Airbus sees encouraging signs of wide-body demand recovery

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By Scott Hamilton

Oct. 25, 2021, © Leeham News: Airbus sees some “encouraging” signs wide-body demand is recovering from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Christian Scherer. Source: Airbus.

Passenger demand is nearing-pre-pandemic levels in key areas of the world where single-aisle aircraft are used. Long-haul international demand remains suppressed, however. Some don’t forecast a return to normal for up to two more years. Others forecast a recovery on key routes next year.

Christian Scherer, the chief commercial officer for Airbus, is optimistic.

“I would say that on the wide-body market, you see encouraging signs,” he said during a press gaggle at the IATA AGM Oct. 3-5 in Boston. “Maybe that has to do with the fact that the ecosystem at large is realizing that the best thing they can do in the short- and medium-term, towards that whole global objective of sustainable air transportation is to equip themselves with the most fuel-efficient and therefore eco-friendly airplanes.

“I think that against that backdrop and the opening of more international corridors sees a regained interest on the wide-body side as well. Now it’s lagging the single arch really and there is no scoop here that rates in the long-range airplanes are going to change imminently, but the general sentiment is positive on the wide-bodies as well and that’s really good.”

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Air freight demand explosion: a long-term trend?

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By Judson Rollins

Introduction

October 18, 2021, © Leeham News: Much ink has been spilled over the surge in demand that has washed over every corner of the cargo world: air, sea, road, and rail.

Amazon Air’s first parcels being unloaded at Amazon.com’s new Cincinnati (US) sort hub. Source: Amazon.com.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, air transport was reserved primarily for items with high value and/or time sensitivity, such as laptop computers or express documents. And growing competition in the cargo market meant that average yield (revenue per ton-mile) was declining by more than 2% per year, according to past editions of Boeing’s World Air Cargo Forecast.

But now the cost of sea transport has exploded, shifting a significant chunk of cargo from ocean freighters to their airborne equivalents. This is driving some retailers to use air transport. Home Depot, an American home-improvement retailer, is resorting to air freight to bring in smaller, higher-value items like power tools that it needs to keep on the shelves at all times.

Even before COVID-19, a growing share of air freight has come from e-commerce — thereby shifting the volume-to-weight considerations relative to “traditional” freight.

Will these trends continue even beyond the COVID crisis? And what impact will it have on the market for factory-built freighters and passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversions?

Summary
  • Soaring sea freight yields mean small shipments are now more economic by air than sea.
  • Volumetric capacity matters more than max gross weight.
  • New freighter options will compete with a glut of conversion feedstock.
  • Air freight yields will eventually revert to historical trendlines in most regions.

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Bjorn’s Corner: The challenges of airliner development. Part 25. Safety monitoring and reporting

By Bjorn Fehrm, Henry Tam, and Andrew Telesca

October 15, 2021, ©. Leeham News: Last week, we introduced the activities around Continued Airworthiness that we have to do during development and flight testing of our aircraft.

As described, the majority of accidents for aircraft are attributed to failings in Continued Airworthiness and Operations rather than design. We listed Continued Operational Safety, Operational Preparedness, and Service Readiness as the three important areas for Continued Airworthiness. 

We dive into Continued Operational Safety first, specifically Safety Monitoring and Reporting.

Figure 1. A graph showing how an OEM and FAA surveys the operation of an aircraft and takes action. Source: Boeing.

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With high cargo prices, will airlines fly larger aircraft in their widebody fleets?

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

October 14, 2021, © Leeham News: Over the last weeks, we’ve seen that the present cargo crunch and high yields will influence what aircraft variants airlines purchase. Models that are too large passenger-wise for years to come will be paid for by a longer belly that can take more cargo.

This trend will remain as long as cargo prices are high. Will the high cargo yields also affect what aircraft to keep stored and which to fly of an existing fleet? We apply the analysis to an airline with a fleet of Boeing 777s.

Summary
  • The increased yields for air cargo changes the fleet planning for the widebody fleet. The most suitable passenger models stay in the desert, and the longer siblings fly despite lower load factors.

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Pontifications: Upping the game in eco Aviation

By Scott Hamilton

Oct. 4, 2021, © Leeham News: The pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the commercial aviation industry continues to increase.

Two weeks ago, Airbus hosted a day-and-a-half media event promoting its vision of moving toward decarbonizing aviation.

Boeing and Alaska Airlines last week hosted media for a touchy-feely event following up on the announcement in June by Boeing and Alaska of its joint ecoD (as Boeing calls it) program.

Boeing in October outlined progress of its ecoDemonstrator program, at the time with Etihad Airways as the partner. A 787-10 was used at that stage.

Mike Sinnett, Boeing VP of Product Development, said last week that the Alaska 737-9 MAX that is the focus of the current ecoD effort includes several ideas that would not make it into test on a stand-alone basis. But as part of a larger effort, little things that cumulatively can reduce drag and therefore fuel burn can be tested.

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IATA AGM: Airplanes, engines SAF capable coming; feedstock lags by years

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

Oct. 4, 2021, © Leeham News: Engine and airframe makers are well on their way to becoming fully capable of using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). But the industries providing SAF are way behind in meeting the potential demand.

Rick Deurloo of Pratt & Whitney

Rick Deurloo. Sr. VP & Chief Commercial Officer at Pratt & Whitney said one major US airline would use all currently available SAF in one day.

“The challenge will be the feedstock. How do we grow that technology or grow that ability to provide the feedstock so when we do have 100% SAF-capable aircraft and engines, we have the energy to go with it?” Deurloo said in an interview with LNA at the IATA AGM this week in Boston.

Airlines around the world are partnering with different companies to develop this technology, he said.

PW is already 50% capable and has a “clear path” to getting 100% capable within two years.  But there is not enough feedstock in the world today do fill the 50% capability.

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Airbus begins “stuffing” A220 to speed assembly, cut costs

By Scott Hamilton

Florent Massou. Photo: Airbus.

Sept. 28, 2021, © Leeham News: Airbus is streamlining some of its production of the A220 to reduce costs and the time to assemble the airplanes at its Montreal and Mobile plants.

Florent Massou, the SVP and Head of the A220 program, told LNA the company wants to shave 50% of the final assembly time for the A220. There will be an unrevealed cost reduction, which Massou declined to reveal. But he said it isn’t a one-for-one cost reduction.

Final assembly typically runs 5% to 8% of the total cost of the airplane, according to Boeing’s touch labor union, the IAM 751. Whether this equates to the A220, which began life as a Bombardier aircraft, is unknown.

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777 freighter conversion methods and their differences

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By the Leeham News Team

Sept. 27, 2021, © Leeham News: The race for the Boeing 777 P2F Freighter conversion is on.

IAI Bedek Big Twin Boeing 777-300ERF passenger-to-freighter conversion. Lessor GECAS, now part of AerCap, was the launch customer of this, the first 777 P2F program. Source: IAI Bedek.

There are three companies in various stages of development. The first, IAI Bedek, announced its conversion process in 2019 with an order from the giant lessor, GECAS (now a part of AerCap). The second is a program driven by Nair Werx of Wichita (KS) and marketed by Sequoia Aircraft Conversions. The third is the recently announced Mammoth Freighter Conversions of California and Florida.

IAI has cut metal. Mammoth is test-flying a 777-200LR for stress and technical analysis. NAIR is in the pre-production Engineering Phase.

Let’s take a moment to understand the process of a P2F Conversion.

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Pontifications: 787 deliveries, suspended a year, look for restart soon

By Scott Hamilton

Sept. 27, 2021, © Leeham News: In a few weeks it will be a year since Boeing suspended delivery of virtually all 787s. Inspections revealed some flaws in production. Despite a year-long effort, Boeing hasn’t been able to persuade the Federal Aviation Administration, yet, to grant authority to resume deliveries.

Deliveries may resume next month, The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 6. Or they may not. Boeing isn’t making any predictions as it continues to work with the FAA to do so.

More than 100 787s have been produced (it is said the number is 106, but this is a moving target). Boeing continues to inspect the aircraft. Those in production at the Charleston (SC) factory are fixed as these are assembled at a very low rate.

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Is cargo capacity deciding the airliner variant?

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

September 23, 2021, © Leeham News: In last week’s article, we put the question: Has the increased cargo pricing started to affect the choice of airliner variant?

We listed recent decisions between the Boeing 787-8 and -9 or Airbus A330-900 and A350-900 where the traffic levels post-pandemic would motivate the smaller variant, but the larger was retained or selected.

It makes you wonder whether the higher cargo capacity of the larger variant compensates for flying a larger cabin at a lower load factor? We make a cost and revenue analysis to find out.

Summary
  • Cargo was an additional revenue stream on top of the main source, the passenger traffic.
  • The lower traffic levels for international long-haul traffic and the increase in cargo pricing have changed this. Cargo is now as important in the decision of which aircraft to choose as the passenger capacity.

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