Spirit AeroSystems, the world’s largest aerostructures company

A feature report.

By Bjorn Fehrm

March 15, 2017, ©. Leeham Co: Spirit AeroSystems is the world’s largest aerostructures supplier, with main facilities in Wichita (KS). I visited Wichita early March and was given a guided tour of the factories. It was a tour of contrasts.

In production hall two, the Boeing 737 fuselages are riveted together in much the same way as the Boeing B-29 Stratofortress was produced there during World War II. “Rosie the riveter” is replaced with a robot, but the hall still has a busy charm.

Figure 1. Hall two, the main 737 production area. Source: Spirit AeroSystems.

In another hall, the production is silent. The winding of the Boeing Dreamliner’s forward fuselage from rolls of tape is made with a swooshing sound. There are few people around; the machines rule.  Everything is mega large; tape-layers, tools, autoclaves, the lot. Read more

New Airbus-Japan venture aims for new aircraft

March 14, 2017, © Leeham Co.: A new partnership, still in the Memorandum of Cooperation stage, between France and Japan aims to expand a relationship that could lead to joint development of advanced aircraft for Airbus.

The MOC was signed between the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry of Japan (METI) and the Directorate General for Civil Aviation of the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy (MEDDE) of the French Republic.

“An Airbus-Japan Ad Hoc Civil Aeronautical Industry Working Group will be established, and it will meet on a regular basis to discuss technology fields that could be considered for cooperation between Airbus and Japan such as material, aircraft system and equipment, or manufacturing technologies for the development of future Airbus aircraft,” Airbus said in a March 1 press statement announcing the MOC.

Airbus sales historically trailed Boeing badly in Japan, although the current backlog leans slightly in the European OEM’s favor: 87 to 74.

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Boeing Services expansion wise, necessary move

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Introduction

March 6, 2017, © Leeham Co.: Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg wants the company to participate in the aftermarket aircraft services business and set a goal of $50bn in revenue in the coming years.

He looks at Boeing’s current business, the former Boeing Commercial Aviation Services (CAS), and sees a single-digit market share in a worldwide trillion-dollar market potential. Muilenburg understandably wants a greater share of this.

But LNC believes there is an additional driver: the intensely competitive commercial airliner business faces even greater competition in the coming years. Prices are under pressure today. China is developing its own aerospace industry, which will eat into sales by Boeing (and Airbus) in the home market. Russia has ambitions to renew its home-market airliner industry.

Boeing’s new Global Services unit is a hedge against the prospect of falling profits at Boeing Commercial Airplanes as these factors converge.

Summary
  • Airbus, Boeing single-aisle prices under pressure.
  • A330/350 keeps 787 pricing down.
  • Boeing’s NMA business case may depend on after-delivery services contracts.

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Assessing the SSJ100 future

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Introduction

Feb. 20, 2017, © Leeham Co.: Sukhoi is Russia’s attempt at reentering the commercial airliner business. The SSJ100 regional jet is, by most accounts, an attractive

SSJ100 in CityJet colors. CityJet is one of two Western operators for the Russian-made airplane. Photo: Superjet International.

and efficient aircraft.

But it’s hampered by erratic production and questionable product support (largely due to the overhang of the Putin politics).

The aircraft was grounded briefly in December when a fatigue issue was found in the tail section during a routine inspection.

Summary
  • Nearly 100 SSJ100s are in service.
  • Two key Western customers.
  • Small customers base.
  • Captive Russian customers.

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Bad weather slows MRJ90 flight testing

Feb. 14, 2017, © Leeham Co.: When Mitsubishi announced that it would conduct nearly all the flight testing for its new MRJ90 in Moses Lake in Eastern Washington State, one of the reasons was its history of good weather.

  • Mitsubishi presents today at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference in Lynnwood (WA).

Hitoshi Isawa, EVP of Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. Photo via Google images.

It turns out that this is the worst winter there in 20 years. Snow storms became blizzards, shutting down nearby Interstate 90, sometimes for days. Driving to Moses Lake from Seattle, where part of Mitsubishi’s engineering force is located, became impossible when three mountain passes were closed due to avalanches, rock slides and fallen trees. Temperatures reached an all-time low in Moses Lakes in two decades.

“I never experienced this kind of cold weather in Japan,” said Hitoshi Iwasa, Executive Vice President, Operations Support, in an interview with LNC last week. “Many people in Moses Lakes told me this is the coldest weather in 20 years.”

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Assessing Bombardier commercial programs

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Introduction

Jan. 30, 2017, © Leeham Co.: Bombardier hopes to land a major, blue-chip order for its CSeries this year but otherwise isn’t counting on significant orders for its flagship airliner.

Officials don’t have available delivery slots until 2020, bar a few here and there, to attract sizeable orders.

The future of the aging CRJ could get a boost from recalcitrant Us labor unions who refuse to alter the 86,000 lb aircraft weight limit under the Scope Clauses. These make the Embraer E175-E2 and Mitsubishi MRJ90 too heavy for the regional airlines providing contract flying for the US majors.

The future of the Q400 turboprop looks bleak.

Summary
  • The CSeries delivery stream appears sufficient to match production ramp up through 2019.
  • There is a big production gap in 2020 at the target rate of 10/mo.
  • More than 50 firm orders have indefinite deferred delivery dates.
  • The backlog for the CRJ “falls off the cliff” next year, as does the Q400.

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SkyWest MRJ90 commitment unchanged

Jan. 24, 2017, © Leeham Co.: SkyWest Airlines, which stunned the aviation community in 2010 with an agreement to order 100 Mitsubishi MRJ90s and options for 100 more, is sticking with the airplane so far in the wake of another delay.

The Japanese company Monday announced a new delay of two more years, making a total of seven. Entry-into-service with launch customer ANA is now slated for 2020. Before this announcement, SkyWest was slated to receive its first airplane in 2019.

“Our conditional firm orders of the MRJ aircraft remain unchanged, and are dependent on flying contracts and scope availability,” a spokeswoman said in an email to LNC.

Mitsubishi lists the SkyWest order as firm on its web site.

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MRJ regional jet delayed until mid-2020

By Bjorn Fehrm

January 23, 2017, ©. Leeham Co: Mitsubishi announced a further two years delay of the MRJ regional jet project in a press conference in Tokyo today.

The 90-seater variant of the aircraft will be delivered to the first customer, All Nippon Airways (ANA), mid-2020.

The previous scheduled Entry Into Service (EIS) of mid 2018, was announced December 2015. In total, the MRJ program has announced five delays, totaling seven years. Read more

The regional market and scope clauses

By Bjorn Fehrm

January 17, 2017, ©. Leeham Co: Union contract Scope Clauses–the provision limiting the weight, capacity or number of aircraft operated by airlines for major carriers–are unlikely to be modified any time soon, panelists at the Air Finance Journal conference in Dublin said.

The restrictive Scope Clauses are predominate in the US. These limit the ability of small airplane manufacturers to sell aircraft in the US. Most affected are Embraer, Bombardier and newcomer Mitsubishi.

Contract negotiations in December, concluded before Christmas, resulted in no changes, surprising some. This will impact planned purchases of aircraft.We sat with Bombardier’s Ross Mitchell, vice president of commercial operations, to understand why the scope clauses are so important and why they did not change. Read more

Aircraft list prices largely unchanged (Updated)

Update: Airbus Jan. 11 announced a 1% list price increase. The chart has been updated.

Jan. 10, 2017: Aircraft list prices are largely unchanged for 2017, the airline industry demand cools for new aircraft.

Sales in 2017 were down for the Big Two, Airbus and Boeing. Boeing announced orders for 688 aircraft, well off of last year, which also was a major decline from the year before.

Airbus announces tomorrow, with sales expected to be in a similar range.

Bombardier and Embraer announce later this month or next.

LNC compiled the current list prices from all the manufacturers, detailed in Figure 1 below.

Airbus and Boeing discounts typically range from 40% to 60%, depending on the customer, the airplane and the size of the order. BBD and EMB discounts may also be steep, depending on the campaign.

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