The conundrum of a new airplane design vs a derivative

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

April 19, 2020, © Leeham News: When it comes to a decision by an aircraft manufacturer whether to develop an entirely new airplane or a derivative, these multi-billion dollar decisions involve hundreds of thousands of considerations.

Airbus missed with its first A350 design, but has a winner with the A350 XWB. Source: Airbus.

Sometimes derivatives will do the job. Sometimes a new airplane is the better choice.

Given that Boeing faces a decision whether to launch the Next Boeing Airplane (NBA) and Airbus must decide how to respond, all within the next few years, looking at the considerations and some history is timely.

Today’s examination is going to focus at the 40,000 ft level. We’re not going to delve down into the decisions over suppliers or the minutiae into production. Rather, we’re going to look at general strategy.

Summary
  • Airbus wins big gamble with A320neo decision.
  • Boeing was victor with 787, while Airbus missed with first A350 design.
  • Boeing missed with 747-8I and, it appears so far, with 777X.
  • Next airplane decision by Boeing will drive Airbus response. Read more

Differentiation in the marketplace and the time for the open rotor

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By the Leeham News Team

Introduction

Feb. 22, 2021, © Leeham News: Airliners are now so efficient, one challenge facing Airbus and Boeing in competing is overcoming the laws of diminishing returns.

The time may finally have come for an Open Rotor airliner. Source: Safran.

LNA described this challenge Feb. 8. Additionally, airport infrastructure erects a vast number of design roadblocks.

We focused on the creation of the 737 replacement and how difficult it will be to make meaningful performance upgrades to the economics of the vehicle. We outlined the next battle in product differentiation most likely will occur in optimizing non-flying time operations, focusing on ground operations as the next efficiency battleground. Since then, it was reported that Boeing indicated that a new aircraft sized between the 737 and the 767/NMA was a front runner in their future planning.

Summary
  • NMA Lite needed for 737-9/10 to 787-8 sector.
  • Replacement for 737-7 and 737-8 best suited for Open Rotor design.
  • What an Open Rotor plane might look like

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The world of diminishing returns: challenges Boeing faces

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By the Leeham News Team

Introduction

Feb. 8, 2021, © Leeham News: Boeing faces a dilemma of Solomonic proportion.

Which direction should it extend its product offerings?

With the suspension a year ago of the New Midmarket Airplane (NMA) project by incoming CEO David Calhoun, Boeing’s future airplane strategy was upended.

Some Internet pundits said Boeing needed a clean-sheet replacement for the 737. Others said it needs to be a 757/NMA sized vehicle.

Last week, Aviation Week reported Boeing appears to now be headed in the direction of a three-member “NMA Lite” family. LNA outlined this approach last June. Feb. 3’s LNA post has more detail.

While Boeing faces near-term decisions, the challenges go well beyond launching a new airplane and the new engines required to power it.

Summary
  • Advances of diminishing returns.
  • Staying within the ICAO box.
  • Taking the fight to the ground.

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Finally, Boeing moves in the right direction

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 3, 2021, © Leeham News: At long last, Boeing seems to be moving in the right direction on its next new airplane.

Aviation Week reported this week Boeing appears to be developing a third member of the New Midmarket Airplane (NMA), dubbed the NMA-5X. The NMA-5X is sized directly across from the Airbus A321neo family. It’s the third member of the NMA family that was missing throughout Boeing’s struggles to form a business model for the NMA.

A three-member NMA Lite family is needed for Boeing. Clockwise, they are the NMA-5, the NMA-6 and the NMA-7. Source: Leeham News.

The current concept is also what Boeing wanted to do in 2011 when Airbus forced its hand with the huge American Airlines order for the A319/321ceo/neo. Boeing launched the 737 MAX instead.

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Pontifications: Unraveling the numbers

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 1, 2021, © Leeham News: Understanding the real market demand for an airplane sector is a complicated thing.

What Airbus and Boeing say the market is for an airplane sometimes is a matter of what they don’t say.

On the Jan. 27 earnings call, Boeing set the program accounting for the 777X at 350 airplanes. This number declined from 400. Simultaneously, Boeing took a whopping $6.5bn forward loss on the program. (Not all is attributed to the accounting block.)

Later in the same call, CEO David Calhoun said, “Across the total widebody market of more than 8,000 projected deliveries over the next two decades, we see replacement demand for over 1,500 large widebody airplanes which are well suited for the 777X.”

Some interpreted this to mean that Boeing expects to sell 1,500 777Xs.

Well, not really.

So, let’s unravel these numbers and what “market demand” or “replacement demand” means. Everything discussed below applies equally to Airbus or Boeing.

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Boeing should build 757 replacement in Washington

Commentary

Dec. 22, 2020, © Leeham News: If you get a chance over the next few weeks – in between binge-watching The Queen’s Gambit, putting up the 79 extra feet of Christmas lights you ordered this year and figuring out how to buy surprise Christmas gifts for your spouse when you have a joint Amazon account – you should take 90 minutes to watch this video from our friends at the International Association of Machinists District Lodge 751.

By Bryan Corliss

The Machinists on Dec. 8 hosted (on Zoom, of course) a high-level panel discussion about the state of the aerospace industry and Washington state’s role in it, featuring a whole bunch of Brand-Name People Who are Smarter Than Me(c).

They shared their insights for those of us coffee-drinkers who are trying to read the tea leaves to divine what Boeing’s next moves should be as it tries to get back on its feet – and what the implications are for its home state.

The takeaway:

The problems for Boeing are obvious, and the solutions are pretty clear – but doing the smart thing would require a major cultural shift from an executive team that’s locked into a 1990s vision of how business gets done.

  • Boeing needs a 757 replacement this decade
  • It should get built in Washington state
  • There are concrete – and audacious – steps for the state to take
  • Can GE alum Calhoun change Boeing’s GE culture?

    Buzz about Boeing’s next new airplane returned this month to making a 757 replacement. Boeing photo.

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2024 will be key year for Boeing in Washington

This is the second in a series of articles examining how labor, Boeing and Washington state could move forward following the COVID pandemic. The first article is here.

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By Bryan Corliss

Analysis

Introduction

Nov. 30, 2020, © Leeham News — You might want to set yourself an Outlook calendar reminder for January 2024.

It’s going to be a pivotal year for Boeing, its home state and its workforce. By then, the company’s recovery from the current Covid-caused crisis should be underway, with the order book refilling.

The countdown should be on for the long-delayed roll-out of the reconceived NMA, at long last giving Boeing a real counter to the Airbus A321. And — barring a surge in 737 MAX orders after its return to service — Boeing could be close to making some tough decisions about the future of the 737 program, thinking hard about whether after 60 years it’s finally time to design and build a clean-sheet replacement.

Also by then, the 787 program will have fully consolidated into Charleston, and the last 747 will have departed the Paine Field flight line, leaving The World’s Largest Building (By Volume) half-empty.

Then, in January 2024, Boeing’s contract with its touch-labor union – IAM District 751 – will expire, after a 10-year extension that was part of the price Machinists paid to ensure the 777X would be assembled in Everett. For the first time since the summer of 2008, the two sides will sit down at a bargaining table with the union having the ability to call for a strike.

What happens between now and January 2024 will pretty much decide the future of Boeing in Washington state. If the players are clear-eyed and rational, we could see a return to the days when high-skilled workers built high-quality planes that created handsome profits for Boeing shareholders and family-wage jobs for Boeing workers.

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Boeing’s Renton plant may close from 2033: Analysis

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Now open to all Readers.

Introduction

Aug. 10, 2020, © Leeham News: With Boeing likely to consolidate 787 production in Charleston (SC), reflecting a rate of 6/mo, the future of assembly in Puget Sound rears its head again.

LNA outlined Aug. 3 why Everett is the ideal location to assemble the Next Boeing Airplane (NBA).

Boeing’s product line also requires a new airplane in the 100-150 seat sector. Airbus’ A220-100/300 and, nominally, the A320neo (but not the A319neo) fill this sector. (The A320neo was originally designed as a 150-seat airplane. It now is commonly configured in the 150-180 seat size.)

Airbus has a design for an A220-500, which could replace the A320.

Boeing’s Renton (WA) 737/757 plant footprint in 1990. Source: Google Earth.

Boeing needs an efficient competitor to the current A220 plus a replacement for the 737-7 and, eventually, the -8.

And it probably won’t be assembled at the Boeing 737 plant in Renton.

Summary
  • Boeing-Embraer JV was to focus on 100-150 seat airplane.
  • Canceled deal could be revived.
  • Or Boeing could choose a new partner.
  • Moonshot would be two roughly concurrent new airplane programs.

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Looking ahead for 2020 and 2030 decades: Boeing

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Second in a series.

By Scott Hamilton and Vincent Valery

Introduction

June 24, 2020, © Leeham News: “Airbus’ widebody strategy is a mess.”

This is what Kostya Zolotusky, then a VP with Boeing Capital Corp., said a few years ago on the sidelines of a major aerospace conference.

Today, it may be going too far to say there is increasing opinion in the industry that Boeing’s product strategy is a mess. But it’s fair to say it’s seriously challenged.

Even setting aside the 737 MAX grounding, Airbus clearly outpaced the MAX with the A320neo family. The A321LR and XLR thrust Airbus into dominance in the single-aisle, 150-220 seat sector.

Airbus fell into a winner with the acquisition of the Bombardier C Series. Boeing’s 737-7 MAX has captured fewer than 100 orders since the program launch in 2011. Demand for the 777X is weak.

Boeing critics, and there are many, see little but doom and gloom ahead. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, Boeing faced years of recovery from the MAX grounding.

There’s no doubt Boeing has a deep hole to climb out of, exacerbated by the COVID crisis. The question is, what does Boeing do after the MAX is returned to service and the virus crisis is over?

Summary
  • Airbus is clear leader in single-aisle sector.
  • Boeing’s product strategy for New Midmarket Airplane, Embraer role is over.
  • Former CEO Jim McNerney said, “no more moonshots.” But is this just what Boeing needs to regain its position?

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Pontifications: Boeing’s alphabet soup of airplanes and more

  • It’s time for catching up on Odds and Ends.

By Scott Hamilton

March 2, 2020, © Leeham News: NMA. NSA (version 1). NSA (version 2). NLT. FSA. MOM.

By Scott Hamilton

These are Boeing’s acronyms for its next airplane.  Whatever it will be.

NMA stands for New Midmarket Airplane.

NSA version 1 stood for New Single Aisle Airplane. It was replaced by version 2, New Small Airplane. This was replaced by FSA, Future Small Airplane. Some called this the Future Single Aisle airplane.

Then there is NLT, New Light Twin, from 2011. Which really begot the NMA, which was initially the MOM, or Middle of the Market Airplane. We called it MOMA at times.

It’s all very confusing. The Next Boeing Airplane is such a moving target. Maybe it should be called the NBA, although some association involving basketball might object. (The Next Airbus Airplane logically would become the NAA.)

Then there is the next new airplane from Embraer, after its joint venture with Boeing is finally approved (as I believe it will be).

Embraer CEO John Slattery want to do a turboprop. So does this become the E3TP?

The JV agreement calls for Embraer (to be named Boeing Brasil-Commercial) to do the next jet in the 100-150 seat category. Does this become the E3150, E3JET, BBCX or something else?

Read more