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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Boeing seeks to cut production costs of 787-8 to boost sales

By Scott Hamilton

Sept. 2, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing is considering production changes to the slow-selling 787-8 to lower costs and boost sales.

The effort comes at a time when global passenger traffic is at record lows and recovery of international traffic is forecast to take four or five years.

Boeing photo.

As airline traffic recovers, carriers appear to be favoring smaller aircraft in restarting suspended routes.

In recent years, Boeing discouraged sales of the 787-8 because it is a low margin airplane with high production costs. This is a legacy of the program and development difficulties from 2004-2011, when it finally entered service.

The 787-9 and 787-10 are high margin aircraft Boeing counted on to reduce the billions of dollars in deferred production and tooling costs. At one time, this exceeded $32bn.

The early program difficulties resulted in the production and parts of the -8 to be substantially different than the -9/10, which have 95% commonality. The -8 was only 30% common.

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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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Boeing’s big opportunity

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By Scott Hamilton

Analysis

Introduction

Aug. 3, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing has one of the biggest opportunities in decades.

This is counter-intuitive, given the disaster it faces with the COVID-19 crisis.

But in chaos, there are opportunities.

There are some key assumptions that must be made. But these are not outlandish.

Summary

Assume:

  • Boeing survives the virus crisis.
  • Boeing consolidates 787 in Charleston.
  • 787 demand doesn’t return, reactivating Everett line.
  • Sharp gains in production efficiency.
  • These lead to the Big Opportunity.

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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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Bringing back long-haul capacity with narrowbody aircraft

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction  

May 11, 2020, © Leeham News: The timeline for a passenger traffic recovery is highly uncertain. Major OEMs and some airlines expect a return to 2019 passenger traffic levels in two years at the earliest.

Southwest Airlines doesn’t see traffic returning to 2019 for five years. IAG, parent of British Airways and several other airlines, predicts a three year recovery.

Leeham Co. predicts that it will take four to eight years before traffic returns to pre-COVID-19 levels.

 

Airbus A321XLR. Source: Airbus.

However, the recovery sequence for the various markets is becoming clearer. Governments will progressively lift travel restrictions on domestic markets, followed by regional international. Long-haul international will probably be the last to return to normal.

Airlines in China started ramping up domestic capacity, though the government mandates some of this. The governments of Australia and New Zealand disclosed discussions to lift trans-Tasman travel restrictions. French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear that travel would be first allowed within the European Union before outside the old continent.

People who need to travel for business reasons will be allowed first, including for long-haul travel. That means airlines that wish to restore long-haul capacity will have to do so with a much-reduced demand. With this in mind, it might make sense to restore long-haul flights with latest generation narrowbody aircraft such as the Airbus A321(X)LR and Boeing 737 MAX.

LNA analyzes pre-COVID-19 long-haul route patterns to determine what fraction narrowbody aircraft can cover as passenger traffic recovers.

Summary
  • Long-haul markets split in two;
  • Missed New Mid-Range Aircraft launch opportunity;
  • A large addressable market for the A321XLR;
  • A321LR and 737MAX long-haul route coverage.

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Pontifications: Assessing the impact of COVID-19: today’s take

By Scott Hamilton

April 6, 2020, © Leeham News: It’s going to be quite a while before there is a clear understanding how coronavirus will change commercial aviation.

LNA already touched on impacts to Airbus, Boeing and Embraer. None of it is good. For Boeing, burdened with the additional stress of the 737 MAX, is in the worst position. Even when the MAX is recertified, there won’t be many—or any—customers in a position to take delivery of the airplane.

Bearing in mind that what’s true today will change in a day, or even an hour, let’s take a rundown of where things seem to stand now.

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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?

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Boeing will proceed with NMA. Or FSA. Take a poll

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 6, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing will decide to proceed with the launch of the New Midmarket Aircraft (NMA).

Or it won’t and instead launch a single-aisle replacement for the 737 MAX that essentially reinvents the long-gone 757.

These are the two popular options discussed yesterday at the annual conference of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance in Lynnwood (WA).

Aerospace analyst Ken Herbert of Canaccord Genuity believes Boeing will launch the NMA.

Analyst Rob Epstein of Bank of America Merrill Lynch believes Boeing will go with the Future Small Airplane (FSA), a fresh design that is similar in size to the 757-200 and 757-300.

Consultants Kevin Michaels of Aerodynamic Advisory and Michel Merluzeau of AIR voted for the NMA. Consultant Richard Aboulafia of The Teal Group voted for the FSA.

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Pontifications: Back to drawing board on NMA, Boeing’s CEO says

Jan. 27, 2020, © Leeham News: Back to the drawing board.

So to speak.

By Scott Hamilton

There is no drawing board, of course, but, rather, computer design.

In his first media conference last week as president and CEO of The Boeing Co., David Calhoun is going back to a fresh start on evaluating what Boeing needs for its next new airplane.

The New Midmarket Airplane (NMA) and Future Small Airplane (FSA) appear dead.

That’s not to say, necessarily, restarting the analysis won’t conclude one of these concepts is the right one after all.

But something entirely new might emerge, too.

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