De-carbonisation of air transport is ON

By Bjorn Fehrm

July 20, 2021, © Leeham News: Last week was a game-changing week for air transport. Three events synchronized to trigger it.

EU presented 13 policies to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with concrete steps in-between. On the same day, the airframe and engine OEM’s CTOs said in a Farnborough Connect webcast: “It’s a commitment problem, not a technical problem to achieve the EU goals.”

This happened against a backdrop of European floodings, which made all discussions about climate change or not moot. Super-organized Germany lost over 100 persons to typhoon like rains, never seen before, that produced scenes like these: https://twitter.com/Aviation_Intel/status/1416215953080205321?s=20

Figure 1. Farnborough Connect, from top-left: Moderator Johnson, Boeing’s Hussein, GE’s Lorence, Rolls-Royce’s Stein, SAFRAN’s Dalbier, Raytheon Technologies’  Russel, and Airbus’ Klauke.

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CFM announces the RISE engine program

June 14, 2021, © Leeham News: GE and SAFRAN took to the stage today to announce the extension of their CFM joint venture to 2050 and the CFM technology program RISE.

RISE stands for Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines, and it elevates previous work to new levels and introduces some news.

Figure 1. The RISE Open Rotor engine as presented by CFM. Source: CFM.

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Pontifications: AerCap and GECAS to combine — assessing the impact

By Scott Hamilton

March 15, 2021, © Leeham News: GE Corp.’s decision to sell its mega-leasing unit, GECAS, to AerCap represents a huge shift in commercial aviation.

For decades, GECAS was the largest lessor in the world. One of GE’s best profit centers, GECAS was a major source of financing to airlines. The lessor purchases and leases back airliners, as do most lessors, as well as initiating leases with orders received directly from the OEMs. GECAS’ scale was a magnitude or two larger than most competitors.

The closest competitor was International Lease Finance Corp., a unit of insurance giant AIG. ILFC’s leadership liked to boast the asset value of ILFC’s smaller fleet was greater than GECAS, which while larger had more older airplanes in its portfolio.

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The A350, Part 9: The A350-1000 versus 777-300ER

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

March 11, 2021, © Leeham News: Last week, we started analyzing the Airbus A350-1000 and compared it with the Boeing 777-300ER.

We now fly the airplanes on a demanding route, close to their maximum range, the LAX to Hong Kong sector. How much better is the 14 years younger A350-1000?

Summary
  • The A350-1000 is the logical replacement for a 777-300ER if a same capacity replacement is sought.
  • The carbon-fiber structure, a more advanced wing, and newer engines give the A350-1000 convincing arguments for the change.

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The A350, Part 5: The A350-900 versus 777-200ER

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

February 11, 2021, © Leeham News: Last week, we started analyzing the main member of the Airbus A350 family, the A350-900. It’s the design center for the A350 family and has so far 747 orders, of which 354 are delivered.

Over 1,000 Boeing 777 airliners in the market need replacement, and the A350-900 targets about half of these, the 777-200 and -200ER. Delta is one airline that started the switch from 777-200ER to A350-900. How much does Delta stand to gain?

Summary
  • The 777-200ER broke the ground for oceanic twin-engine flights. It offered an improved economy on trans-oceanic routes.
  • Airliner technology advanced for the 18 years younger A350-900, spurred on by Boeing’s technical leaps with the 787 Dreamliner.
  • As the A350-900 employed these gains in the 777-200ER size class, it does to the 777-200ER what it did to Airbus A340-300, it wins the economy race hands down. Read more

The A350, Part 3: The A350-800 versus A330-900

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

January 28, 2020, © Leeham News: Last week, we analyzed the smallest member of the Airbus A350 family, the A350-800. After Airbus changed the variant to a non-optimal “cut and shut” variant, it was no longer competitive.

Airbus froze the development of the A350-800 and then let it slip out of the program (it’s never officially canceled). The A330neo became the replacement for the A350-800. Was this the right decision? Is the A330neo the better airplane?

Summary
  • We saw the A350-800 in its final form had a problem competing with Boeing’s 787. This created a problem for the Airbus widebody program below 300 seats.
  • After a thorough investigation, Airbus found a way to update the A330 to take the place of the A350-800. We use our airliner performance model to find out how well the replacement performs.

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The A350, Part 2: Analyzing the A350-800

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

January 21, 2020, © Leeham News: Before the holidays, we started a series to look into Airbus’ A350 family. We analyzed the development program and how the variants have sold.

Initially, the A350-800 won about 180 orders. But as the market received more information about the smaller variant, the more it realized it wasn’t an optimal airplane. It was never officially canceled. But orders was up-gauged to the A350-900. Airbus decided the variant wasn’t competitive and developed the A330neo instead. We now look into why.

Summary
  • The A350-800 was positioned as Airbus’ main defense against Boeing’s new 787-9, the most efficient variant of the Dreamliner.
  • As the A350 program was delayed, the A350-800 moved from an optimized variant to a “cut and shut” version. This compromised its efficiency.
  • Gradually Airbus changed its strategy how to compete with the 787.

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Outlook 2021: Turboprops challenged

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By Judson Rollins & Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

Jan. 11, 2021, © Leeham News: COVID-19 may ultimately prove to be a net positive for turboprop manufacturers. Near-term orders will be pinched just as for jets, but a long-term loss of business travel and the resulting impact to airline yields will make turboprops’ superior unit costs appealing for shorter missions.

Turboprop engines create their thrust with a very high bypass ratio. The result is 30% better fuel economy than a jet. But it also means 30% lower speed. This limits turboprops to stage lengths to about half that of jets.

The market-dominating ATR and De Havilland Canada (DHC) turboprops use this base efficiency to compete against newer regional jets despite having designs which are 20 years older.

ATR-72-600 Source: Wikipedia.

Summary
  • Turboprops have attractive economics, making them a larger part of the market post-COVID.
  • ATR-72, DHC-8-400 turboprops are old designs.
  • The only new turboprops come from Russia (Ilyushin I-114) and China (Xian MA700), limiting their market reach.
  • Embraer is keen to enter the market with a new clean-sheet design.
  • Continued dominance by ATR, DHC depends on whether Embraer goes ahead.

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The A350, Part 1: Intro and A350-800

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction

Dec. 17, 2020, © Leeham News: After running a series on the Dreamliner, LNA will now start a series on Airbus’ latest-generation twin-aisle aircraft, the A350. Airbus should deliver its 400th A350 this month.

After a delayed ramp-up to 10 units per month, Airbus had to cut the A350 production rate to five per month after the COVID-19 pandemic. The European OEM might have to follow Boeing’s footsteps and reduce twin-aisle production rates further.

The A350 program has an official backlog of 532 orders: 415 for the -900 and 117 for -1000. Once passenger traffic recovers, Airbus should ramp production back up of its best-selling twin-aisle aircraft.

Despite its success, the A350 program wasn’t without hiccups. There were several and sizable iterations before Airbus finalized the A350 platform, and the -800 variant is non-existent but not officially canceled.

Summary
  • A few iterations before launch;
  • Development without significant issues;
  • An in-favor aircraft family;
  • The aborted A350-800.

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Enhancing the Dreamliner, Part 8: Wrap Up

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By Bjorn Ferhm and Vincent Valery

Introduction  

Nov. 26, 2020, © Leeham News: After analyzing the three members of the Dreamliner family on several routes out of San Francisco to Asian destinations, we conclude the series with a wrap- up of what we learned.

Summary
  • A guinea pig for new technologies and processes;
  • After a long slough against problems, a resounding commercial success;
  • Size-wise, ideally-positioned for the post-COVID world;
  • Future enhancements.

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