s estimate.
The forecast doesn’t extend beyond this year—and therefore is incomplete. IBA notes that the Airbus A321 P2F supply is a fraction of the 737-800 conversions, which are undertaken mainly by Boeing and aeronautical Engineers Inc (AEI). There are more than 100 A320 family conversions orders (all but a handful for the A321) that will be coming on line in future years.
Likewise, IBA’s forecast for widebody conversions doesn’t extend beyond this year. There are also more than 100 orders for Airbus A330ceo conversions (all but a handful for the A330-300). Figure 2, like Figure 1, paints an incomplete picture.