Boeing takes a direct hit

Boeing is gearing up for a new fight over the KC-X tanker competition but out of the blue, it took a direct hit on the Airborne Laser program, which uses the 747 as the platform.

A California Member of Congress, and a Democrat at that (Ds generally tend to favor Boeing over Republicans), called the ABL program “insanity.” Politico, which covers politics but not usually defense items, gave this piece prominate placement on its website.

IAM jobs on the line: 1,113

Since the first of the year, Boeing has issued WARN (job layoff notices) for 1,113 union jobs belonging to the International Association of Machinists.

Job security was a major goal of the IAM in last year’s 57 day strike that began in September and cost Boeing billions of dollars. The IAM touted the final agreement, preserving 4,500 jobs, as a major victory.

It’s Boeing (and Airbus) against the world

We were at the ISTAT conference this week, one of the largest aviation conferences in the world, where 1,000 aviation professionals gather for the Spring Annual General Meeting to assess the current state of the market. And the state of the market is dismal.

ISTAT stands for the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading.

A major topic, perhaps the major one, was the so-called “funding gap” that exists this year: with $68 billion in aircraft financing required, nearly all observers believe there is a funding shortfall, or gap, of $10 billion to $28 billion, depending on who’s talking.

Except that Boeing, as well as Airbus, doesn’t subscribe to this theory. (Neither does the leasing company AWAS, but this firm is not out front about it.)

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As the World Churns

Only a few days ago, President Obama’s Office of the Management and Budget suggested delaying the tanker competition for five years. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that another House Member wants to split the tanker acquisition. You can see the report here, and in this case it’s free. Meantime, the conspriracy theorists actually have a pretty good one. A commenter on the DODBuzz blog thinks the delay is designed to give Boeing the opportunity to develop the 777 into a tanker. See the March 11, 9:28am posting. As conspiracy theories go, we like this one. No clue if there’s any validity to it, but the timing does work.

Update, March 12: George Talbot has this long item that the White House denies it wants to delay the tanker program.

The Hill has this piece that House Member John Murtha is preparing legislation for a split buy, with the winner getting a larger piece of the pie, and a production rate of 24 a year rather than the 12-18 originally proposed.

Update, March 13: George Talbot of The Mobile Press-Register has this piece about Boeing, Northrop and their respective supporters banding together to kill any Obama Administration proposal to delay the tanker procurement for five years, as suggested by OMB. The White House denies it has any plans to do so, but the stakeholders aren’t convinced.

Reuters reports more about John Murtha’s plan to kick-start the procurement in this item.

Uncertainty exists over fighting composite airplane fires

c. Leeham.net

Uncertainty exists over how airport fire departments will fight fires in the new composite commercial airliners, indicating that the manufacturers still have educating to do.

A top fire official at Denver International Airport, the location of the most recent airport crash and fire in the USA, believes the coming composite-based commercial airliners will require airport fire departments to change they way they fight post-impact fires. DIA is not yet served by the Airbus A380, the only commercial plane flying with more than component parts made out of composites, and the airport is not slated to be among the first served by the Boeing 787—due to enter service in early 2010.

But a platoon captain with the Los Angeles Fire Department stationed at LAX Airport, one of two US airports currently receiving service from an airliner with substantial composite construction (the A380; New York’s JFK is the other), says his airport follows substantially the same guidelines established for fighting post-impact fires of current generation airplanes.

And Boeing told the airport authorities at Everett, WA’s, Paine Field, where the 787 will perform its flight testing, that there isn’t any effective difference between a composite airplane and a traditional one.

Bill Davis, assistant fire chief of the Denver Fire Department assigned to the Denver International Airport, believes tactics have to be changed after reviewing the post-impact fire analysis of the US Air Force Northrop Grumman B-2A bomber in Guam February 23, 2008. The USAF issued its crash report in June 2008.

“This will fundamentally change everything from strategy and tactics and equipment,” Davis said. “It strikes me that we’re definitely going to have to train to and equip ourselves differently. I’ve studied fires in military composites. This (B-2A crash) is the first of an all-composite airplane; usually there are just parts that are composites.”

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Boeing’s Carson speaks at JP Morgan conference

Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Scott Carson spoke today at the JP Morgan Aviation & Transportation Conference. Summarizing:

  • Carson predicts the new entrants in Russia, China, Japan and elsewhere will learn the hard lessons learned by Airbus and Boeing.
  • There are more MROs than the world needs; consolidation will result.
  • Proposed carbon regulations in Europe have rapidly spread around the world, but it is not easing in hard economic times. Airbus and Boeing have flown aircraft with bio fuels; the challenge will be to find the bio fuel with sufficient quantities.
  • A more efficient airspace management system needed in US and Europe, reducing the carbon footprints.
  • Credit markets remain uncertain and unstable. The Germans have now decided to bail out the banks, raising further uncertainty in the credit markets.
  • Boeing’s backlog remains strong. The regional balance gives us some protection against declines in any one market.
  • The 767 has significant life and value left in it, with product improvements and the addition of winglets.
  • 787 program: all fundamental designs and technologies working well. Production issues and global supply chain coming together to perform as intended, beginning with airplane 7. Reaffirms 2Q09 first flight and 1Q10 first delivery.
  • 747-8: disappointing last year to announce a forward loss on the program ($685m). Reaffirms 3Q10 first delivery for freighter and 2Q11 first delivery for passenger model. Fulfills gap between 777-300ER and A380.
  • In the process of implementing new wing production line in 737 for more efficiencies, reduction in employee risk. Continue to pursue lean manufacturing at 737 and 777 lines.
  • Industry faces challenges for next several quarters. At Boeing, we began right-sizing in advance of market turndowns (ie, layoffs). We remain confident we have the right products and services for future. Competition will remain intense, driving value forward, better products and technologies.
  • Our focus now is on product execution; our stumbles have been embarrassing for us and for our customers on 787 and 747-8 programs. Can’t take our eyes off complex production programs. This will require us to be humble, and not taken by our word but by our actions. Through it all, we’re tougher and harder than we were two years ago. We are humbled by our mistakes.

Q&A begins.

Obama to delay tanker, says report

CQ Politics reported late Monday night that the White House has told the Pentagon to delay procurement of the KC-X tanker. See the story here.

Update, March 10: DOD Buzz has this item speculating the suggestion to cut the tanker program is nothing more than a budgetary ploy.

New analytic tool calculates emissions, range, fuel burn

A new analytic program enables users to calculate emissions, range, fuel burn, payload and other data on about 250 commercial, corporate, Western and Russian aircraft in a matter of minutes. The program, called Piano-X, is offered by Lissys Ltd. of the UK.

A free download with sample data for the Airbus A300-600, the Fokker 70 and the Boeing 787-8 is available through the websites.

Emissions regulations have been adopted in Europe and are under consideration in the US. The Obama Administration is also talking about imposing carbon taxes, though at this stage these seem to be for industry; it’s unclear if aviation will also be included in the potential legislation. Europe is already imposing taxes on airlines that fail to meet emissions standards. In calculating emissions, Piano-X can use the ICAO emissions data. Piano-X enables operators to quickly calculate emissions that will help them understand potential regulatory costs.

The User Guide details various assumptions and qualifications in calculating emissions.

Piano-X also has aircraft performance analysis on a wide variety of metrics. Airbus undertook its own analysis that concluded the initial 787s will fall significantly short of advertised ranges, capable of operating less than 7,000nm. Aeromexico last week told Flight International it expects the 787 it has ordered to fall short of range targets—also identifying 7,000nm. Boeing denied the Airbus conclusion and did not comment to Flight on the Aeromexico statement.

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Tanker contest gearing up

The Department of Defense’s JROC (a joint requirement group) met to consider what to do about the next round of the KC-X tanker competition, and US Sen. John McCain threw cold water on the idea promoted by US Rep. John Murtha about a split buy between Northrop Grumman and Boeing.

Boeing delivered its third KC-767J to Japan last week while EADS, partner of Northrop, promoted a milestone for its KC-30A Australian MRTT tanker.

Boeing has yet to deliver its first KC-767I to the Italians.

Boeing reorganizes Wichita ahead of strike vote

Boeing internally announced a reorganization of its Wichita Integrated Defense System ahead of a strike vote by the engineers union, SPEEA, that has an April 2 strike date.

Renewed contract negotiations collapsed earlier this week without an agreement.

Boeing “announces changes to the Wichita Engineering team, to include Product Support. This organizational change is in alignment with previously stated objectives to; double the Global Services & Support business within five years, execute on current work to meet customer expectations and financial objectives, and focus on performance and productivity,” to company said in a communication to employees.

Although Wichita is an IDS facility, SPEEA engineers also work on the development of the 747-8. A strike would affect work on this already-delayed program, now 9-12 months late. But SPEEA engineers have been told to prepare a transfer of engineering on the 747-8 to Boeing’s Moscow Design Engineering unit, we’re told.

Update, 3:30 PM: We just received this word from SPEEA about the Irving, TX, BAE Systems operation:

“We received notice that they are laying-off more than 500 people (out of 1000) and outsourcing the work to Mexico.  This essentially wipes-out the SPEEA bargaining unit at the facility.”

BAE Systems is a supplier to Boeing and Airbus and, in 2008, ranked fifth as a contractor to the US Department of Defense. BAE Systems is a UK company.

(We can’t resist noting that for all those who complain about the prospect of Northrop Grumman/EADS/Airbus winning the tanker contract and shipping all those jobs “overseas,” noone seems to take any notice or care that BAE (#6 in 2007, now #5 in 2008) is a foreign company.)