A lost decade for aircraft manufacturers, suppliers

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By Judson Rollins, Bjorn Fehrm & Scott Hamilton

Sept. 21, 2020, © Leeham News: Commercial aviation is facing a lost decade due to COVID.

Yes, most forecasts target 2024-2025 as returning to 2019 passenger traffic and aircraft production levels.

However, LNA in July published its own analysis indicating full recovery may not occur until 2028. Breathless headlines notwithstanding, it will take years for vaccines to be widely available and considered safe by enough of the world’s population. Growing concern about vaccine production and distribution capacity through 2024 underscores this view. Even Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said earlier this month that business travel might not fully return for a decade.

Indeed, the 2020s may well be a lost decade for aircraft manufacturers and their supply chains.

Summary

  • Debt-laden airlines will have little money to order new airplanes
  • Interest in re-engined 787, A350 likely nil this decade
  • Airbus, Boeing, Embraer have little interest in launching new programs
  • Engine makers too financially stretched to develop new designs
  • Engineering talent, knowledge will be decimated by inevitable job reductions
  • OEMs must “play the long game” at short-term cost to safeguard their futures

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Boeing seeks to cut production costs of 787-8 to boost sales

By Scott Hamilton

Sept. 2, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing is considering production changes to the slow-selling 787-8 to lower costs and boost sales.

The effort comes at a time when global passenger traffic is at record lows and recovery of international traffic is forecast to take four or five years.

Boeing photo.

As airline traffic recovers, carriers appear to be favoring smaller aircraft in restarting suspended routes.

In recent years, Boeing discouraged sales of the 787-8 because it is a low margin airplane with high production costs. This is a legacy of the program and development difficulties from 2004-2011, when it finally entered service.

The 787-9 and 787-10 are high margin aircraft Boeing counted on to reduce the billions of dollars in deferred production and tooling costs. At one time, this exceeded $32bn.

The early program difficulties resulted in the production and parts of the -8 to be substantially different than the -9/10, which have 95% commonality. The -8 was only 30% common.

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European Regionals Face Hostile Operating Environment

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By Kathryn B. Creedy

Third in a Series. Previous articles:

Introduction

Aug. 31, 2020, (c) Leeham News: European regionals face far greater challenges than Covid and, sadly, much of what is happening to the industry is beyond its control. The result is similar to failures seen in the U.S.  Flybe’s recent loss resulted from pre-Covid problems which also led to the pre-Covid failures of such airlines as Flybmi and Cobalt.

The failures illustrate, however, the three reasons why European regionals are so fragile – low-cost competition, geography, and challenging government policy.

 

 

 

 

 

Flybe is just the latest of many regionals to cease operations owing to harsh conditions in Europe.

Summary
  • Government Policies Hardest on Regionals
  • LCC Competition Challenging
  • Consumer Protections Crushing
  • Turboprops Have Large Role

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Pontifications: WA State frets about Boeing brain drain, but it’s already happening

By Scott Hamilton

Aug. 31, 2020, © Leeham News: Elected officials and others in Washington State worry about the “brain drain” as Boeing considers whether to consolidate 787 production from Everett to Charleston.

These people are asleep at the switch and have been for some time. The brain drain is already just around the corner.

Nearly half of the membership of SPEEA, the engineers and technicians union at Boeing, are 50 years or older right now.

Almost two thirds of these are within 55-64 years old. In other words, ready for retirement right now or soon to be.

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R&D spending at Boeing plunges; Airbus yet to kick in

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

Aug. 24, 2020, © Leeham News: Research and development spending at Boeing Commercial Airplanes declined 21% in the first half this year compared with 2019.

From 2017 through 2019, BCA’s R&D spending declined 13%.

During the first half this year, Airbus Commercial airplanes R&D spending declined 1%. From 2017-2019, R&D spending increased 31%.

Boeing’s decline in 2019 vs 2018 and the first half of 2020 vs 2019 clearly reflects the grounding of the 737 MAX.

The flat spending in 2017-2018 reflects Boeing’s corporate approach of keeping R&D spending level while returning 100% of free cash flow to shareholders.

Airbus, on the other hand, was aggressively pursuing green aviation R&D, driven by a European Union that is more dedicated to green aviation than the USA is.

Summary
  • COVID-19 related R&D spending cuts may not be fully seen until the third quarter.
  • Boeing suspended R&D spending on the New Midmarket Airplane in January. Coupled with MAX grounding pressure, Boeing’s spending was already depressed.
  • Airbus said it was suspending all R&D except for the A321XLR after the global COVID devastation on air passenger demand.
  • Airbus historically outspends Boeing in R&D.

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IAM warns members: Boeing is coming for concessions on 787 consolidation study

Aug. 22, 2020, © Leeham News: The president of Boeing’s touch labor union, IAM 751, is warning members that the company study about potentially consolidating 787 production in Charleston could lead to a request for new concessions from the union.

IN a post yesterday on the union’s website, John Holden said a request from Boeing hasn’t happened yet—”however, it is something that we need to expect and prepare for, and we believe that we may be facing that threat soon.”

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Pontifications: A330neo future bleak from COVID impact

Aug. 17, 2020, © Leeham News: At least half the Airbus A330-900 skyline is with airlines that are in administration, technically insolvent or with a politically sanctioned carrier.

By Scott Hamilton

These could be characterized as in Red Alert.

The COVID-19 crisis places the remaining orders in Yellow Alert.

Airbus, as of its July website tally, has 226 A330-900s in backlog. One hundred fourteen of these, or 50.44%, are in Red Alert.

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Boeing’s Renton plant may close from 2033: Analysis

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Now open to all Readers.

Introduction

Aug. 10, 2020, © Leeham News: With Boeing likely to consolidate 787 production in Charleston (SC), reflecting a rate of 6/mo, the future of assembly in Puget Sound rears its head again.

LNA outlined Aug. 3 why Everett is the ideal location to assemble the Next Boeing Airplane (NBA).

Boeing’s product line also requires a new airplane in the 100-150 seat sector. Airbus’ A220-100/300 and, nominally, the A320neo (but not the A319neo) fill this sector. (The A320neo was originally designed as a 150-seat airplane. It now is commonly configured in the 150-180 seat size.)

Airbus has a design for an A220-500, which could replace the A320.

Boeing’s Renton (WA) 737/757 plant footprint in 1990. Source: Google Earth.

Boeing needs an efficient competitor to the current A220 plus a replacement for the 737-7 and, eventually, the -8.

And it probably won’t be assembled at the Boeing 737 plant in Renton.

Summary
  • Boeing-Embraer JV was to focus on 100-150 seat airplane.
  • Canceled deal could be revived.
  • Or Boeing could choose a new partner.
  • Moonshot would be two roughly concurrent new airplane programs.

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Pontifications: No, it’s not time to fly

Aug. 10, 2020, © Leeham News: Frontier Airlines’ CEO Barry Biffle says “it’s time to fly,” reports The Points Guy.

By Scott Hamilton

Well, good luck with that.

Air fares are ridiculously cheap. Some airlines in the US continue to block middle seats and now require passengers to wear masks throughout the flight. Extra efforts are made to clean the airplanes. (Southwest Airlines, in a truly bizarre move, ceased cleaning seat belts and arm rests between flights—two things passengers are guaranteed to touch.)

Travel count in in the US is now up to about 800,000 passengers a day. This compares with nearly 3m a day pre-COVID.

I wrote July 6 why I won’t be flying any time soon. I wasn’t concerned about the airplane experience (except for those passengers who refused to wear masks). I was concerned about the experience getting to, from and at the airports and at hotels.

Now, there’s another reason why it’s not time to fly.

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US Regional Consolidation Began Before Covid

Second in a Series on the Future of Regionals

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Introduction

By Kathryn B. Creedy

Aug. 6, 2020, (c) Leeham News: Many might assume the recent loss of three regionals – Compass, Trans States and ExpressJet – is Covid related.

What is actually happening is the long-anticipated consolidation of the regional airline industry coupled with fleet restructuring and the most recent fallout of the pilot shortage crisis that began in 2013.

Reducing the number of regional partners also streamlines the inherent inefficiencies of the regional/major model.

Summary
  • Regional airline industry is volatile.
  • Mainline-regional model broken for many years.
  • Rising costs eliminate some advantages.

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