A lost decade for aircraft manufacturers, suppliers

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By Judson Rollins, Bjorn Fehrm & Scott Hamilton

Sept. 21, 2020, © Leeham News: Commercial aviation is facing a lost decade due to COVID.

Yes, most forecasts target 2024-2025 as returning to 2019 passenger traffic and aircraft production levels.

However, LNA in July published its own analysis indicating full recovery may not occur until 2028. Breathless headlines notwithstanding, it will take years for vaccines to be widely available and considered safe by enough of the world’s population. Growing concern about vaccine production and distribution capacity through 2024 underscores this view. Even Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said earlier this month that business travel might not fully return for a decade.

Indeed, the 2020s may well be a lost decade for aircraft manufacturers and their supply chains.

Summary

  • Debt-laden airlines will have little money to order new airplanes
  • Interest in re-engined 787, A350 likely nil this decade
  • Airbus, Boeing, Embraer have little interest in launching new programs
  • Engine makers too financially stretched to develop new designs
  • Engineering talent, knowledge will be decimated by inevitable job reductions
  • OEMs must “play the long game” at short-term cost to safeguard their futures

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European Regionals Face Hostile Operating Environment

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By Kathryn B. Creedy

Third in a Series. Previous articles:

Introduction

Aug. 31, 2020, (c) Leeham News: European regionals face far greater challenges than Covid and, sadly, much of what is happening to the industry is beyond its control. The result is similar to failures seen in the U.S.  Flybe’s recent loss resulted from pre-Covid problems which also led to the pre-Covid failures of such airlines as Flybmi and Cobalt.

The failures illustrate, however, the three reasons why European regionals are so fragile – low-cost competition, geography, and challenging government policy.

 

 

 

 

 

Flybe is just the latest of many regionals to cease operations owing to harsh conditions in Europe.

Summary
  • Government Policies Hardest on Regionals
  • LCC Competition Challenging
  • Consumer Protections Crushing
  • Turboprops Have Large Role

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Boeing’s Renton plant may close from 2033: Analysis

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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: Mitsubishi

Sixth in a Series

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By Scott Hamilton

July 23, 2020, © Leeham News: The Mitsubishi Aircraft (MITAC) SpaceJet program is in limbo.

MITAC parent Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) suspended development of the M100 SpaceJet in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Customers are suppliers are in the dark about this program’s future.

MHI continues to complete certification of the M90 SpaceJet, which is simply the rebranded MRJ90. But, as LNA previously wrote, the M90 is at an economic disadvantage to the competing Embraer E-Jets.

The planned entry-into-service for the M90 is next year. However, certification process by the Japanese regulator is slow. The impact by COVID on the certification process and EIS remains to be seen.

Summary
  • M100 program on hold at least until next year.
  • What’s next for MHI?
  • Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

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Looking ahead for 2020 and 2030 decades: Embraer

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Fourth in a series.

By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

July 8, 2020, © Leeham News: All airliner OEMs have a disastrous 2020, but for Embraer, the year has been even worse. After spending a year and over $200m to carve out the Commercial Aviation division to merge it into Boeing, the Joint Venture Agreement (JV) was stopped by Boeing at the last moment.

The Executive Jets and Defense side were not affected, but now Embraer was organized as two companies instead of one. The company must now re-merge the organizations to save costs in a COVID-19 environment where limiting cash outflow, and lowering costs are necessary for survival. At the same time, it’s arch-rival on the world market, Airbus A220 has gone from strength to strength through basket selling with the popular A320.

How does Embraer come back from the Boeing pass up and regroup in a regional market that is no longer a fight of equals? Embraer competes with Airbus that in 2019 was 11 times larger in airliner deliveries and 29 times in airliner revenue.

Only in the below 100 seat market is it saved from the giant, who doesn’t have a model in the segment. And it seems the below 100 seat competitor, Mitsubishi, might fold its entry.

Summary
  • The botched JV with Boeing came at the worst possible moment for Embraer, just when the COVID-19 pandemic stopped airliner deliveries.
  • The planned JV had held back sales and deliveries, waiting for the JV to complete.
  • In addition, it cost Embraer $200m, pushing it into the red for 2019.
  • Embraer must now find another fix to the Airbus problem while wrestling with a worldwide COVID crisis.
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The future of regional jets is limited by choices, Scope Clause

By Judson Rollins
Introduction 

July 6, 2020, © Leeham News: The fallout from COVID-19 is beginning to intersect with the beginning of a wave of regional jet retirements globally. However, the market for smaller commercial jets today stretches the meaning of “regional” as most aircraft still in production have 100+ seats and can fly more than 2,500nm.

In the critical US market, both Embraer’s E175-E2 and Mitsubishi’s remaining M90 are too heavy to comply with the Scope Clause limits imposed by pilot labor agreements. These clauses restrict regional carrier flying to 76 seats and 86,000 lbs MTOW, while also capping the number of regional jets that can be flown by each carrier.

Delta Air Lines is limited to a total regional fleet of 450 aircraft, while American Airlines is capped at 75% of its single-aisle fleet and United Airlines is limited to 255 aircraft plus 90% of single-aisles in service. Earlier this year, American accelerated the retirement of some EMB-140s to maintain compliance with its limit.

Summary

  • Regional jet utilization will be lower in the near term due to higher unit costs and US Scope Clause fleet limits.
  • There will still be some replacement demand for regional jets over the next decade.
  • Scope Clause relief is unlikely to happen in the coming round of US pilot contract negotiations.
  • Lack of Scope relief will extend the life of Embraer’s E175-E1 through the 2020s.

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Mitsubishi’s options for the SpaceJet

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

June 2, 2020, © Leeham News: Mitsubishi Heavy Industry (MHI) yesterday closed the acquisition of the Bombardier CRJ program.

There are 15 CRJs in backlog to complete. But the purpose of the acquisition was to give MHI a global product support system for the SpaceJet.

With the aviation world still reeling and confused by the “suspension” of the SpaceJet program, what are the options going forward?

MHI last month announced it was suspending indefinitely development of the M100 SpaceJet. MHI said it will reevaluate the market demand of the M100. It suspended further flight testing of the M90 SpaceJet. It says it will proceed with office “validation” of the M90 for certification. Facilities in the US and Canada devoted to the SpaceJet program are closing. About half the workforce devoted to SpaceJet in Nagoya, Japan, is being reduced.

Customers that signed MOUs for 495 M100s and which have firm orders for some 200 MRJ90s (the previous brand for the M90) are in limbo. Suppliers are in limbo. MHI’s failure to communicate with them leaves a planeload of questions and no answers.

MHI’s move clears the way for Embraer to have a monopoly in the regional jet space. Unless—unless MHI restarts the SpaceJet program on its own or partners with another company to make a commitment to developing a new airliner.

LNA noted when the Boeing-Embraer joint venture collapsed that this presented opportunities for MHI and Boeing to renew and expand their previous relationship for the MRJ program. Here are some possibilities facing MHI.

Summary
  1. Kill SpaceJet entirely.
  2. Restart SpaceJet.
  3. Resuscitate the agreement for Boeing to support the MRJ program, updating it to the SpaceJet.
  4. Resuscitate and expand the previous agreement, strengthening the development SpaceJet and co-marketing by Boeing.
  5. Create an entirely new cooperative agreement, vastly broadening and strengthening decades-long ties between MHI and Boeing. LNA sees this as including SpaceJet and an entirely new family of aircraft replacing the 737 MAX.
  6. An expanded, broader agreement could even include development of a new “NMA Lite.”
  7. Finally, buy or create a JV with Embraer Commercial Aviation.

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Mitsubishi SpaceJet retreat is the best news for Embraer in months

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By Scott Hamilton

Analysis

May 25, 2020, © Leeham News: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) surprising retreat from its SpaceJet regional airliner program is the best news in months for beleaguered Embraer.

This takes pressure off the Brazilian manufacturer and gives it time to regroup after Boeing jilted it at the alter by walking away from a proposed joint venture.

Going into storage: four Mitsubishi MRJ90s at Moses Lake (WA). Photo: Mitsubishi.

MHI’s actions leave Embraer with a monopoly in the 76-100 seat arena vs new airplanes. The M90 SpaceJet is not a viable competitor to the E175-E1 or the struggling E175-E2. Embraer’s competition will be its own used jets, plus used Bombardier CRJ-700/900s.

Summary

  • Closing US operations entirely. Closing the recently opened engineering center in Montreal
  • Continued operation of the CRJ product support center in Montreal or relocation to Nagoya uncertain.
  • Major cost-cutting drive.
  • MHI wants to certify M90, then consider whether to proceed with M100.
  • M100 has MOUs for 495 aircraft.
  • MRJ90 was not certifiable due to design deficiencies.
  • Redesigned M90 meets certification requirements.
  • M90 is economically uncompetitive with E-Jet.
  • COVID-19 upends entire airline industry, casting doubt in MHI’s commitment to SpaceJet future.

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Pontifications: There is no good news

May 18, 2020, © Leeham News: There simply is no good news in commercial aviation right now.

By Scott Hamilton

Yes, airport traffic is upticking in the USA (and elsewhere) slightly. But in the USA, it’s still less than 10% of last year’s totals.

There remains a tremendous amount of uncertainty.

  • Airbus plans to lay off some 10,000 employees, according to press reports. Another production rate cut seems inevitable.
  • Boeing’s CEO revised the forecast for air traffic recovery from 2-3 years to 3-5 years. Production recovery will take another 2-3 years after that, he said.
  • Embraer’s biggest customer for the E195-E2, Azul Airlines, deferred deliveries from 2020-2023 to 2024. There haven’t been announcements about deferrals by US carriers for E175-E1s, but there is no reason to believe these won’t be deferred.
  • Delta Air Lines says 7,000 of its 14,000 pilots will be surplus to its needs this fall.
  • Spirit Aerosystems laid off about 1,700 employees due to Boeing’s production planning.
  • Qatar Airways will retire 50 airplanes, defer new orders from Airbus and Boeing and cut the workforce by 20%.

The list goes on and on and on.

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Analysis: Mitsubishi suspends development of M100, continues M90 due to COVID

By Scott Hamilton

Analysis

May 12, 2020, © Leeham News: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) yesterday said it cut development money for the M100 SpaceJet. M100 R&D is suspended indefinitely while it continues for the M90 on half rations.

MHI will continue certification of the M90.

MHI also said it will reevaluate demand for the M100 because of COVID-19 impacts.

This immediately raised questions whether MHI may kill the M100 program.

To do so will squander MHI’s once-in-a-lifetime chance to become a real global power in commercial aviation. If this happens, “Japan Inc.” also loses a chance to be part of this.

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