Suppliers remain hunkered down as pandemic recovery may stall

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

March 8, 2021, © Leeham News: Aerospace suppliers continue to struggle even as passenger airlines begin to gingerly place new aircraft orders and Boeing resumes production of the 737 MAX.

Airbus continues to produce the A320, A330 and A350 at lower production rates than the pre-pandemic era. Boeing is at low-rate production for the 737 MAX, after a 20-month grounding. The 777 is down to 2/mo and the 787 goes to 5/mo this month. At least two aerospace analysts on Wall Street think the 787 rate could come down further.

Airbus and Boeing each received a handful of orders so far this year.

But suppliers continue to struggle.

Summary
  • Airbus, Boeing continue to extend payments.
  • Smaller suppliers seek bankruptcies.
  • Larger suppliers remain in “hunker down” mode.

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“I’m sure glad 2020 is in the rear view mirror.”–David Calhoun, Boeing CEO

By Scott Hamilton

David Calhoun, Boeing CEO. Source: CNBC.

Jan. 27, 2021, © Leeham News: “I’m sure glad 2020 is in the rear view mirror.”

This was Boeing CEO David Calhoun’s opening statement in his appearance today on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

Calhoun appeared on the financial news network following the release of its 2020 full year financial results.

“The one big charge was for the 777X program,” Calhoun said. Boeing took a forward pre-tax charge of $6.5bn for the program. Carter Copeland of Melius Research noted in a video this morning that this probably was related to an adjustment in the accounting block. Calhoun said on CNBC that Boeing adjusted the accounting block, which has not been publicly announced, as part of the charge.

“Based on everything we learned in the 737 MAX recertification effort, we put more time into the 777X effort. It’s going to be a little more costly and take more time to certify,” he said.

Calhoun expects the 777X will be a big money maker in the future.

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Small jet demand likely to stay depressed after COVID

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By Judson Rollins

Introduction 

January 25, 2020, © Leeham News: As passenger travel trickles back to life, one trend that’s already apparent is a long-term diminution of airline yields in most regions.

This is largely driven by a reduction in business travel, some of which is likely to never return.

Regional jets and small single-aisles like the Airbus A220 and Embraer’s E2 family have higher unit cost, or cost per available seat-mile (CASM), than larger aircraft like the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320.

Achieving an operating profit with smaller jets requires high unit revenue, or revenue per available seat-mile (RASM). This will be difficult to achieve in a world where business travel is still down 70%-80% this year, even with a vaccine – and may be down 30% or more permanently.

What role will these smaller jets have after the pandemic? And will production match this new reality? A closer look is required.

Summary

  • Regional jets and smaller single-aisles have higher unit costs.
  • High costs require higher unit revenue to be profitable.
  • Business travel likely slow to return, with some permanently impaired.
  • Smaller jets previously used for routes now in danger of demand fragmentation.

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Boeing’s Calhoun completes first year as CEO

By the Leeham News Team

Jan. 13, 2021, © Leeham News: Today marks the first anniversary of David Calhoun becoming CEO of The Boeing Co.

Calhoun’s first year faced challenges unprecedented in Boeing’s history. There was the 737 MAX crisis. Sales of the 777X were stagnant. The balance sheet was stressed.

And then COVID exploded, all but destroying commercial passenger demand and with it, ability by airlines to take delivery of new airplanes.

David Calhoun. Source: CNBC.

Boeing’s balance sheet went further upside down. Production and quality control problems with the 787 emerged.

Finally, Calhoun was afflicted with a case of foot-in-mouth disease. This contrasted with his calm, well-received initial public face during the waning days of then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s stilted public persona.

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Outlook 2021: Boeing needs boring, Airbus looks for recovery

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By Scott Hamilton and Vincent Valery

Introduction

Jan. 5, 2021, © Leeham News: What’s in store for Airbus and Boeing this year?

Boeing needs a boring year.

Airbus is clearly better positioned than Boeing.

Twenty-twenty one is a year of recovery for Boeing. It must dig out from a very deep hole.

Airbus reported that it hit cash break-even in the third quarter. But the company is not out of the woods yet.

Everything depends on something largely out of their control: how quickly the airline industry recovers from the COVID pandemic.

Summary

  • Boeing hopes to deliver about half of the 450 stored MAXes this year.
  • Low-rate production inches up for the 737.
  • Widebody sales dried up for Airbus and Boeing.

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Outlook 2021: Despite vaccines, COVID-19 will continue to dominate aviation in the coming year

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By Judson Rollins

Introduction

Vaccine containers in an air freight container. Source: UPS.

Jan. 4, 2021, © Leeham News: Recent approval of two major vaccine candidates are driving euphoria among aviation investors, employees, and travelers. Many commentators are talking about a “return to normal” later this year.

Alan Greenspan’s famous phrase, “irrational exuberance,” comes to mind. Vaccine approvals provide reason for hope, but not in the near term. Even Singapore’s government, one of the world’s most efficient, says it will need most of 2021 to fully vaccinate its population.

On the other end of the economic spectrum, Duke University’s Global Health Institute says low-income countries may have to wait until 2024 if high-income countries continue to reserve vaccines for their own populations.

Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, which have released efficacy data on their vaccines and are now obtaining approval from various jurisdictions, announced a combined capacity to produce vaccines for up to 3.1bn people by the end of 2021. China’s Sinovac claims it will be able to produce 600m doses, but it is still evaluating the efficacy of its vaccine candidate.

Summary
  • Reluctance to take vaccine likely to slow rollout
  • Borders re-opening depends on rollout, proof of vaccination
  • Pre-travel testing may be a dubious solution
  • Business, leisure travel likely to be permanently impacted
  • Airline financial woes likely to continue
  • New aircraft demand will stay low in 2021

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Pontifications: 2020 Retrospective–the worst ever seen

By Scott Hamilton

Dec. 21, 2020, © Leeham News: This is my last Pontification of 2020. I’ll be off between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

It’s only fitting to look back at what is the worst year in commercial aviation—ever.

I’ve just completed my 41st year in this industry. I’ve seen two Gulf Wars, SARS, 9/11, the Great Recession and several economic cycles.

Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas exited the commercial airliner business.

I’ve seen three groundings: the McDonnell Douglas DC-10, Boeing 787 and 737 MAX. I’ve been on site of two significant crashes: the American Airlines DC-10 in Chicago and Delta Air Lines’ 727 in Dallas. I flew over a third, a Delta L-1011 in Dallas the day after it happened.

I worked for the first new airline certified by the Civil Aeronautics Board in 40 years, the first Midway. I also went through one bankruptcy and one merger, each part of the deregulation shake-out.

As a reporter, I covered some of the business giants, including Bob Crandall, Herb Kelleher, John Leahy and others.

It’s been a great four decades.

But nothing compares to the global industry disaster of 2020.

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HOTR: Boeing hopes for break in China order drought after electors vote for Biden:

By the Leeham News Team

Nov. 30, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing hopes the three-year order drought from China may come to an end next month.

The order, according to market intelligence, would be a boost for the slow-selling 777X. It could also mean new orders for the 787. Orders for the latter dropped significantly enough to prompt Boeing’s decision to shutter the Everett 787 production line next year. Production for the 787 will be consolidated in Charleston (SC).

Dec. 14 is when US presidential electors meet to cast their votes for Joe Biden or President Donald Trump, making official the projected winner. Biden won 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232 in projections by all the major media. With almost all votes counted—and in some cases, recounted—Biden has 51.1% of the vote to Trump’s 47.2%. Biden received 80.1m votes to Trump’s 73.9m. The margin was nearly 6.2m.

China hasn’t ordered a Boeing airplane since 2017. Trump launched a trade war with China that escalated several times. He charged, without evidence, that China interfered with the US presidential election.

Boeing hopes for a major order from China as early as December. Included would be a sorely needed order for the 777X. (Shown: Boeing 777-300ER.) Photo source: Boeing.

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HOTR: Don’t get over-optimistic on COVID-19 vaccine news

By the Leeham News team

Nov. 10, 2020, © Leeham News: Pfizer yesterday announced it’s on track to produce a COVID-19 vaccine that appears to be 90% effective in trials. The company is one of the world’s leading drug makers.

This is good news.

But before jumping to the old cliché about a light at the end of the tunnel, LNA’s Judson Rollins cautions, do the math.

“Read the fine print at the end of the press release,” Rollins says.

“Based on current projections, we expect to produce globally up to 50m vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3b doses in 2021,” the press release says.

“It’s a two-dose vaccine, so divide by two to figure the number of people who could be immunized,” Rollins says. “Even if a second candidate is approved and can be produced in the same quantity next year, that means just 17% of the world’s population will be vaccinated. And that assumes everything goes according to plan.”

Rollins did an extensive analysis of how quickly global air traffic would return to normal. In his July 13 post, Rollins projected that traffic won’t fully recover until 2024 at the earliest or 2028 at the latest. It all depends on how quickly a vaccine was developed, how quickly it could be distributed globally and how quickly people had confidence in it.

“We’re in only the second or maybe third inning of a very long ball game,” Rollins says. “Vaccines kill off a virus by denying it bodies in which to reproduce. If you don’t innoculate enough of the population while immunity lasts, you’re back to square one.”

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Boeing needs 737 replacement launch by 2026 if not sooner

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

Nov. 9, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing needs hundreds of new orders for the 737 MAX and/or a new replacement program launch by 2026, if not sooner.

An analysis shows that 737 deliveries tank by 2028.

This isn’t just about the 737-10 and 737-9, which don’t fare well against the Airbus A321neo. The shrinking backlog is the problem.

Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, said last week Boeing will delay delivery/entry into service of the 737-10 MAX by up to two years.

This largely stated the obvious.

The first 10 MAX rolled out of the factory Nov. 22 last year. It could not enter flight testing because the MAX family was grounded March 13. The MAX remains grounded. Recertification may come this month, but it appears more likely next month.

Boeing 737-10. Source: Boeing.

This delays the start of flight testing until probably January. This is a 14-month delay.

Flight testing will take a year to 15 months, or to January to March 2022—about two years after the planned EIS. Boeing’s production ramp up will further impact delivery of the 10 MAX.

Although some recent new focus was on the 10 MAX, the larger issue is the entire 737 family.

Summary
  • Production ramp up will be slow.
  • Inventory will take two years to clear.
  • Airline demand is poor the next 2-3 years.
  • Boeing’s breadwinner sees major delivery drop from 2026.
  • A further drop by 2028 demonstrates need for a 737 replacement—not just an A321 competitor.

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