Pontifications: A few rays of sunshine emerge in MAX crisis

Feb. 10, 2020, © Leeham News: The was plenty of angst among suppliers last week at the annual Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference.

By Scott Hamilton

Worries about the production shutdown, its duration and lack of communication from Boeing prevailed.

But there were in fact rays of sunshine beginning to break through the dark clouds of the last year.

Some suppliers—not many—reported that they’ve been told to begin shipping parts and components as early as March 1.

This gives hope that production will resume in April.

To be sure, the good news is mixed with a lot of bad news for suppliers. Some laid off workers and more layoffs are yet to come.

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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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Consultant to Boeing: cut dividends, invest in new airplane

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 5, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing is headed for a 30% market share unless it invests in a new airplane, and soon.

This is what aviation consultant Richard Aboulafia of The Teal Group predicted today at the annual conference of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance in Lynnwood (WA).

Aboulafia, who has been following Boeing for 30 years, implored the new CEO, David Calhoun, to redirect billions of dollars in shareholder dividends toward research and development instead.

Calhoun recently suspended 2 ½ year focus on the New Midmarket Aircraft to conduct a clean-sheet review of the next new airplane.

This has been widely interpreted as a move to kill the NMA. In reality, LNA understands, this is more about reassessing the market and what the airplane should ultimately be.

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“Who’s going to fail?”

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 5, 2020, © Leeham News: “Who’s going to fail?”

This is a key question on the sidelines of the annual Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference in Lynnwood (WA).

The question, of course, related to the small- and medium-sized suppliers caught up in the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX.

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Boeing 737 production rate boost to 57/mo delayed by four years

  • Plan called for 737 rate to go to 57/mo YE 2019.
  • This rate won’t be achieved until 2023.
  • Rate reduction considered for 777.

 By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 5, 2020, © Leeham News, Lynnwood (WA): Suppliers attending the annual conference of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance say they gained some clarity from Boeing last week about future production plans for the 737 MAX.

But they still face a multi-year challenge that puts strain on everyone.

Boeing’s plans to return to the pre-grounding production rate of 52/mo will take until 2022. Plans to boost the rate won’t be fulfilled until 2023—four years later than planned.

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Pontifications: A new setback for Boeing

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 18, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing suffered another setback last week, and this time it’s unrelated to the 737 MAX.

Boeing abandoned a robotic riveting/fastener system awkwardly called Fuselage Automatic Upright Build, or FAUB, intended to speed production.

Bloomberg first reported the abandonment. The Seattle Times has an extensive story detailing the history and objectives.

Doing these processes manually is incredibly labor intensive. FAUB, when it works, dramatically cuts the time, improves the accuracy and reduces injuries.

FAUB is but one element of a production transformation Boeing has been doing for years under the code name Black Diamond.

Converging technologies in NMA

Various automated and digital processes technologies have been in place on various 7-Series programs for years. FAUB, as The Seattle Times reported, was added to the 777 Classic line ab0ut six years ago. Part of the mission was to de-risk FAUB for application to the 777X.

Then, FAUB and the other processes were to converge for the first time on one Boeing Commercial Airplanes program with the New Midmarket Airplane, or NMA.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said on several earnings calls that the NMA was as much about production as it was about a new airplane program (or words to this effect).

But Boeing couldn’t make FAUB work.

Why not?

This is a good question and one for which there isn’t a clear answer.

It works elsewhere

FAUB, or a system very similar, is used by Airbus and other aerospace companies. It works for them, says Jessica Kinman, a senior manager for Dassault Systemes.

Kinman spoke Friday at a seminar sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) at North Seattle College about advanced manufacturing and other transformative production processes. This was just two days after the Boeing FAUB news broke.

Among the processes illustrated: robotics working on an upright fuselage. In other words, FAUB—although this was not identified as Boeing’s FAUB.

With the NMA business plan relying in part on Black Diamond processes, of which FAUB is an element, losing FAUB isn’t going to help an already-struggling business case.

But, then, NMA is on hold at Boeing until the MAX returns to service and cash flow resumes. So, from this perspective, losing FAUB at this time isn’t especially critical.

Longer term

But longer term, Boeing needs to understand why it couldn’t make FAUB work whereas Airbus and others can.

It’s all part of the digital factory Dassault and its competitors consult on as aerospace (and other industries) transform in the future.

I’ll have more about this in a subsequent post.

Mitsubishi moves would make a lot of sense

By Bryan Corliss

Analysis

June 11, 2019, © Leeham News: © — A deal by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to acquire the CRJ program from Bombardier would make abundant sense for Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp –  taking a struggling competitor off the board, acquiring hard-to-find human capital assets, and taking over an established North American American supplier network and a global product support system.

And recent unconfirmed reports that MITAC also is considering a North American final assembly site would make a lot of sense for a company that’s looking to cut production costs – and get closer to some likely key customers.

Yet while everyone in the industry is talking about the potential links between MITAC and the Montreal-based CRJ, nobody’s saying much about the company’s future in Moses Lake (WA). But overlooking Mitsubishi’s growth over the past two years there would be a mistake, because the company certainly is acting like it intends to plant roots there in the Eastern Washington farm country.

  • A North American assembly site would bring significant savings;
  • Mitsubishi and Bombardier already have close ties; and
  • Signs point to MITAC settling in at Moses Lake for the long haul.

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Cutting A220 costs is an ‘ongoing exercise’ for Airbus

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Introduction

March 14, 2019, © Leeham News: Airbus’ effort to slash supply costs for A220 production is “an ongoing exercise at this point,” Joe Marcheschi, Airbus’ head of procurement in North America, told LNA in an interview last month.

The A220-300 for JetBlue will be assembled at the Airbus plant in Mobile (AL). Airbus rendering.

“There are no specific, let’s say, achievements yet,” he said. “We are working closely with our supply chain.”

It takes time to squeeze cost out of the supply chain, he said. “We only took over July 1. That’s when we got full knowledge of the existing contracts.”

In January, Philippe Balducchi, head of the Airbus-led venture overseeing production, told journalists that the aerospace giant aims to realize “significant double-digit” percentage cost reduction. He indicated that most of the savings likely would come from the supply chain, according to news reports.

“Look, the airplane is absolutely fantastic—it just costs a lot of money,” Marcheschi said. “Now, we have to find a way to reduce the cost.”

Summary
  • Airbus is working to slash supply chain costs on A220 program, but no announcements yet.
  • The European plane maker wants to offer commercial MRO services in North America.

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Pontifications: Doubts continue over Boeing NMA launch

March 4, 2019, © Leeham News: Another week, another NMA story.

For an airplane that doesn’t exist, the prospective Boeing NMA continues to dominate much of the aerospace news.

By Scott Hamilton

Last week’s announcement by Rolls-Royce that it withdrew—in December, as it turns out—from the competition to power the NMA prompted a flurry of stories in aerospace media, including LNA.

Some stories suggested RR’s withdrawal meant Boeing was getting closer to launching the airplane.

Boeing, in January, said Authority to Offer might come this year and program launch had moved from 2019 to 2020.

Two prominent consultants predicted at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference last month the odds were 60-40 or 65-35 Boeing would proceed.

Maybe, but I have to tell you that conversations I had last week in the wake of the Rolls announcement are not encouraging.

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Airbus appears poised to launch A321XLR

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Introduction

Feb. 25, 2019, © Leeham News: The longer Boeing dithers on launching the New Midmarket Airplane, the harder it is to close an already difficult business case.

News last week that Airbus finally, at long last, is appears about to launch its Xtra Long Range A321XLR this year is overdue. Doing so will make Boeing’s NMA business case more difficult to close.

The aircraft should have been launch in late 2017, an insider told LNA recently. But the corruption scandals enveloping Airbus disrupted plans and drove executives to indecision. Launching the A321XLR was put on hold.

Summary
  • Killing the NMA.
  • A321XLR details.
  • Narrow market.
  • Engine down select soon.

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