Freighter conversion will absorb some excess widebody supply – but not all

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By Judson Rollins


June 17, 2021, © Leeham News: A key question hanging over the used widebody market is what percentage of available aircraft could be converted into freighters.

Indeed, existing passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion providers are ramping up capacity and new ones are coming online. However, much of the P2F capacity growth is focused on converting used 737s and A320-family aircraft.

Airbus and Boeing foresee a market for 1,500-1,600 conversions over the next 20 years. While Boeing doesn’t break out its forecast between single-aisle and widebody aircraft, Airbus believes 670 of these will be widebodies.

Conversion work at Israel’s IAI on the first 777-300ER P2F. Source: IAI via Cargo Facts.

In this analysis, LNA explores the size of the market, key providers, conversion capacity, and likely buyers of converted aircraft.

  • Nearly 2,000 widebodies are in storage or coming off lease by 2030.
  • New-build freighters will go to more established operators, while P2Fs are preferred by operators wishing to minimize capital costs.
  • At current production rates, up to 400 widebodies could be converted by 2030.
  • Early-production 787s, A350s are less likely to be converted.

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Airbus program update tomorrow: what will officials reveal?

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By Scott Hamilton


June 14, 2021, © Leeham News: Airbus will provide a commercial program update tomorrow in Toulouse.

Will the Next Boeing Airplane be like the 757 with a composite new wing and new engines? Boeing photo.

But will officials announce Authority to Offer (ATO) an A350 freighter for sale?

Will they formally acknowledge development of an “A322”?

There is a plethora of articles, including LNA, in recent weeks discussed the prospect of Airbus launching an A350F this year. Potential customers have seen presentations from Airbus. Boeing’s overwhelming dominance in freighters is under threat.

If Airbus announces ATO tomorrow, Boeing may be forced to take its 777-8F concept out of mothballs. Boeing suspended development of the 777-8 and -8F during the 737 MAX and pandemic crises.

Then there is the prospect of the long-talked about “A322.”

This airplane, if launched, will have a new composite wing, more powerful engines and up to 24 more passengers. The wing is called the Wing of Tomorrow and has been under development for years.

If Airbus launches the A322, which also has a working name of A321 Plus Plus, Boeing will find it very tough to build a business case for its Next Boeing Airplane (NBA). The most recent iteration seems to be basically a reinvention of the 757-200/300: a metallic fuselage with a composite wing and new engines.

  • Airbus now has the leadership role held by Boeing for decades, says the industry’s most influential executive.
  • What does the Next Boeing Airplane look like?
  • Airbus thinks it can match the NBA with an A322 for a lot less money to the customer.
  • But will airlines want a 2025 technology or be satisfied with a makeover for an Airbus with roots in 1980s technology?

    Boeing’s CEO says the next airplane won’t be a response to just the Airbus A321XLR. Airbus photo.

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Pontification: It’s time to replace the 737, says industry leader

By Scott Hamilton

June 14, 2021, © Leeham News: One of commercial aviation’s most influential leaders said last week Boeing needs to replace the 737 with a new technology airplane.

Steven Udvar-Hazy, chairman of Air Lease Corp., said in a CNBC interview June 9 the 737 is a good airplane, but the time has come for a replacement.

“Boeing has to look at the future. What kind of airplanes that airlines will need with all the environmental challenges, regulatory challenges? What is the airplane type airlines will need 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now?” Hazy said.

“Boeing needs to invest. The 737 is a wonderful airplane, but it’s been in operation since 1967. We have an airplane that its basic design has been around for 54 years. It’s time for a new technology airplane that will give airlines and the public greater efficiency, better economics, better environmental footprint so the airlines can make money with it and yet meet the challenges that we’re facing on the environmental front.”

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Pontifications: Qatar, United, Boom, Airbus and Aerion

By Scott Hamilton

June 7, 2021, © Leeham News: It’s been a busy couple of weeks in commercial aviation, with several reports last week alone.

  • Qatar Airways expresses interest in Boeing 777X-F and Airbus A350F.
  • United Airlines announces a “commercial agreement” with Boom Supersonic to purchase 15 Overture jets and option 35.
  • Boeing exploring reinventing the 757.
  • Airbus moves toward a new wing for A320 family.
  • Aerion Aviation terminates program, shuts down. May 21.

Some of these reports were new and interesting Others were over-hyped and fluff.

Let’s run them down.

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Boeing, Alaska team for next round of ecoDemonstrator research

By Scott Hamilton

June 3, 2021, © Leeham News: Boeing and Alaska Airlines today outlined a five month ecoDemonstrator program in a series of tests designed to “green up” commercial aviation.

Boeing partnered with airlines and suppliers beginning in 2012. Alaska is the eighth airline to participate. A Boeing 737-9 will be the current platform.

Boeing will flight test 20 technologies and ideas with Alaska beginning June 29 and ending Dec. 2.

Not all ideas fall strictly within “new technologies.” Some are weight-reduction initiatives that aggregate to lower airplane weight, which in turn reduces fuel burn. This in turn reduces carbon emissions.

But other ideas directly go to environmental efforts addressing noise, emissions and now COVID infectious worries.

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Widebody availability set to surge; could new entrants take advantage?

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By Judson Rollins


June 3, 2021, © Leeham News: Lessors are expected to write down the value of their widebodies as the long-haul travel slump appears set to extend well beyond this year, LNA reported last week.

A tidal wave of excess widebodies has reduced ownership costs to historic lows. Prices will only go lower as lessors finally initiate distressed-asset sales, and lease rates will continue to fall as used widebody inventory grows.

A confluence of factors, topped by the availability of lower-cost used widebodies, could increase the cost advantage of low-cost carriers over legacy competitors – at the same time reduced business travel and lower yields reduce the gap between legacy and LCC unit revenue.

  • Widebody availability is set to increase steadily throughout the decade.
  • What airplanes are likely to be most attractive?
  • Sustainably lower costs could enable low-cost carriers to overcome a shrunken “revenue gap.”

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Pontifications: The Wing of Tomorrow and Airbus’ future

May 31, 2021, © Leeham News: It’s not as if Boeing doesn’t have enough challenges right now.

By Scott Hamilton

Airbus seems ready to up the ante by re-winging the A320 series, according to an article last week by Bloomberg News.

The “Wing for Tomorrow,” as Airbus calls it, has been in the works for years. It’s a composite wing, designed for a new production process. The process will be quicker, more efficient and less costly than the cumbersome, expensive autoclave used today.

Public discussion about an enlarged A321 has been around for years. Variously called the A321 Plus Plus or A322, the broad concept is a 12 seat stretch (Bloomberg suggests it could be 24 seats), more powerful engines and the new composite wing. Bloomberg wrote that the wing, with a wider span, could have folding wingtips.

This A322 would be a true Boeing 757 in terms of capacity. Range would be well into the “Middle of the Market” definition proffered by Boeing for the better part of a decade.

But what about the A320 and A319?

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Industry stands together on safety

By Scott Correa

Special to Leeham News

 May 27, 2021, © Leeham News: Forty-two years ago this week, I puked at work.

American Airlines flight 191 moments before crashing less than a mile after takeoff at Chicago O’Hare Airport. Source: Wikipedia.

On May 25, 1979, an American Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-10 crashed on take off from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Within minutes, it was known that the No. 1 engine separated from the airplane just after the airplane was committed.

The aircraft gained a few hundred feet before rolling over on its left wing, crashing into a trailer park. All 271 on board and two people on the ground were killed.

The Federal Aviation Administration immediately grounded all DC-10s in the US because of the engine separation. Regulators elsewhere in the world followed suit.

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HOTR: Ryanair’s O’Leary pissed, but wants 737 MAX 10

By the Leeham News Team

May 25, 2021, © Leeham News: Michael O’Leary may be royally pissed as Boeing, but he’s nevertheless in negotiations for a large order of 737-10 MAXes.

In the year-end earnings call last week and in an appearance on CNBC, O’Leary unloaded on Boeing’s Seattle management team over delivery delays for the 737-8200.

O’Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, didn’t mince words—he never does. This is, after all, the guy who at a press conference talked about his potential trans-Atlantic low fare operation providing blow jobs to business class travelers. Sitting next to him was his female translator, who clearly was nonplussed. (You can look it up on YouTube.)

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Boeing’s dilemma in the 125-170 seat sector

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By Scott Hamilton


May 24, 2021, © Leeham News: NMA. 777X. The 200-270 seat sector.

While Boeing grapples about what to do in the 200-270 seat sector, the heart of the single-aisle market represented by the 737-8 and A320neo faces a replacement decision, too. Photo: Boeing.

A lot of attention goes to these two Boeing airplane programs and the +200 seat sector.

However, the single-aisle market below 170 seats is the next arena that needs updating.

Many expect Boeing to decide by 2023 whether to launch a new airplane program in the +200 market. Airbus is waiting to see what Boeing does before moving.

Boeing’s heart of the single-aisle market is, of course, the 737-8 and before it, the 737-800. There are thousands of the for former on order and in service of the latter.

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