Pontifications: Recertification flights for Boeing 737 MAX appear close

By Scott Hamilton

June 29, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing may be set to begin recertification flights of the 737 MAX as early as today, The Seattle Times reported last week.

Testing will take three days, if all goes well. But Boeing still has a lot of work to do to fully satisfy regulators.

According to The Times, Transport Canada and Europe’s EASA require additional modifications to enhance safety on the MAX. The additional changes may not be required for certification but must be done within a year, the paper reports. The MAX 10 must have the changes before it is certified.

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An accelerating widebody fleet streamlining, Part 1

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction  

June 1, 2020, © Leeham News: As airlines slashed capacity in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, some took the opportunity to accelerate aircraft retirements.

Older generation twin-aisle aircraft, notably the Airbus A340, older A330s, Boeing 747 and 767, have exited numerous carrier’s fleet early. Several Airbus A380 operators put their Superjumbos in long-term storage, wondering whether these will ever fly in passenger service again.

Major crises tend to accelerate existing trends. The move away from large twin-aisle aircraft is a case in point. In the context of subdued demand for several years, airlines will be under pressure to reduce expenses. Streamlining fleets is an obvious target.

The Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families dominated the single-aisle market for decades. The picture has historically been far more fragmented for twin-aisle aircraft. Airbus and Boeing still have three widebody aircraft families apiece with significant numbers of passenger aircraft in service.

LNA analyzes in two-part articles why the picture will likely change for the widebody market in the 2020s. In the first part, we will take a historical detour to analyze why twin-aisle fleets are still so fragmented nowadays.

Summary
  • Range going hand in hand with aircraft size;
  • Change in the 1990s;
  • Superjumbo gamble backfires;
  • Full widebody fleet streamlining becomes a reality.

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Pontifications: The nuts and bolts of air disasters

March 9, 2020, © Leeham News: Commercial aviation accidents are high profile news events.

By Scott Hamilton

These happen rarely. Many times, a lot of people are killed. (It should be noted that often survivors may outnumber those killed as safety improved.)

In this era of 24/7 cable news and minute-by minute social media, everyone wants instant answers as to causes.

Finding answers is not simple. A typical accident investigation usually takes 12-18 months before the investigators issue a final report with a probable cause.

One reason for this is that sometimes, the cause of an accident comes down to a single bolt, or even a single cotter pin.

This is where the new book, Flight Failure, Investigating the Nuts and Bolts of Air Disasters and Aviation Safety, serves to remind us of just how intricate accident investigation is.

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Pontifications: Stop hitting the snooze button, Boeing

By Scott Hamilton

Dec. 9, 2019, © Leeham News: I know Boeing is preoccupied right now. But it has to get off the pot and decide to proceed with a new airplane.

We believe the New Midmarket Airplane is still required. But Boeing salesmen have also floated the concept of a new, single-aisle airplane to key players in the market. Either way, Boeing has to do something.

At least, that’s how we see it at Leeham Co.

The order last week by United Airlines for 50 Airbus A321XLRs should be a wake up call.

It’s not the only one Boeing has had.

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Pontifications: Airbus-the First 50 Years

Book Review

By Scott Hamilton

July 8, 2019, © Leeham News: When a company authorizes or sponsors a book about some major event, the book is usually a puff piece meant for the coffee table in reception.

Airbus authorized the book, Airbus: The First 50 Years, but it’s no puff piece. It’s an honest, candid accounting of how the company came to be, navigating through country and corporate politics, face offs with rival Boeing, reporting the insider trading allegations and ending with the as-yet unfinished corruption scandal investigations.

Nicola Clark, the aerospace reporter for the International Herald Tribune, did a superb job up to her usual reporting standards while avoiding the puff pieces that usually come with an authorized book.

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Pontifications: The 747 revolutionized air travel

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 11, 2019, © Leeham News: Few airplanes truly can be called revolutionary. Most are evolutionary.

The Boeing 747 was one of those that falls into the former category.

Just as the Boeing 707 revolutionized air travel, so did the 747.

The spaciousness and, after a period of engine difficulties, the economics put the 747 into a class by itself.

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Tanker wars may be back

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Introduction

Dec. 10, 2018, © Leeham News: The tanker wars may be back.

Airbus has teamed with Lockheed Martin to offer the Airbus A330-200MRTT to the Pentagon in a for-hire business model. The agreement also provides the prospect of “conceptualizing the tanker of the future.” (The press release is here.)

From 2001-2011, the US Air Force, Pentagon and even Congress were embroiled in controversy over recapitalization of the USAF aerial refueling tanker fleet.

The KC-135s, based on the Boeing 707, were aging, expensive to maintain and outdated.

After 9/11, Boeing proposed leasing 100 tankers based on the 767-200ER to the USAF. A scandal surrounding the USAF approval of this deal sent the air force’s procurement office and Boeing’s CFO to jail and resulted in the resignation of CEO Phil Condit. The lease deal was canceled.

Summary
  • Three rounds of tanker procurement were filled with improprieties, bitter charges and counter charges.
  • Boeing currently has a contract for 52 KC-46A tankers out of an initial procurement of 179.
  • The air force sees a need for 100 more tankers on an accelerated timeline.
  • Fee-based refueling is not unknown to the Pentagon.

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Bjorn’s Corner: Pitch stability, Part 3

By Bjorn Fehrm

December 7, 2018, ©. Leeham News: Last week we looked at the pitch stability of an aircraft wing with fuselage. We could see the combination was unstable. Now we add a rear wing called a horizontal stabilizer to get the whole aircraft stable in pitch.

We use the DC9 as our example of a pitch stable airliner (Figure 1) as it has some interesting pitch stability problems outside the normal flying envelope. This we will discuss in coming Corners.

Figure 1. The DC-9, the airliner we use to study pitch stability. Source: Wikipedia.

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Huge surge of A320 orders greatly exceed near-, mid-term A320 retirements

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Introduction

Oct. 4, 2018, © Leeham News: The huge surge of orders for the Airbus A320 family far outstrips the aging aircraft statistics, an analysis shows.

Airbus has a backlog of more than 6,000 A320 family members, with more than 1,700 sales potential just for retirements.

There is a backlog of more than 6,000 A320neo family members, with the near- and mid-term delivery schedule far exceeding A320 retirements. Photo credit: Airbus.

There are more than 4,300 A320s scheduled for delivery from 2019 through 2025.

There are just 765 A320s that hit 25 years old during the same period.

The surge in A320-family aging aircraft begins in 2030, just as the bulk of the current backlog ends, according to data bases maintained by Ascend and Airfinance Journal’s Fleet Tracker.

Summary
  • Useful lives of A320s in passenger service historically have been 25 years. Till now, no P2F programs existed to extend the useful lives.
  • But, some passenger airlines are returning A320s off lease in 12 years or less—accounting for some of the surge in orders vs aging aircraft.
  • Supply-demand imbalance in the secondary markets could emerge.

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Pontifications: Boeing aid to Jet Airways uncommon but not unusual

By Scott Hamilton

Aug. 27, 2018, © Leeham News: Boeing is giving financial help to India’s Jet Airways, according to a news report.

This doesn’t come as a surprise.

Jet Airways has 225 737 MAXes on order (50 direct, the rest listed via lessors). It’s also in what appears to be dire financial straits.

Media reports indicated the airline was possibly going to be out of business in 60 days and it deferred releasing its financial results “indefinitely.” The government is going to probe the airline, according to a press report.

The Boeing aid is not common but it’s not unknown, either.

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