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The KC-135s, based on the Boeing 707, were aging, expensive to maintain and outdated.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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Don’t look for commercial BWB airplane any time soon, says Boeing’s future airplanes head

April 3, 2018, © Leeham News: New airplanes for the foreseeable future are unlikely to look radically different than the tube-and-wing configuration that’s been around since the dawn of manned flight.

Yes, there are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that look very different. Yes, there are the B-2 and B-21 bombers that are flying wings.

Scaled Blended Wing Body airplane. Source: NASA.

And, yes, there is the Blended Wing Body concept that was created by McDonnell Douglas and tested, in scaled-size models, by Boeing, which acquired MDC in 1997.

But don’t expect to see a BWB either as a freighter or as a passenger airplane any time soon, says Boeing’s VP of Product Development and Future Airplane Development.

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Spies and industrial spying

By Scott Hamilton

Scott Hamilton

March 27, 2018, © Leeham News, Bainbridge Island (WA): The unexpected US order to close the Russian Consulate in Seattle this week set off a media frenzy in this city because two reasons cited were the proximity of the consulate to Boeing and two US naval bases, Bremerton and Bangor.

There is a third, smaller one, in Everett, but this wasn’t mentioned.

Bremerton is a major repair-and-overhaul base for ships, ranging from aircraft carriers to submarines to frigates and support ships.

Bangor is home to Trident nuclear missile subs and the spy sub, USS Jimmy Carter.

I live on Bainbridge Island, a stone’s throw to Bangor (ground zero in a North Korean nuclear missile attack?) and a 45-minute drive to Bremerton. It’s 45 minutes from here to Boeing Field via ferry and car.

Boeing, of course, is the principal home to Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The commercially-based P8 Poseidon and the KC-46A tankers are built here.

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United Aircraft’s and COMAC’s eventful year

By Bjorn Fehrm

January 03, 2018, ©. Leeham Co: Both United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and COMAC got their single-aisle airliner projects into flight test during 2017. The MC-21 and C919 had their first flights within less than a month of each other, with the Chinese C919 first at 5th of May, followed by the Irkut MC-21 on the 28th of May.

Superficially the aircraft and projects are similar. Both are 150-220 seat single aisle projects in the mold of Airbus’ A320neo and Boeing’s 737 MAX programs. Looking a bit closer, they are different. One is extending the state of the art in several areas; the other is playing safe.

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Top 10 aviation stories of the year on Leeham News

Dec. 31, 2017, © Leeham Co.: Airplane development and the whimsicle made the Top 10 stories on LNC in 2017.

The Top 10 are a statistical listing of the most-viewed posts, not some judgment call on the part of LNC.

Here is the rundown.

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