Looking ahead to 2014

Here’s what to look for in 2014 in commercial aviation.

Airbus

A350 XWB: The high-profile A350 XWB program continues flight testing this year. Entry-into-service has been a sliding target. The program is running about 18 months behind original plan and EIS was intended for mid-year following initial delays. Even this has slipped, first to September and then to “the fourth quarter.” Currently first delivery is scheduled in October to launch customer Qatar Airways, which is slated to get four A350-900s this year. Emirates Airlines is listed as getting two of the total of six scheduled for delivery.

A320neo: Lost in the shadow of the A350 program is the A320neo. Final assembly of the first aircraft is to begin in the spring and first flight, followed by testing, is scheduled for this fall. The Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan is the initial variant. First delivery is scheduled in the fall of 2015.

Others: Airbus continues to evaluate whether to proceed with developing an A330neo. Based on our Market Intelligence, we expect a decision to proceed will come this year. Concurrently with this, we expect most if not all of the remaining 61 orders for the A350-800 to be upgraded to the A350-900 and the -800 program to be officially rescheduled if not dropped. The -800 is currently supposed to enter service in 2016, followed by the A350-1000 in 2017. But recall that as delays mounted on the A350-900, Airbus shifted engineers to the -900 and the -1000 at the expense of the -800. Salesmen have consistently shifted orders from the -800 to the larger models. We long ago anticipated the -800’s EIS would be rescheduled to 2018, following the -1000. The -800’s economics aren’t compelling enough just justify the expensive list price. So we expect Airbus to upgrade the A330 to a new engine option, using either or both of the Trent 1000 TEN and GEnx with PIPs (Performance Improvement Packages) or with some modifications. EIS would be about 2018. This precludes Pratt & Whitney from offering a large version of the Geared Turbo Fan, which wouldn’t be ready by then.

We also expect Airbus and the engine makers to look at re-engining the A380, driven by desires of Emirates Airlines to see a 10% economic improvement. Emirates announced an order for 50 A380s at the Dubai Air Show but instead of ordering the incumbent engine from Engine Alliance for these, Emirates left the engine choice open. This leaves open the possibility the A330neo and the “A380RE” could share an engine choice.

Boeing

After many years of turmoil, 2014 should be quiet for Boeing (now that the IAM issues have been resolved—see below).

787: Barring any untoward and unexpected issues, Boeing seems at long last to be on an upward trajectory with this program—but we’ve said this before. There are still nagging dispatch and fleet reliability issues on the 787-8 fleet to resolve, but flight testing of the 787-9 appears to be going well. Certification and first delivery should come without trouble this year, to launch customer Air New Zealand.

737: Nothing to report on the Next Generation program except ramp-up to a production rate of 42/mo is to take effect this year. Development continues on the 737 MAX.

Others: The 777 Classic is humming along. Now that the 777X is launched, we’ll be closely watching sales for the Classic; Boeing has a three year backlog but six years to 777X’s EIS. How is Boeing going to fill this gap, and what kind of price cuts will be offered to do so?

The 747-8 continues to struggle, barely holding on. Boeing says it thinks the cargo market will recover this year, boosting sales of the 747-8F. We’re dubious.

The 767 commercial program continues to wind down. The 767-based KC-46A program ramps up.

Read more

A330neo prospect gains traction

Note: The following was distributed to our e-mail list December 23. Last week, American Airlines (as predicted) swapped the A350-800s for A350-900s.

The possibility of Airbus launching an A330 new engine option appears to be gaining ground.

Our Market Intelligence tells us that Airbus is considering a decision soon, probably next year, with a target entry-into-service date of 2018.

A decision to proceed with an A330neo would come after one to drop the A350-800, according to our information. Airbus has systematically switched -800 customers to the larger, and more profitable A350-900 and A350-1000. There are now just 79 A350-800s in backlog.

Customer

Qty

Comments

Aeroflot

8

 

Aircraft Purchase Fleet

12

For Alitalia

Asiana

8

 

AWAS

2

Probably will swap to A359

Hawaiian Airlines

6

Waiting on US Airways

ILFC

6

Probably will swap to A359

Kingfisher

5

Good as gone

Libyan

4

 

US Airways

18

Expected to disappear now that AA merger completed, replaced with A359/A351

Yemenia

10

 

Source: Airbus, Nov. 2013

79

 Leeham Co Chart

We identify 37, or 47%, that probably are already at risk of cancellation in favor of the larger A350-900 or A350-1000. These 37 are highlighted in red and pink. Another 10, those for Yemenia, are probably already iffy, according to Market Intelligence. The total of 47 represents 59% of the backlog. We have no information on the remaining customers’ intentions.

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Assessing the Air Canada 737 order: factors that likely played a role

How did Boeing win the Air Canada mainline 150-200 seat jet order when only a couple of weeks ago Flight Global reported the Airbus won the deal?

We, too, heard that Airbus seemed to be the favorite, but the information was soft. We’re not rapping Flight Global—undoubtedly it was confident in its sourcing, but this just shows that a situation can change dramatically and quickly.

We’ve been following the competition for months, behind the scenes, and here are factors we understood that were involved.

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Odds and Ends: AirAsia on A330neo, A380; 777X specificiations; A380 engine PIPs

AirAsia on Airbus: AirAsia Group is one of Airbus’ largest customers, and its CEO Tony Fernandes is increasingly influential in the Asian sector. He’s also into car racing, often betting Virgin Group’s Richard Branson. This short interview details Fernandes’ view on the prospective A330neo–something Fernandes has been pushing for some time–and what he thinks Airbus should do with the A380.

Looking at the 777X: Aviation Week has a detailed look at the Boeing 777X “under the skin.” Fuel burn, engine thrust and general specifications are in the article. Aviation Week also has a series of videos from the Dubai Air Show here. Topics: 777X, Qatar Airways and A380 engines. On the latter, Emirates CEO Tim Clark suggests putting the new GE9X or Rolls-Royce Trent on the A380 to reduce fuel burn by 10%.

Airbus’ A350-800 dilemma

Last week we discussed Airbus’ A350-1000 dilemma. The -1000 will be a fine airplane, but we concluded the company needs to go forward with a larger capacity “A350-1100” to match the size of the Boeing 777-9X, but take the Boeing 787-10 approach and be content with sacrificing range in lieu of designing a new wing and engines.

Airbus’ A350 dilemma doesn’t end there. What’s it to do with the A350-800? One fleet planner told us a year or more ago that the “-800 is an expensive A330-300” with the same operating costs as the larger capacity A350-900.

Airbus has been encouraging customers to move up to the larger A350-900, with Hawaiian Airlines and US Airways the key hold outs. Conventional wisdom says US Airways will swap its order once the merger with American Airlines goes through (which is looking more and more likely, given settlement talks with the Department of Justice). American has a large order for the Boeing 787-9, making the -800 unnecessary in a combined carrier fleet plan.

There are now around 80 -800s in Airbus’ backlog, and even officials at Airbus have been ambiguous about green-lighting production of the -800, which is supposed to enter service in 2016 (after the -900 but before the -1000). We have written several posts in which we concluded the -800 would be re-sequenced to 2018, after the 2017 EIS of the -1000.

We believe there is a very good chance the A350-800 will be dropped in favor of proceeding with an A350-1100.

So what’s Airbus to do in the 250-300 seat space now occupied by the -800 and the aging A330 family?

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Odds and Ends: Supply chain demands; Southwest hints?; Retrospective on A320/737 replacements

Supply chain demands: Earlier this week, we talked about the prospect of production wars as Airbus and Boeing ramp up over the next five years, combined with the new entrants and the new offerings from Bombardier and Embraer.

We noted that this will mean opportunity and risk for the supply chain. Ryan Murphy from Salem Partners has a long analysis the starts with the finishing sector but which goes beyond this to discuss the broader implications. It makes for an interesting read.

Southwest: Hints of things to come? Yesterday we wrote about Southwest Airlines and the demise of the Wright Amendment that restricts travel from Dallas Love Field. We suggested several routes that Southwest would launch from Love once the Amendment passes into history.

Here’s a display Southwest erected on its countdown to the end of the Wright Amendment. We think it hints at things to come. Going clockwise: Chicago, New York and Charlotte seem to be where the airplanes are going. Then Los Angeles and Salt Lake City seem to be implied destinations. But the last one? Boise, or some other obscure city?

Or are we reading too much into the placement of these airplanes?

Source: Dallas Morning News

Our thoughts:

WN Love Field

Retrospective: We were looking at previous posts for some specific information and in the process re-read one about replacing the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. The post dates from 2009. In light of subsequent events, it makes for interesting re-reading. We discuss the internal views of Airbus and Boeing about replacement or re-engining their aircraft and the engines from Pratt & Whitney and GE Aviation/CFM. We also touch on Boeing leaning toward not replacing the 777.

Retrospective, Part 2: Airchive has a nice set of historical looks at the development of the Boeing factory at Everett: Part One and Part Two.

Odds and Ends: Airbus optimistic on A380 sales; second A350 joins test fleet; CSeries factory progress

A380 Sales: Orders for the Airbus A380 have been dismal, but Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus parent EADS, sees a turn-around in sales. With the forthcoming Boeing 777-9X, which at 400 seats is considerably smaller than the 525-seat A380, Airbus sees the need to undertake Performance Improvement Packages (PIPs) to improve the economics of the A380. Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airlines and the largest customer by for the A380, has publicly said he wants to see the A380’s engine makers (Engine Alliance in his case) incorporate newer technology from the GEnx and the 777X’s GE9X and Pratt & Whitney’s GTF into the GP7200. The GP7200 is a JV of GE and Pratt & Whitney.

Airbus is also offering an 11-abreast coach seating in the A380, which would add 40 more seats and lower the cost per available seat mile (CASM) accordingly.

The A380 has proved more economical than Airbus expected, but needs a large load factor of at least 75% (393 passengers at the 525 seat configuration) to be profitably, Enders said. In today’s environment, this is achievable but it also demonstrates the risk inherent to Very Large Aircraft (VLA). According to our airline sourcing that has analyzed the airplanes, smaller aircraft, such as the 777X, Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 787-10 have similar seat mile economics but lower plane-mile costs without the capacity risk. One airline tells us that “if you can fill the A380 and 747-8,” the airplanes have their place. The four-engine VLAs also are better in the hot-and-hgih environment for engine-out and field performance. But clearly these high capacity and hot-and-high markets are limited.

Enders also commented on the progress of the A350 flight test program. This story has detail.

A350 Flight Testing: The second Airbus A350 flight test vehicle has joined the test program.

CSeries Factory: Airchive has a long look at the program in building the new factory for the Bombardier CSeries.

Asiana 777 crashes in SFO

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crash-landed at San Francisco Airport Saturday, killing at least two. This is the first fatal crash involving a 777.

Investigators will certainly look at whether fuel line icing may be a factor, which was traced to be the cause of the only other 777 accident, British Airways at London several years ago, also a crash-landing situation. Early news reports seem to reflect a similarity in the flight profile between the two flights. As readers know, we’re traveling and we don’t have access to our files to determine if Asiana uses Rolls-Royce engines, which are those used on BA and which were susceptible to icing.

GE engines on the 777-300ER have more recently come under some scrutiny for issues, and we’d expect investigators to consider whether there is any connection if Asiana uses GE on its 777-200s. This would be a natural course of considering all possible factors.

Other factors that will be looked at: human error, mechanical problems and controlled flight into terrain (CFIT).

Update, 5pm GMT: With the knowledge now that the engines are PW, fuel icing as a cause seems pretty unlikely, but CVR and FDR readouts will indicate engine performance parameters. Although weather doesn’t appear to be a factor, it will be evaluated for the prospect of any clear air windshear or other conditions that could be a contributing cause.

Statements by the airline officials at this point that there wasn’t any pilot error or mechanical issues are entirely premature, given when the statements were made the data recorders hadn’t been recovered much less read.

Closely looking at a photo seems to indicate the aft pressure bulkhead in place, meaning the tail severed aft it it.