Bjorn’s Corner: USAF Tanker program

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm25 September 2015, ©. Leeham Co: When Scott Hamilton asked me to give my view on his article “Pontifications: Duelling refuelling tankers” I accepted. I was not involved in the project and was only following it casually over the years.

I will also not give my view on what would have been the most suitable tanker for the US Air Force. I simply don’t have the relevant military competence for that, having never operated my fighters with aerial tanking nor been in an aerial tanker aircraft.

Where I have relevant competence is in writing military specifications for important aircraft procurements and the excerpts I have seen from the tanker RFQ on key specification points don’t impress. Let me explain.

Read more

A320 FAL “good for US aerospace,” says Airbus


Sept. 16, 2015, © Leeham Co., Mobile (AL): The opening of the Airbus A320 Final Assembly Line here achieves a major set of goals set by the company 10 years ago for its own strategic purposes, but officials are also mindful of the larger impact on US aerospace.

David L. Williams, VP Procurement, Airbus Americas. Photo via Google images.

Top executives point out that the Mobile plant reestablished a second commercial aviation assembly site in the US since the last MD-11s and MD-95s rolled out of the former McDonnell Douglas plant in Long Beach (CA) after its acquisition by The Boeing Co in 1997. Boeing continued production of the MD-11 until the end of 2000 (with deliveries occurring in 1Q2001). The last MD-95, renamed the Boeing 717, was produced in 2006. There were 200 MD-11s and 156 717s produced.

With nearly 10 years elapsing between that last 717 and the first A321ceo coming out of Mobile, Airbus officials say the creation of the FAL is not only good for Airbus and Alabama, it’s good for US aerospace.

Read more

Embraer faces new challenge from MRJ90

Part 2

Paulo Cesar, president and CEO of Embraer’s commercial aviation unit. Photo via Google images.

Sept. 10, 2015, © Leeham Co. Embraer is the dominant producer of commercial aircraft in the 70-125 seat sector, having overtaken Bombardier in the last decade following the development and 2004 introduction of the E-Jet. Bombardier’s CRJ family struggles, hampered by a sales force that neglected it and the Q400 turbo-prop as attention focused on the new CSeries.

Embraer in recent years faced new competition. However, the early entries—AVIC’s ARJ21 and the Sukhoi Superjet SJ100, both in the 70-90 seat sector, proved little to worry about. The ARJ21, now eight years late, proved to be a technological and industrial dud, a project that was more about learning how to design and build an airplane than producing a commercially viable one.

The SSJ100, while winning favorable reviews, was and continues to be plagued by a poor production system and in recent years the political overhang of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its war in Ukraine.

Shortly, though, the E-190 faces a new challenger: the Mitsubishi MRJ90. It’s two years late, now forecasting an entry-into-service of 2017—just one year ahead of the redesigned E-190, the E-190 E2. The MRJ90, a 90-seat clean-sheet design, is Japan’s first commercial airliner since the NAMC YS-11 turbo-prop of the 1960s. The MRJ90’s first flight is scheduled for the second half of next month. Full flight testing moves to Washington State in the first quarter next year.

Read more

Bjorn’s Corner: China’s civil aviation, from nothing to world’s largest in 2030


By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

14 May 2015, C. Leeham Co: In my ISTAT Asia reports, I wrote about how China will overtake USA as largest civil aviation market in  2030. Airbus China Group chairman, Laurence Barron, and I had a chat after his ISTAT presentation where he described China’s evolution as a civil aviation market and how Airbus gradually worked itself from a late and hesitant start to today’s split of the market with Boeing.

Barron provided his slides, some of which  we will use  to review how China grew from virtually no civil aviation after the Chinese revolution in 1949 to the world’s largest market by 2030. We will also look at what aircraft have made up this growth and finally describe how Airbus progressed from a latecomer in 1985 to sharing the market with Boeing today.

Read more

Pontifications: the A380, Airbus and Boeing

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

May 4, 2015, c. Leeham Co. Of all the things we write about, nothing stirs responses and readership than news–of any kind–about the Airbus A380.

Last week I wrote about Malaysia Airlines putting a large number of its Airbus and Boeing wide-bodies for sale or lease. MASCargo’s entire fleet of Boeing 747-400s and Airbus A330Fs is on the chopping block. Some Boeing 777-200ERs are, too. The six A380s (all of those in the MAS fleet) are also being offered for sale or lease.

Holy crap. This news headlined not only international press but sent the social media into a frenzy. Within 12 hours it had become our second most read story of 2015. In less than 36 hours, it became our top story of the year so far.

I also wrote last week about the 10 year anniversary of the A380. It was a mixed review: the plane is a technological success, if by now a bit dated, but sales continue to be poor. I talked about the prospect of an A380neo and how Boeing is rooting for Airbus to proceed, sucking up money and resources in the process. I wrote about the urban legend that Boeing tricked Airbus into launching the A380 program as a way to divert money and resources.

And then I suggested that Boeing’s own failed strategy, ineptitude and arrogance prevented the company from taking advantage of Airbus’ focus on the A380.

787 CNN 2 had this on its home page Saturday. Even though there are more than 250 Boeing 787s in service, the strategic industrial and early design blunders continue to dog the airplane.

You’d have thunk I dropped a skunk at a lawn party.

One reader suggested I was part of the Airbus PR department or Airbus’ John Leahy ghosted the article. Never mind that the day before I wrote a strong defense of the Boeing 787 and suggestions that “everyone” was deferring the 787; and gave an equally strong defense of the 787 in Perhaps Boeing’s Randy Tinseth ghosted my article and impersonated me to The Street.

I didn’t go into detail in my article about Boeing’s “failed strategy, ineptitude and arrogance” because I thought after all these years, these were pretty obvious. Apparently not. So I’ll hit some highlights. Read more

Pontifications: Remote control of airliners a bad idea

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

March 30, 2015: In the aftermath of what a French prosecutor said was the apparent suicide-mass murder of 150 people on Germanwings 9525, there have been some calls for and questions of creating a system of allowing ground controllers to assume command of airborne airliners in the event rogue pilot situation develops.

This is a bad idea. Read more

Boeing’s dedicated freighters views an improving market

Subscription Required

By Scott Hamilton and Bjorn Fehrm


Feb. 22, 2015: An improving global freight market gives Boeing hope that air cargo demand will support the production of two new main-deck freighters a month for years to come. Boeing is struggling to sell 747-8Fs to keep the 747 line alive and needs to sell the 777F to support its goal of maintaining the current 777 production rate of 100/yr through the transition in 2020 to the new 777X.

Randy Tinseth, VP Marketing for Boeing included the projection as a passing reference in remarks Feb. 11 to the 14th Annual Conference of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance in Lynnwood (WA). The following week we spoke at length with Tom Crabtree, Boeing’s Regional Director, Airline Market Analysis, Marketing & Business Development, about the long-suffering global cargo market and Boeing’s forecast for recovery.


  • Increasing reliance on belly capacity doesn’t negate need for large main deck freighters, Boeing says.
  • Boeing sees need for two new-build, large freighters per month.
  • Accepting Boeing’s demand forecast, Leeham Co. sees another production rate cut for the 747-8.

Read more

AirAsia update, Dec. 30: Key questions in the investigation

Dec. 30, 2014: With the apparent discovery of the main wreckage of AirAsia Flt 8501 in about 100 ft of water, recovery of the airplane and its black boxes should be a relatively straight-forward operation.

Our previous posts have outlined general areas of inquiry. With this post, we drill down into some of the flight and airplane questions that will be part of the inquiry. We talked with an Airbus A320 captain for a major US airline in forming these issues. This captain has been flying for US carriers for 30 years and is rated on Boeing 737s, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and the A320.

Key points:

Read more

World’s dud airliners: a poll of your choices

Dec. 29, 2014: Now’s your chance to vote on what you think are the world’s dud airliners. Here are the parameters:

  1. Post World War II.
  2. A commercial airliner that entered service–not a prototype or a concept or a mock-up.
  3. “Dud” is defined as poor sales (typically fewer than 100, but it could be more) or something with a technological fault, or both.
  4. The final lists below are gleaned from our original post and choices, and some of the suggestions by readers. Not all suggestions have been incorporated and we’ve added a couple more.
  5. In our Honorable Mentions, we’ve included derivatives of successful airplanes that turned out to be sales duds.

You may vote for more than one airplane.

Read more

New and Derivative Airplanes: Some good, some not: Part 2

Part 2 of two parts.

With multiples and multiples of billions of dollars at stake to develop new airplanes, and the billions of dollars of cost overruns at risk, it’s understandable the Airbus and Boeing are shifting to looking at derivatives and incremental improvements now for the lower-risk and ability to “harvest” technology across family lines.

This is hardly new. Airframers have been doing this since the Douglas DC-1 prototype begot the DC-2, which led to the DC-3. The Douglas DC-4 was the basis for the DC-6 and DC-7, for which there were A, B and C versions. Lockheed revamped the L-049 Constellation through several major upgrades (the -649, 749, 1049 and 1649, with several sub-sub-types in between). Convair created the CV-240 and revised it twice with the CV-340 and 440. The Martin 202 became the 303 (dumped after design issues with the 202) and the 404.

The trend continued into the jet age. Douglas created the DC-8-10/20/30/40/50 on the same basic airframe and really went to town with the DC-8 Super 60 Series. The DC-9-10 became the -20/30/40/50, the Super 80 (in four variants) and the basis for the MD-90 and MD-95. Boeing’s ground-breaking 707-120 became the 138/227/320B/C, the 707-020 (more commonly known as the 720), the C-135/KC-135 and a number of other military variants. The fuselage was the basis of the 727, 737 and 757. And so on. (Text continues below the photo.)

Later this month, we will unveil a new, updated Leeham News and Comment with a combination of paid and free content. Watch this space for more information.

Later this month, we will unveil a new, updated Leeham News and Comment with a combination of paid and free content. Watch this space for more information.

European manufacturers of the early jet age followed the same pattern. There were four commercial versions intended for the deHavilland Comet. The Hawker Siddeley came in multiple versions, as did the British Aircraft Corp. BAC-111.

Read more