Odds and Ends: CSeries schedule; BBD and Russia; MH370

CSeries schedule: An intriguing news item came out of Russia this week concerning the Bombardier CSeries. Lessor Ilyushin Finance Co., which has more orders for the CSeries than any other customer except Republic Airways, claims (according to the article) that BBD sweetened the terms of the final contract following the engine incident in May that results in a grounding of the test flight during the investigation and fix.

The issue was tracked to a faulty oil seal. The fix, according to our sourcing, is relatively easy and straight-forward, but Transport Canada hasn’t green-lighted a return of the test fleet to service yet, and it still may be a few more weeks before it does, we’re told.

BBD maintains that it still plans first delivery in the second half of 2015, but we’re also told all the schedule margin is now gone. And here’s where we get to the heart of the IFC news report.

According to Russian Aviation, IFC has rescheduled deliveries from November 2015 to April 2016, a five month shift to the right. There is no indication, although it is inferred, if this is reflective of a new program delay–or whether this is a rescheduling at IFC’s preference.

  • Bombardier announced a reorganization that saw the retirement of Guy Hachey, president and COO of the Aerospace division. Another 1,800 employees have been laid off as well. BBD continues to burn through cash as delays in the CSeries program mount up.
  • A source familiar with the CSeries flight testing program thinks the flight testing should resume in August.

Bombardier and Russia: More from Russia: The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that Bombardier’s plan to open a Q400 assembly line in Russia has stalled over the crisis in Ukraine.

Boeing and Russia: Boeing has close ties to Russia for its commercial aircraft division, relying on Russia as a large supplier of titanium. The Ukrainian fighting was already affecting the supply chain. The Puget Sound Business Journal has this explanation.

MH370: While the world is focused on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, Runway Girl Network has an intriguing piece about MH370, the Boeing 777 that disappeared five months ago. She has a video about access to the electronics bay on the 777, a topic that we discussed at the height of MH370’s disappearance. RGN’s article explains the concern as well.

Regional Airline pilot sickout: A campaign is underway to have a US pilot sick-out Sept. 1-5 for regional airlines.

Searching for MH370

We hesitate these days to link to CNN for pretty much anything having to do with missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 after the sorry spectacle the network made of itself during the height of the searches, but CNN.com has an interesting story about the prospective next step.

CNN.com reports that there is a possibility, though it may be remote, that sound sensors might have picked up the impact of the flight hitting the ocean.

This isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem.

Way back in the 1960s, US Navy sensors, designed to listen for Soviet submarines, were used to help locate the USS Scorpion, a nuclear attack sub that disappeared on its way home from the Mediterranean. Only when the boat was overdue did the Navy raise the alarm.

The search for the Scorpion is described in the book, Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage (1998). The submarine’s last moments were faintly heard on SOSUS noise detectors thousands of miles away. (Some believe the sub was sunk by a Soviet submarine. Blind Man’s Bluff outlines the investigation which concluded a torpedo malfunctioned inside the sub, breaching the hull and ultimately causing the sub to sink below crush depth. The implosion was what was heard on the SOSUS network. We are friends with a Rear Admiral (Ret.), who was in the submarine service as a skipper/executive officer at the time who supports the torpedo explanation.)

If there is anything to the CNN.com story, considering that science and equipment is far advanced vs the 1960s, perhaps there is some hope to pinpoint that impact of MH370 to within a reasonable perimeter.

Odds and Ends: Boeing earnings; Shandong is a new 737 order; MH370; Boeing SkyInterior; Azul and Airbus; 186-seat A320

Boeing earnings: Boeing announced its 1Q2014 earnings today and they were better than expected on a per-share basis. David Strauss of UBS remains grumpy about the 787 deferred costs:

787 deferred production grew by $1.5B, in line with our forecast, with balance now at $23.1B as compared to BA’s ~$25B target. We estimate deferred production per unit at ~$50M, lower from $75-80M on positive production mix of nearly all 787-8s from Everett as problems continue on 787-9. We continue to believe that deferred production peaks at $30-35B as compared to BA’s $25B target.

Boeing’s earnings call is later this morning.

Shandong’s 737 order: Early this week, Chinese media announced that Shandong Airlines had ordered 50 737NGs and MAXes. Boeing’s statement the next day acknowledged the news report. With more than 600 737s listed in Boeing’s Unidentified customers, we asked if this was a new order or one from the Unidentifieds–Boeing told us this is new.

MH370: Flight Global’s safety expert reporter, David Learmont, doesn’t think the Boeing 777 that was Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 will be found. We only found this story (pun intended) five days after it was posted. As Readers know, we wrote weeks ago that former NTSB investigator Greg Feith made this prediction.

Boeing SkyInterior: Boeing posted a video on its website about some of the thinking that goes into creating the SkyInterior, which is similar across the 787, 747-8 and 737 lines. Passenger experience has become an important part of Boeing’s product strategy (as with Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer as well), so in a departure from our usual practice of generally not linking “house videos,” we’re doing so on this one to give Readers a peek at what goes into some thinking at the OEMs.

Azul trans-ocean jets: Brazil’s domestic low cost carrier, Azul, will order Airbus wide-body jets for its planned trans-Atlantic service, according to Reuters.

A320 at 186 seats: Airbus is seeking certification of the A320 for 186 seats, just three short of the maximum of rival Boeing 737-800, according to this article in Aviation Week. (We had heard the effort was to 189 seats.)

Odds and Ends: Airbus ponders PIPs for A320neo, says AvWeek; Boeing moves more jobs; MH370 search

A320neo Plus: Airbus is pondering a Performance Improvement Package (PIP) for the A320neo family even before the airplane enters service, according to Aviation Week. The improvements would include an upgraded interior and several systems, designed at providing more carry-on cargo space, more seats and better economy. This fits with a desire to focus on product improvements rather than launching another new airplane program. The prospect of launching the much-discussed A330neo is also referenced in the AvWeek article.

Boeing moves more jobs: The Seattle Times reports that Boeing is moving more jobs out of Seattle, this time also to Southern California. This time these are defense jobs. Boeing has been migrating defense jobs out of Seattle for many years.

Separately, Boeing named its Suppliers of the Year for 2013. These companies are profiled in short videos here.

MH370 search: The Wall Street Journal has a good update of the search for Malaysian Airlines MH370 using the Bluefin 21 unmanned submarine.

Airline food: Here’s an irreverent look at why airline food is bad.

Odds and Ends: No to 757 MAX; Fallout from Boeing job transfer; 8,000th 737; Fire sale pricing on 777LR

No to 757 MAX: Steve Wilhelm of the Puget Sound Business Journal writes that Boeing has no plans to build a 757 MAX. This refutes the Motley Fool article we linked Tuesday. Then yesterday a different Fool write wrote why Boeing won’t build a 757 MAX. That may be, but as we wrote we had heard rumblings that Boeing was at least talking to the market about the prospect of such an airplane. But this could be nothing more than what we term, “Boeing being Boeing” exploring everything.

Fallout on engineer shift: The Seattle Times wrote that the fallout over Boeing’s plan to shift another 1,000 engineering jobs out of the Puget Sound area is pretty bad among the local work force. The morale at Boeing, The Times writes, is bad among its white collar engineers and technicians. We’re also told the IAM 751 membership continues to have poor morale in the wake of the Jan. 3 contract vote related to the 777X, with a major retirement expected among workers just in advance of the 2016 switchover to the 401(k) style pension plan. There seems to be a growing belief Boeing may face a workforce shortage just at a time when it’s ramping up production the following year on the 737NG, preparing production for the 737 MAX, in the early stages of production for the 777X and ramping up production again for the 787 as it prepares to introduce the 787-10 in 2018–as well as the KC-46A production ramp up and perhaps on the P-8A Poseidon.

And then there is the continued overhang of the potential NLRB action related to the 751 vote. Although a long shot, what happens if the NLRB requires a new vote and this time it fails? Boeing is already committed to building the 777X in Seattle: ground has been broken and the timeline too late to go elsewhere. Bonuses have been paid out. This could become a real mess.

8,000th 737: On the plus side, Boeing delivered its 8,000th 737, to United Airlines this week. It’s quite the accomplishment.

Fire sale pricing on 777-200LR: Air India, a financial basket case, plans to sell three more Boeing 777-200LRs, apparently for whatever it can get, in order to raise cash. It previously sold five 5-year old -200LRs for $335m–an average of a mere $67m each. According to the appraisal firm Collateral Verifications, a five year old -200LR should have a current market value of about $98m.

Inmarsat to offer free tracking: Inmarsat, the satellite company that proved key to tracking Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, will offer free tracking service, The Wall Street Journal writes.

Odds and End: ExIm fight, again; A350 interior; C-17 production ending early; 787’s longest routes; That’s no bull; MH370

ExIm fight, again: Republicans and the conservative Heritage Foundation are once again attempting to kill the US ExIm Bank, which providing financing support for Boeing airplanes.

This isn’t a sexy topic for our readers, but it’s an important issue we’ve written about many times. While the Republicans and Heritage call this corporate welfare (of which we’re generally disdainful), we disagree in this instance. It’s a matter of competitiveness.

Loren Thompson, with whom we’ve often disagreed, and whose institute is partly funded by Boeing, takes on the effort to kill ExIm in this column. His underlying facts are valid, though his tiresome shot at Airbus subsidies and Boeing’s innocence is laughable once more. The WTO found Boeing received illegal subsidies, too, and of course we just witnessed Boeing getting the largest subsidy in corporate history from Washington (State, that is)–all of which Thompson ignores.

But this National Review magazine (a conservative one) fails in its taking Thompson to task to even mention Airbus, the principal thrust of Thompson’s piece. This is as silly as Thompson’s continued Airbus bashing.

The reason we support ExIm’s continued existence has nothing to do with who gets what subsidies; it has everything to do with the fact that Europe’s export credit agencies fund Airbus airplanes and Boeing needs to have ExIm to compete. (We’d be less harsh about Thompson if he would stick to this topic rather than beating the subsidy drum with highly selective facts on an issue for which he was paid by Boeing to issue a study during the WTO dispute.)

National Review’s critique of Thompson totally ignores the Airbus export credit support challenge. There may be merit to many practices about ExIm to criticize, but these critics need to focus on the ECA competitive advantage for Airbus should ExIm go away. Boeing’s right on this one.

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Odds and Ends: Airbus, Boeing square off on tankers; IAM election; Russian titanium; MH370 hunt and hell

Airbus, Boeing square off on tankers: The Big Two OEMs are bidding for a sale to South Korea on airborne refueling tankers. If we remember correctly, this will be the first head-to-head competition since the USAF from 2004-2009.

IAM election: Voting begins this week, through the month, for officers of IAM International. This is the first contested election in decades, driven in no small part by the bitter vote at Boeing’s IAM 751 district in November and January over the 777X contract. The Street.com takes a look.

Russian titanium: With selective embargoes going on against Russia over Ukraine, we remarked at the time the prospect of an adverse affect on aerospace because titanium is a major resource from Russia and a major component in aerospace. Thus, a headline caught our eye about a Russian who attempted to do a deal with Boeing to sell the company the precious metal. Only this story was a bit more sordid; it makes for an interesting read.

MH370 hunt and hell: Officials vow to hunt for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 until hell freezes over. Mean while, more focus on CNN’s 24/7 MH370 coverage and its affect on its own ratings. We did note, however, that the shooting at Ft. Hood actually pushed MH370 off the front page of its website.

Putting the MH370 search in perspective–literally

The search area for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 now encompasses an area the size of Oregon. So we pulled it up on Google Earth and marked the Portland International Airport. You can’t see the airport let alone a Boeing 777. This illustrates the task at hand.


Then we zoomed in on PDX Airport, though we don’t know what “altitude” this represents; we’re not smart enough to take a measurement of the airplanes (a known size) and extrapolate to compute the altitude–we’re sure some of our readers are.

Read the Comment from Andrew about the altitude (and our response).

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Odds and Ends: No butts about it; 737 Norway to Houston; MH370

No butts about it: Flight Global has this story  (free registration required) about the Airbus campaign for an international seat width standard. But while Airbus is touting comfort, it’s now promoting five abreast in the center section of its A380 economy section, reducing the 18.5 inch seating to 18 inches. The London Telegraph has this story on seat width and other stuff related to the increasingly crowded cabins.

737 Norway to Houston: No, this isn’t a type. The USA Today explains.

Tossing a lawsuit: An Illinois judge tossed the first lawsuit filed in connection with Malaysian Airlines Fight MH370 and threatened sanctions on the law firm that filed it.

And this has become indicative of CNN’s breathless, sometimes ridiculous coverage of MH370:

While Greg Feith thinks a probable cause of MH370’s disappearance may not be solved, another former NTSB member has a different opinion. John Goglia, however, was a board member, not an investigator, although he was a US Airways accident investigator.

MH370 wreckage, probable cause may never be found, says ex-NTSB investigator

During the three weeks since Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared, “talking heads” (including our own) have become a staple on the news and cable

Source: Aviation Week

shows. The trouble with talking heads is that short sound bites don’t really allow us to take a deep dive into the issues.

We arranged to have an extended interview with Greg Feith, a former investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board and today a consultant for private industry and another of the talking heads. Feith investigated two accidents that may have particular relevance to MH370: the pilot-suicide crashes of Egyptair 990 and a Silk Air 737 in Indonesia. He’s familiar with the national cultures involved and events leading to conclusions of these two previous incidents. Feith early in the MH370 events concluded this incident has its roots in the cockpit of the Boeing 777.

He’s appeared throughout the MH370 search on CNN and NBC, among other places. Here is our interview with Feith.

A former lead crash investigator for the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) doesn’t believe the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 will ever be found—and with it, the data recorded on the black boxes will be lost to the investigation.

“I hope I am wrong but I personally don’t believe we will ever find the wreckage. I think we will find pieces that drifted,” Greg Feith, the investigator, said in an exclusive interview with Leeham News and Comment.

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