Tanker wars may be back

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Dec. 10, 2018, © Leeham News: The tanker wars may be back.

Airbus has teamed with Lockheed Martin to offer the Airbus A330-200MRTT to the Pentagon in a for-hire business model. The agreement also provides the prospect of “conceptualizing the tanker of the future.” (The press release is here.)

From 2001-2011, the US Air Force, Pentagon and even Congress were embroiled in controversy over recapitalization of the USAF aerial refueling tanker fleet.

The KC-135s, based on the Boeing 707, were aging, expensive to maintain and outdated.

After 9/11, Boeing proposed leasing 100 tankers based on the 767-200ER to the USAF. A scandal surrounding the USAF approval of this deal sent the air force’s procurement office and Boeing’s CFO to jail and resulted in the resignation of CEO Phil Condit. The lease deal was canceled.

  • Three rounds of tanker procurement were filled with improprieties, bitter charges and counter charges.
  • Boeing currently has a contract for 52 KC-46A tankers out of an initial procurement of 179.
  • The air force sees a need for 100 more tankers on an accelerated timeline.
  • Fee-based refueling is not unknown to the Pentagon.

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Boeing deal, “crucial to Embraer survival,” in doubt

Update, Dec. 7: Embraer to appeal injunction.

According to the Google translation of a Brazilian newspaper, the injunction appears to be intended to halt any completion of the deal during the interim between the November presidential election and the assumption of office by the president-elect. The Google translation does not appear to indicate the injunction is based on any specific objection to the proposed JV.


Dec. 6, 2018, © Leeham News: In a stunning piece of news, a Brazilian court blocked the proposed joint venture between Boeing and Embraer.

If the action holds, this is a major blow to Boeing’s future plans.

The new joint venture, which LNC dubs NewCo for the lack of a name, was to be responsible for all future Boeing aircraft of 150 seats and below, according to a Memorandum of Understanding revealed by Embraer’s labor unions.

This is critical to Boeing’s long-term future for the 2030 decade. Read more

Breaking News: Brazilian court blocks Boeing-Embraer deal, reports Reuters

Dec. 6, 2018: A Brazilian court has blocked the proposed joint venture between Boeing and Embraer, reports Reuters.

Details are just emerging.

More reporting to come.

NMA must stand on its own business case

Dec. 6, 2018, © Leeham News: The prospective Boeing 797 (NMA) must stand on its own business case and not rely on aftermarket contracts for a profitable program, reports investment bank JP Morgan.

JPM’s aerospace analyst Seth Seifman met with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, CFO Greg Smith and Boeing Commercial Airplanes VP-marketing Randy Tinseth Dec. 4. In a research note issued yesterday, Seifman reported that the business case for the New Midmarket Aircraft still hasn’t closed—but “if Boeing launches the NMA, it will be with the intention of earning a return on the aircraft itself that is comparable to existing programs; it will not be a plan to accept lower margins on the aircraft and make it up in the aftermarket.” (Emphasis in original.) Read more

Is the A380 less economical than a 777-300ER?

By Bjorn Fehrm

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December 06, 2018, © Leeham News.: Our Monday article “A380 suffers new blow, future remains bleak” describes how Air France hands back five of their 10 Airbus A380-800 to their lessor with start next year.

The article details the reasons behind the returns. Other media writes the A380 are notably more expensive to run than a Boeing 777-300ER. As so often, this is a serious case of apples and oranges.


  • To compare aircraft like-for-like, they need to be compared with the same rules for cabins and operations.
  • When this is done, the A380 is not more expensive to operate than a 777-300ER.
  • The caveat is: if filled to the same load factor.
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A380 suffers new blow, future remains bleak

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Air France is returning five of 10 A380s to lessors. Photo via Google images.

Dec. 3, 2018, © Leeham News: Air France will return five leased Airbus A380s to lessors next year and in 2020, citing high operating and crew costs compared with the Boeing 777-300ER that is the principal long-haul airplane in its fleet.

This is another blow to the world’s largest passenger aircraft program.

It underscores something Airbus CEO Tom Enders said in 2017: “If you fill it 80% or more, it is a money-making machine.”

Air France’s A380 load factor is not a matter of public record, but the airline itself has a general passenger-avoidance problem due to repeated strikes and generally poor service. The airline’s A380 interiors are dated and the business class is not on a par with even its own Boeing airplanes—nor competitors’ A380s. Read more

Pontifications: More hints NMA is a “go”

By Scott Hamilton

Dec. 3, 2018, © Leeham News: Safran, the French company that is a 50% partner in CFM International, believes Boeing will launch the New Midmarket Airplane next year.

Safran held its investors day last Thursday.

In sideline conversation, one of those attending reports that Safran met recently with Boeing and is convinced the NMA is a “go.”

(Others, elsewhere, remain skeptical.)

Engine company responses for proposals are due this month to Boeing. CFM, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney are competing for the engine selection.

It’s believed Boeing would like a dual source (certainly airlines do), but in all likelihood, the odds-on favorite is that the NMA will have a sole source engine. The betting is that it will be CFM. Read more

Is Airbus working on a 200t A330neo Regional?

By Bjorn Fehrm

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November 29, 2018, © Leeham News.: Bloomberg wrote in the week Airbus is bringing out a 200 tonnes version of the A330neo as a counterstroke to the NMA. Having checked the characteristic of such a version, we contacted Airbus for clarifications.

Here is what Airbus said and how any 200t A330neo fits into Airbus future deliveries.


  • A 200t A330neo would not be an ideal version to take market share away from a future NMA. It would have a shorter range than even the shortest range NMA.
  • Airbus explained what they really said on Monday. A 200 tonnes A330neo was part of presenting the flexibility of the A330neo concept, including how this flexibility would work against a planned NMA.

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Airbus’ A320neo Plus, A350neo and new single-aisle airplane

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Nov. 26, 2018, © Leeham News: There are few secrets that stay secret for long in commercial aviation.

Airplane concepts are discussed with customers. Information must be shared with suppliers. And then there’s the manufacturer’s own website.

Bloomberg News reported last week that Airbus is looking for help to design the A320neo Plus, an entirely new single aisle airplane and a re-engined A350, the A350neo. All this came from Airbus’ website, Bloomberg reported.

Some of this is old news.

  • The A320neo Plus concepts have been around for a few years.
  • The idea that Airbus has conceived a new single-aisle airplane is not new, either. It’s shown open-rotor and futuristic design concepts at air shows, conferences and earnings meetings for years (as has Boeing).
  • Although not mentioned in the Bloomberg article, a new wide-body airliner is also something Airbus conceived as a possible response to the Boeing New Midmarket Airplane—this isn’t new, either.
  • What is new is the prospect of an A350neo. The airplane has been in service only a few years, but if one stops and thinks about it, a neo is already a logical progression.

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Automation reduces foreign advantages over US

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Nov. 19, 2018, © Leeham News: The move toward increasing automation makes US more competitive than moving work to other countries, an expert in industrial efficiencies said last week at a meeting sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance.

The same is true when it comes to states competing against other states, he said—something that is especially relevant as Washington State girds for expected competition from Southern states, and especially South Carolina, for the prospective Boeing New Midmarket Airplane.

  • Automation reduces US labor costs.
  • 60% of Boeing’s workforce is eligible for retirement in the next six years.
  • Optimizing the manufacturing value chain based on finite resources.
  • Pressure for speedy decisions is greater than ever.

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