US 5G roll out ignores concerns for Air Transport safety

By Bjorn Fehrm

January 18, 2022, ©. Leeham News: Despite year-long protests from the World’s airlines and the FAA, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) allows Verizon and ATT to roll out 5G base stations underneath the approach paths of landing aircraft in the US.

In 2020 the RTCA (Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics) did tests that established the risk of 5G Base stations affecting the critical Radio Altimeters needed for bad weather landings as real.

After FAA issues a 2021 December 23 AD (Airworthiness Directive) about the danger, airlines must now decide what flights must be canceled during bad weather spells on affected airports.

Figure 1. The way the US 5G C-band base stations can affect a Radar Altimeter. Source: RTCA.

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Pontifications: COTS and the KC-46A Aircraft Production Systems

Part 1 in a Boeing series about the USAF refueling tanker

By the Leeham News Team

January 17, 2022, © Leeham News: COTS is an acronym meaning Commercial Off the Shelf. It’s often a requirement for certain types of aircraft to be used by the US Air Force.

The title is a bit misleading in that in most cases, there is no directly usable off-the-shelf product, but instead, a jumping-off point that saves a tremendous amount of development. In aircraft procurement, many things have been bought this way. The advantage to the Air Force is that they get a known flyable aircraft that is for the most part debugged and has an operational history that allows the Air Force to estimate the maintenance burden and training requirements. It shaves years off the acquisition process and can be a very cost-effective way to gain new capabilities.

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Air freight growth: one-hit wonder or long-term trend?

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By Judson Rollins


January 13, 2022, © Leeham News: COVID-19 has upended the freight world, with air delivery now becoming relatively economical versus the high premium they previously commanded over sea freight. While air freight yields on most trade lanes are 2-3x their pre-pandemic levels, sea freight yields are 8-10x their 2019 levels in lanes like Asia to North America and Asia to Europe.

Sea freight schedule reliability has fallen sharply over the past 18 months driven by a spectrum of port, labor, and container availability issues. Shippers are increasingly frustrated by the large and growing number of “blank sailings,” the industry’s term for canceled departures.

To offer customers backup options – and increase their value capture – ocean freight carriers are starting to buy their own aircraft. Maersk announced its purchase of two Boeing 777Fs in November, while CMA CGM Group said in December that it would order four Airbus A350Fs to complement its existing fleet of five Airbus A330Fs.

As the COVID crisis extends into its third year, will air freight demand prove sustainable at today’s levels? To what extent will capacity increase to match?

  • Sea freight capacity will remain tight for the foreseeable future.
  • New-build freighter availability is limited at present.
  • Today’s air freight demand spike is unlikely to last beyond mid-decade.

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Pontifications: Teaming with Lockheed Martin for the KC-Y tanker competition

Last in a Series

Jan. 10, 2022, © Leeham News: Sean O’Keefe retired from EADS/Airbus in 2014. Boeing won the re-bid contract for the US Air Force aerial refueling tanker in 2011. The third round of the tanker competitions was every bit as bitter as the second round, which Northrop Grumman/EADS won.

By Scott Hamilton

Boeing is in the process of producing 179 KC-46A tankers, with about half delivered. Beset by delays, technical issues, and cost overruns, Boeing nevertheless has the presumed advantage of being the incumbent supplier.

Lockheed Martin/Airbus will offer the A330-200-based MRTT tanker. Most have Rolls-Royce engines. The remainder has GE Aviation power plants. The LMXT, as the new tanker version is currently called, will be assembled in the US. If RR engines are chosen, these, too, will be assembled in the US, Lockheed says.

Although O’Keefe is no longer associated with Airbus and he is not a consultant to or otherwise advising Lockheed and Airbus, LNA asked him what he would advise if asked after benefitting from the Round 3 competition.

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Forecast 2022: Embraer

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By Bjorn Fehrm


January 10, 2022, © Leeham News: Embraer is the dominant regional jet aircraft supplier with a worldwide footprint and faces little competition to its products below 100 seats.

Between 100 to 150 seats, the situation is another after Bombardier “sold” its CSeries project to Airbus. Airbus’ might as aircraft OEM rekindled the CSeries as Airbus A220, and it’s now a vivid competitor to Embraer over 100 seats.

With a market it dominates and another where competition increases, we look at what’s in store for Embraer for 2022 as it hopes to exit the COVID pandemic for better times.

Embraer’s revised Turboprop. Source: Embraer.

  • Embraer is a complete supplier with capable development, production, and worldwide support for its regional jets.
  • Everything would be good had Bombardier, a player the size of Embraer, slugged it out with CSeries. The hand-over of the modern aircraft to Airbus changed the competitive landscape.

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Boeing was “hungry” for deal, says Allegiant CEO

By Scott Hamilton

Jan. 6, 2022, © Leeham News: Allegiant Airlines CEO Maury Gallagher said Boeing was “hungry” and the carrier “got a good deal all the way around” with its first order from the manufacturer.

In an interview with LNA yesterday, Gallagher confirmed that early delivery positions from Boeing were also important in placing an order for 30 737-7 and 20 737-8-200 MAXes. Deliveries begin in 2023 and continue through 2025.

Allegiant currently is exclusively operating Airbus A319ceos and A320ceos. Airbus didn’t have enough delivery slots for the A220-300 to cover the smaller end of Allegiant’s needs. Additionally, the A220-300 hasn’t yet been certified for its maximum potential capacity of 160 passengers. Nor was Airbus willing to provide any assurances that a larger A220-500 would be launched. The A220-300 also has a shorter time to maintenance checks than the 737, reflecting the new aircraft type vs the 737-7’s derivative status.

There were no slots for the larger A320neo family until 2026-2038, Gallagher said.

Fleet transition support from Boeing also was a key element of the order, which includes options for 50 more airplanes.

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HOTR: Boeing works on HGW 787-10—and the 787-9

Jan. 5, 2022, © Leeham News: In his first interview since becoming CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Stan Deal told The Seattle Times that development of a High Gross Weight (HGW) version of the 787-10 is underway.

“[Deal] also revealed that Boeing is currently designing a new ‘high gross weight’ version of the largest Dreamliner, the 787-10, bumping up its payload and range to make it more competitive against the Airbus A350-900.”

But LNA learned exclusively that Boeing also is developing an HGW version of the 787-9.

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Airbus critics reach low blow in forthcoming KC-Y competition

By Scott Hamilton


Jan. 4, 2022, © Leeham News: The US Air Force KC-Y tanker competition hasn’t even started but Boeing partisans already have the knives out.

For at least the fourth time, an OpEd appeared attacking Airbus for illegal subsidies. For good measure, the writer also pointed to Airbus’ misdeeds in its bribery scandal and other misadventures. All this in what increasingly appears to be the opening shots in a campaign to politicize the coming KC-Y Bridge Tanker procurement.

Once more, Boeing will be pitted against Airbus and the KC-46A against the A330 MRTT. This time, Airbus partnered with Lockheed Martin to take on Boeing. The latest column hit the Internet on Christmas Eve. This time, a Congressional staffer called on Airbus to be “Grounded” in the KC-Y competition.

This column was one of the most irresponsible commentaries seen so far. And this is saying something.

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Pontifications: Assessing the advantages Boeing, Lockheed Martin-Airbus have in KC-Y tanker competition

 Fourth in a Series

By Scott Hamilton

Jan. 3, 2022, © Leeham News: As the US Air Forces gears up to solicit bids for its KC-Y aerial refueling “bridge tanker” competition, Boeing is now the incumbent tanker supplier.

Having won the KC-X competition against Airbus, Boeing is supplying a total of 179 tankers based on the 767-200ER. The KC-46A, however, has been plagued with problems, delays, and cost overruns.

As the incumbent, Boeing would seem to have an advantage in the KC-Y competition. But on the other hand, the problems that Boeing has had in technical compliance categories, failures, and delivery delays, and foreign object debris issues, could work against it.

Sean O’Keefe was the president of EADS North America, Airbus’ parent when Boeing won the KC-X contract. He also worked for the government as the NASA administrator and on The Hill. He was friends with Bob Gates, the Secretary of Defense during parts of the Bush 43 and Obama administrations. This gives him a special insight from government and industry perspectives to weigh the advantages and disadvantages Boeing faces in the anticipated KC-Y contest that will likely pit the incumbent against the Lockheed Martin-Airbus team that will once again offer the A330-200-based tanker called the LMXT.

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Forecast 2022: Airbus

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By Bjorn Fehrm


January 3, 2022, © Leeham News: When the COVID-19 Pandemic started, it was tough to predict its impact on world air travel and how long the downturn would last.

The aircraft OEMs are at the top of a supplier pyramid of hundreds of companies and millions of parts. The prediction of airliner output at the end of this chain is critical for all, but most for suppliers. The suppliers have strained their liquidity to expand the production at the demand of the OEM.

A downturn in deliveries means less money, which forces sensitive suppliers into a liquidity crisis. Brake moderately, and the suppliers can handle it. Brake hard, and they can’t, or brake a bit and then harder, and it’s as bad.

Airbus managed the reductions well, and with an intact supplier chain, 2022 will be about how hard to step on the throttle as the Pandemic isn’t done yet.

  • With a competitive product range and an intact supplier base, 2021 is about the correct level of increase in deliveries, with the Pandemic a bigger worry than the main competition.
  • With Airbus’ in perhaps its relative strongest position ever, how much this shifts the market is more a supply issue than anything else.

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