Pontifications: Airbus ponders A330neo MRTT, Boeing ponders KC-46A re-engine

By Scott Hamilton

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 28, 2023, © Leeham News: In a reversal of intent, the airplane that Airbus may submit to the US Air Force for the next round of aerial tanker procurement may be based on the A330neo instead of the current production A330-200ceo MRTT.

The Air Force, however, may forego competition between Airbus and Boeing and place a sole-source follow-on order with Boeing for the KC-46A tanker, based on the 767-200ER. Boeing already has a contract for 179 KC-46As, and the USAF appears to be leaning toward a sole-source award. Political pressure from Airbus partisans and others who favor competition may prevail.

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Airbus wants to discontinue production of the A330-200ceo-based MRTT. The neo-based version would be based on the A330-800. Sales of the -800 are poor—fewer than 20 have been ordered. An -800 based MRTT will breathe life into the nearly still-born model.

  • Boeing considers re-engining the 767-300ERF and the KC-46A.
  • KC-46A, 767-200, A330 MRTT exempt from 2027 ICAO standards.

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Preview of Rolls-Royce Capital Markets Day

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By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 27, 2023, © Leeham News: Rolls-Royce’s Capital Market Day is tomorrow. “Our multi-year transformation programme will deliver a high-performing, competitive, resilient, and growing business. Join us to find out how we are going to do it and what a stronger Rolls-Royce will mean for all our stakeholders,” the company says on its website.

“Our multi-year transformation programme has started well with progress already evident in our strong initial results and increased full-year guidance for 2023. There is much more to do to deliver better performance and to transform Rolls-Royce into a high-performing, competitive, resilient, and growing business. We will share the outcome of our strategy review along with medium-term goals for the Group in November,” said CEO Tufan Erginbilgic on its website.

It has some other questions to answer, too.

An order for Airbus A350-1000s was expected to be announced at the Dubai Air Show by Emirates Airline. Another order, for a combination of A350-900s, -1000s, and A320neo, was expected from Turkish Airlines. Neither materialized—and, LNA is told, issues with the Trent XWB 97 were one reason.

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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 39. Production

By Bjorn Fehrm

November 23, 2023, ©. Leeham News: We are discussing the different phases of an airliner development program. After covering Conceptual, Preliminary, and Detailed design, the manufacturing of prototypes, and their roles in flight tests, we now look at production.

The focus and work around the production of an airliner has increased over the last decade. Why this renewed focus?

Figure 1. The development plan for a new airliner. Source: Leeham Co.

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Boeing beats Airbus in order tallies at Dubai Airshow thanks to widebody jetliner demand

By Dan Catchpole

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Nov. 20, 2023 © Leeham News: Boeing dominated the Dubai Airshow, racking up 313 orders—232 firm and 81 non-firm. Meanwhile, Airbus garnered only 86 orders, as of Friday, the last day of the biennial airshow.

Credit: Boeing

It was the first time that American aerospace giant has beaten its European competitor at Dubai since 2017. Heavy demand for twin-aisle aircraft helped Boeing land more orders.

A much anticipated mega order by Turkish Airlines for Airbus jetliners didn’t materialize. However, both entities said they plan to announce a significant order in the future.

  • Widebody orders lead narrowbody orders
  • Resurgent international travel demand drive order split
  • Performance problems soften demand for Airbus A350

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Spirit Focused on Delivering On Time and At Quality

By Dan Catchpole

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Nov. 6, 2023, © Leeham News: Spirit Aerosystems’ new CEO Pat Shanahan’s focus right now is “to restore confidence in the company” with its biggest customers—Airbus and Boeing.

During a Nov. 1st conference call discussing the company’s third quarter earnings, Shanahan said,  “I recognize we have disappointed our stakeholders.”

Shanahan just came on as chief executive in October to help turn around Spirit, which has been flailing, along with much of the aerospace supply chain. Boeing and Airbus will be watching Shanahan’s progress. He gained a reputation as Mr. Fix-It during his time at Boeing.

  • Market responds favorably to latest earnings report and management’s promises.
  • Shanahan says Spirit is on track to deliver more than 50 737 MAX airframes in 2025.
  • Goal is zero-quality issues.

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Howmet Aerospace Exhibits Strong Revenue Growth Driven By Commercial Aerospace, Girds For OE Rate Increases

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By Chris Sloan
Nov. 1, 2023, © Leeham News : Howmet Aerospace reported third-quarter revenues of $1.66bn, up 16% year over year, primarily driven by growth in commercial aerospace of 23%. Overall, the company achieved an improved margin of 23% EBITDA, propelled by surging demand from OEs across all three aerospace segments: Engine Products, Fastening Systems, and Engineered Structures.

 “Commercial Aerospace has grown for 10 consecutive quarters and stands at 49% of total revenue. Its growth continues to be robust, supported by demand for new, more fuel-efficient aircraft as well as increased spares demand,” proclaimed John C. Plant, Howmet’s Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

A chorus of analysts agreed Howmet beat consensus “This was another quarter where Howmet’s results stand out relative to its commercial aero peers, especially compared to other OE [Original Equipment] suppliers. In 3Q, Howmet delivered beats on sales, margins, EPS, and raised its guidance for all three metrics,” said Melius Research in a note. “What is arguably more impressive is that Howmet did this in a quarter where the operating environment was far from smooth.”

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NASA, Boeing Say SAF Creates Fewer Greenhouse Contrails

By Dan Catchpole

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Nov. 2, 2023 © Leeham News: High over Montana, Andy “Jeeves” Barry slipped the McDonnell Douglas DC-8 to the right and out of the Boeing 737-10’s wake to “get some fresh air.”

NASA’s uses a highly-modified McDonnell Douglas DC-8 as a test platform for its Armstrong Flight Research Center. (Photo by Dan Catchpole)

After a few minutes, the NASA research pilot edged the DC-8 behind the MAX, trailing about a mile and a half or so. It was another in a slew of test flights in October that he’d spent riding the 737’s bumper in NASA’s venerable DC-8 research aircraft.

The former U.S. Navy aviator eased the workhorse into a slot of calmer air in the 737’s wake, he said. “…[I]n that sweet spot of that secondary (wake) and just above the primary wake is where we lived the whole time and got the best science that they really loved the entire time we were out there.”

NASA and Boeing collaborated on the flights to test the effect of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) on the formation of contrails, short for condensation trails, which climatologists contribute to global warming. The 737-10 alternated between burning jet fuel and 100% SAF, while the DC-8 sampled the air in its wake.

  • Researchers say data collected will help predict when and how contrails form and SAF’s effects on contrails.
  • How much contrails contribute to global warming is not completely clear.
  • Boeing is working with supply chain to develop airplanes that can fly 100% SAF and traditional jet fuel by 2030.

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Boeing Cuts 737 Delivery Estimate in Blood Red 3Q Earnings Report

By Dan Catchpole

October 25, 2023, © Leeham News: Boeing slashed its 737 MAX delivery forecast for the year to between 375 and 400 in its third quarter earnings report on Wednesday. The company attributed the cut to rework and inspections to fix manufacturing problems in aft pressure bulkhead sections produced by beleaguered supplier Spirit AeroSystems. It maintained its 787 delivery forecast of 70 to 80 airplanes by year’s end.

Boeing recorded a loss of $1.6bn in the third quarter, its worst quarterly performance this year. The company continues to struggle with supply chain and production problems. Boeing’s defense division spilled the most red ink on the ledger book due to problems on its Air Force One (VC-25B) program and losses on a satellite contract. BDS recorded a $924mn loss. Boeing executives acknowledged that the company’s recovery is taking longer than they had expected, but they remained upbeat about stabilizing the aerospace giant in the next couple years.

  • Boeing reports worst quarterly earnings since 3Q in 2022, when it recorded $3.3bn in losses.
  • Boeing Defense, Space and Security recorded a $428mn loss on its Air Force One (VC-25B) program and a $315 million loss on a satellite contract.
  • The company continues to struggle with supply chain problems and slower-than-expected rework on the 737 program.
  • Boeing CEO says losses are a sign of the company’s commitment to a transparent culture and uncovering, rather than ignoring, problems.

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Q3 Earnings: Hexcel’s Composites Rides The OEM Production Rate Ramp Up Wave, But Margins Pressures Persist

By Chris Sloan

Oct. 25, 2023, © Leeham News  – Hexcel Corporation, a tier four carbon fiber supplier best known for its significant contributions to all-composite Boeing 787 and Airbus A350s, reported substantial overall Q3 revenues despite inflationary and production efficiency pressures. While active in other industrial programs like space and defense, industrial applications, and carbon fiber auto wheels; commercial airspace accounts for the bulk of Hexcel’s total sales. Overall, third-quarter revenue increased by 19.2% to $251.9m year-over-year.

“Hexcel continues to benefit from the post-pandemic travel recovery and from the growing pull for newer, more fuel-efficient lightweight aircraft to meet that demand and to replace aging fleets,” commented Hexcel Chief Executive Officer and President Nick Stanage during the Q3 earnings call. The company perceives itself as well positioned to supply the combined Airbus and Boeing backlog currently tallying at a record 13,775 aircraft.

The company maintains that over the next three years, build rates for narrowbody aircraft are expected to increase by nearly 50%, and build rates for widebody aircraft are expected to almost double. Stanage insists the OEMs won’t be waiting on Hexcel, like they are at others at all supply chain tiers. “This is both a challenge and a great opportunity, and Hexcel is determined to be ready to ensure our products are produced efficiently and delivered on time to our customers,” maintains Stanage. The CEO further bullishly adds, “This is truly a great time to be in the business of manufacturing lightweight composite materials.”

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Lockheed bows out, Airbus plows ahead in USAF tanker procurement; Boeing favored

By Scott Hamilton

Oct. 24, 2023, © Leeham News: Lockheed Martin Co. (LMCO) threw in the towel on Oct. 23, announcing it will not submit information to the US Air Force for the KC-Y aerial refueling tanker procurement.

Lockheed Martin drops out of the KC-Y US Air Force tanker procurement for an aerial refueling tanker. Airbus, its partner, will proceed alone. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

But its partner, Airbus, quickly said it will respond to the USAF’s Request for Information (RFI).

“Airbus remains committed to providing the U.S. Air Force and our warfighters with the most modern and capable tanker on the market and will formally respond to the United States Air Force KC-135 recapitalization RFI. The A330 U.S.-MRTT is a reliable choice for the U.S. Air Force: one that will deliver affordability, proven performance, and unmatched capabilities.”

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