Fundamentals of airliner performance, Part 1

By Bjorn Fehrm

As part of our premium content we provide a briefer form of our airliner performance analysis than we provide to our consulting clients. As we present this material, we presume a lot of knowledge on the part of the reader on the definitions we use and how these are employed. We thought it would be appropriate to give an easy-to-digest clinic on some of these definitions and concepts that we are using. Aired at the same time when we run our analysis series, we thereby present the background to our different analysis steps and some of the key parameters that influence these.

Leeham logo with Copyright message compactWe will provide these articles as free content to make them available to a broader audience. To make them more interesting and easy to digest we refrain from using formulas as much as possible, instead we illustrate our findings with real values from a modern aircraft , for that we have chosen the most common of them all, the Boeing 737.

We will fly this aircraft in the latest MAX 8 version on a typical short haul mission of 2.5 block hours covering a distance of 1,000 nautical miles. Starting from the cruise we will explain the factors that determine the performance of the aircraft and how we can estimate their influence. As we present the real values for the performance for the aircraft, we can also give the background to the different characteristics that contribute to the overall efficiency of the aircraft. Read more

Part 3: Boeing 757 replacement: 757 and Airbus A321neoLR versus clean sheet designs.

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Part 3 of 3


In Part 2 of our three-part 757 Replacement analysis, we took a close look at Airbus’ new 97 tonne take-off weight A321neo, revealed in a world exclusive by Leeham logo with Copyright message compactLeeham News and Comment October 21. We analyzed the A321neoLR’s capabilities and limitations when compared to Boeing 757-200W and we saw that it could do the international flights that the 757-200 does with about 25% better efficiency. In this final Part 3, we will now compare the 757 and A321neoLR against what can be Boeing’s reaction, a clean sheet New Single Aisle, NSA, or New Light Twin Aisle, (NLT). First the conclusions from Part 2:

  • When using the United Airlines-configured 757-200W international as benchmark, we came within seven seats of the 757 capacity for an A321neoLR. It covered the same range and had trip fuel costs that were 25% lower.
  • The per seat fuel costs gave a 22% higher efficiency, which was within 2% of Airbus own figures.
  • 737 MAX9 is not suitable for stretch to an international version, not because the wing is not good enough but because the MAX9 cannot bring the wing to an angle at take-off where it can work efficiently; the landing gear is too short.

For Part 3 we can summarize:

  • A New Single Aisle (NSA) or New Light Twin (NLT) which would enter the market in 2025 would be sized at around 200 passengers with subsequent variants covering the 175-225 seat market, all numbers with OEM standard two-class seating. Figure 1 shows the fuselage cross sections we have used in our modelling of NSA and NLT to cover this market segment.

NSA and NLT cross sections

Figure 1. Fuselage cross sections of our models of NSA and NLT. Source: Leeham Co.

  • In order to cover the market segment of the 737, A320 and 757 it would have a range in excess of 4,100nm. We will use 4100nm for our modeling to maximize the comparative efficiency information.
  • Its efficiency would be higher than an A321neoLR, primarily due to better engines and a more modern wing.
  • The New Light Twin (NLT) wins on comfort and ground turn-around time but pays with a larger fuselage cross section due to the extra aisle. This causes more drag and structural weight, net effect is a reduction in efficiency of around 2.5%.

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Embraer continues and refines its strategy at the low-end of 100-149 seat sector

While Airbus and Boeing slug it out in the competition for the duopoly and Bombardier struggles to gain respect as an emerging mainline jetliner producer, Embraer continues and refines its strategy in the smaller-end of the jet market with its E-Jets, E-Jet “Plus” (our term) and the E-Jet E-2.

Source: Embraer, Reprinted with permission.

Source: Embraer, Reprinted with permission.

Embraer is broadening its offering from a maximum of 122 seats to a maximum of 132 and dropping its low-end E-170 from future variants. This brings the EMB family to 90-132 seats, following the decision to undertake an extreme makeover of the current E-175/190/195 line by adapting the Pratt & Whitney P1000 Geared Turbo Fan engine to a new wing design and upgrading a variety of systems in the E-Jet E2.

New Features

 Source: Embraer. Reprinted with permission.

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Changing Domain URL for Leeham News and Comment

We have acquired a new domain name for Leeham News and Comment: There may be a lag in the transition, but try one or the other and you should get to our site.


Odds and Ends: Starting 2012

Outlook for 2012: We’ve historically provided our outlook for the coming year by taking a look at the major airframe and engine OEMs. This year, our outlook is combined with that of Ernie Arvai and Addison Schonland over at AirInsight, which also looks at the Highs and Lows of 2011.

Boeing: The Seattle Times has a good year-end wrap up/2012 Outlook.

Boeing 787: Boeing did not make its target of delivering 5-7 787s in 2011. It only delivered two. Update, 9:45am: Blogger Airline Reporter says Boeing and ANA signed the paperwork on Dec. 30 for a third 787, arguably making this a third “delivery” but ANA won’t actually take possession until Jan. 4. We had asked Boeing Jan. 1 if any more deliveries had taken place in 2011 and a Boeing spokeswoman said Boeing would not confirm deliveries until the Jan. 5 update.

Bombardier: In part 3 of its look at 2012, AirInsight has a podcast with Bombardier talking about the CSeries.

Cathay Pacific: Aspire Aviation has an in-depth look at Cathay Pacific, including future fleet acquisition prospects. Daniel Tsang believes CX favors the Boeing 747-8I over the Airbus A380 at this point in evaluation, largely on great cargo capacity and a preference for frequency over passenger capacity.

Wichita (KS): December was a bad month for the aviation center in Wichita (KS). First came the news that Boeing may not finish the KC-46A tanker there and that the entire Boeing Wichita center may close. Then Hawker Beechcraft lost a USAF contract to Brazil’s Embraer. In fact, Hawker was excluded from bidding and is suing.

Leeham News: Our readership was up 62% in 2011 over 2010. Thanks to you all.

Odds and Ends: The selling of the 707

Selling the 707: Fortune magazine reprinted this article from 1957 of the Selling of the 707. Pretty good return to nostalgia.

From Twitter: .@Boeing CFO James Bell to retire next April. Corporate Controller Greg Smith to replace him.

Republic Airways Holdings is sliding deeper into financial trouble as a result of Frontier Airlines. Aviation Week has a detailed story that reports the Embraer E190 order will be deferred and casts doubts about the viability of the Airbus A320neo and Bombardier CSeries orders. RC has an earnings call November 8.

Airline Books: Arcadia Publishing, which is largely known for specialty books about local cities, towns and topics throughout the US, has a number of books about airlines. We were at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field and discovered this line of books, which is new to us. We picked up books on Northwest Airlines and Pan Am but there are a number of others here. back up, finally: After two months (don’t ask) our corporate website is back up.

Report from Geneva

Here are our thoughts and observations from Day 1 of the Aircraft Finance conference in Geneva, Switzerland:

  • The mood here among the 300+ attendees in generally upbeat. There is a general sense that the airline industry has seen its worst and recovery is on the way. A leading indicator is the improvement in the cargo market, which is showing substantial gains year-over-year. Passenger traffic is up but premium traffic, while also showing gains, has a long way to go to recover. Even the notoriously pessimistic IATA was upbeat.
  • Aircraft financing for new airplanes is available but expensive. Aircraft financing for used aircraft is much less available.
  • The Airbus A319 and Boeing 737-700 cannot effectively compete with the Bombardier CSeries, even if re-engined, is some of the talk here. We were on a panel with James Billing of Boeing and Richard Aboulafia of The Teal Group. Billing prudently avoided being dragged into the discussion over the CSeries, sticking with market forecasts for the single-aisle segment; Aboulafia termed the CSeries a “niche” aircraft. We suggested that Airbus and  Boeing could and should “crush” the CSeries by pricing the A319RE and 737-700RE as part of a family offering in airplane campaigns with the A320/321 and 737-800/900 by offering prices on the smaller models Bombardier couldn’t hope to match with the CSeries. Boeing’s Billing and Randy Tinseth, who was in the audience, figuratively ran for the hills on this suggestion—anti-trust regulators would be all over the company on this scenario. An Airbus official in the audience caught us afterward and merely suggested this wouldn’t be a good idea. The genesis of this is that Airbus introduced the A318 to kill the McDonnell Douglas MD-95 and Boeing priced the 737-600 at a reputed $16.7m to undercut MDC’s launch customer sale to SAS. The MD-95 never recovered from the two actions; the A318 and 737-600 proved to be sales dogs.
  • There is a growing belief that the Open Rotor engine will not be a successful solution for A320/737 replacement airplanes and the second generation GTF and Leap-X engines will be.

Growing Washington Aerospace

We addressed the Governor’s Eastern Washington Aerospace Summit October 7, 2009, in Spokane, outlining a number of opportunities that aerospace in Washington State should pursue to grow.

Here is the press release on this address, and below the jump is a link to our presentation.

Washington Should Look Beyond Tradition to Grow Aerospace

Issaquah, WA, October 7, 2009: Washington State officials should look beyond traditional businesses to grow aerospace opportunities here, said Scott Hamilton, managing director of Leeham Co., in a speech today before the Eastern Washington Governor’s Aerospace Summit in Spokane.

“State officials and stakeholders understandably focus on Boeing and its supporting supplier base when it comes to Washington aerospace,” Hamilton said. “But global aerospace is changing and it is a mistake to maintain this focus. The time has come to dramatically expand thinking to adjust to realities, opportunities and new requirements of commercial and defense aviation and aerospace.”

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Leeham Co. website updated 4/15

Our Corporate Website has been updated for this week. We discuss what’s perceived by many as Boeing’s scorched earth approach to its protest over the tanker award to Northrop Grumman; and we expand our previous discussion on the financial impact of the delays for the Boeing 787.

We also have documents from Boeing related to the tanker protest.