Pontifications: Next new mainline jet likely will be conventionally powered

By Scott Hamilton

May 9, 2022, © Leeham News: Pratt & Whitney thinks a hybrid-electric propulsion system might be ready for installation on the next new airplane from Boeing or Airbus by 2031. But more likely is that the new airplane, whatever design it is, will more likely be powered by a conventional engine that is capable of running on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

Graham Webb, the chief sustainability officer at Pratt & Whitney, said PW is “obviously investing in our Geared TurboFan. That’s our bread and butter. We are working to infuse a large number of technologies, including ceramic matrix composites, and aerodynamic improvements to the turbines and the compressor. We’re working on improving the cooling optimization and sealing, and the traditional core efficiency suite of technologies to enable us to get to the higher overall temperatures we need for the next generation cycles.

“We’ve already completed a suite of work with the FAA and our clean aviation program that enabled us to expand the bypass ratio of our Geared TurboFan engine further from where we are till now. We’re going to use that technology to grow the engine. We’ll put a different fan-drive gear system technology as a result of that expansion. That’s kind of like the traditional engine efficiency piece,” Webb said at the Aviation Week’s MRO Americas event in Dallas. LNA spoke with Webb on the sidelines of the huge event, attended by more than 13,000 people.

Under the FAA CLEEN Phase I program, PW developed ultra-high bypass ratio technologies beyond the current 12:1 present in today’s GTF engines. These technologies are ready for deployment for a future new aircraft. The specific bypass ratio of this new engine will be optimized to each installation on the new airframe configurations being developed by the airframers, a spokesperson added.

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Pontifications: “Dreadful” or “clearing the decks”? Boeing’s first quarter results

By Scott Hamilton

May 2, 2022, © Leeham News: Boeing’s first quarter report was just awful. There’s just no getting around this, although a few Wall Street analysts bent over backward trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (an American colloquialism). One analyst called the quarter “dreadful.” The stock tanked $20 on the day the earnings were reported. As of Friday, it gained $4 from Wednesday’s close.

  • Boeing confirmed the 777X certification and entry into service won’t be until 2025, confirming Tim Clark’s fears that emerged back in October at IATA. Clark is the president and COO of Emirates Airline, which has more 777Xs on order—115—than any other customer.
  • Production of the X will be paused until the end of 2023, adding about $1.2bn in costs to the project. This comes on top of $6.5bn in write offs on the X program previously taken.
  • About 50 777Xs moved from firm order status to iffy, under the accounting rule ASC 606. These are orders that were slated for delivery before 2025. Contracts for these must be renegotiated, yet again, casting a cloud over their status.
  • Boeing took a charge of more than $600m on the Air Force One program. AF One is a two-airplane order for the conversion of two 747-8 whitetails from civilian-passenger configuration to the militarized-VIP AF One specifications. LNA is told by multiple sources more sizable charges will be forthcoming.
  • The OEM also took a charge against the T-7 Red Hawk trainer. This was supposed to be one of the two programs (the MQ-25) is the other that lays the advanced design-and-production groundwork to be implemented in the Next Boeing Airplane (NBA), whatever it is, for the commercial market.

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Boeing appears finally on track to resume 787 deliveries

April 25, 2022, © Leeham News: Boeing appears on a path to resume deliveries of the 787 in the second half of this year.

By Scott Hamilton

Filings by American and United airlines with the US Securities and Exchange Commission show each carrier expects 787s later this year. And, according to a Reuters report, Boeing privately told the airlines and the supply chain that deliveries will resume in the second half.

Boeing declined comment.

A United 8-K filings (an unscheduled filing) indicate two deliveries in the third quarter and another four in the fourth quester. These are 787-10s. American indicates seven Dreamliner deliveries by year-end in its 10Q filing. These are 787-8s.

At the start of this year, American said it expected deliveries to resume in April. Boeing, on its 4Q2021 earnings call, did not confirm this but it didn’t dispute it, either. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees when Boeing can resume deliveries.

Deliveries were suspended in October 2020 when a gap the size of a piece of paper (ie, the thickness of 0.004 inches*) was found in new production airplanes. While not a safety of flight issue, the gap was a non-conforming production requirement. The FAA asked Boeing to halt deliveries while the scope of the problem was determined, and a fix identified. Coming during the grounding of the 737 MAX, coupled with increased scrutiny of Boeing and the FAA, scoping the breadth of the gap problem and determining a fix has taken an agonizingly long time. During this period, the FAA rescinded Boeing’s authority to certify each 787 for delivery, assuming this responsibility instead.

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Pontifications: Rolls-Royce and the Next Boeing Airplane

April 18, 2022, © Leeham News: The aviation industry is waiting to see what Boeing will do when it comes to a new airplane.

By Scott Hamilton

The Next Boeing Airplane (NBA), whatever form it takes, will largely be driven by what advances in engines are available. Boeing CEO David Calhoun downplays the engine element. He’s said repeatedly that the next engine will only have about a 10% lower fuel consumption than today’s powerplants. He didn’t today’s name engines, but the benchmarks are now the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan and CFM LEAP.

Calhoun places more emphasis on a moonshot in design and production advances to lower the cost of the airplane—with the theory the price paid by the customer will be lower as a result, providing a combined benefit of lower operating costs and lower capital costs.

PW agrees that by around 2030, the usual date (plus-or-minus a year or two) given for the NBA’s entry into service (EIS), it can get another 10% of improved fuel economy out of the GTF. CFM, on the other hand, is pressing ahead with what used to be called the Open Rotor concept. CFM now calls it an Open Fan. The company has a target EIS of 2035 and a fuel improvement of 20%. Emissions for the two engines would be reduced by roughly a corresponding amount vis-à-vis fuel burn.

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Pontifications: Catching up—DHC extends Dash 8 life; 737-10, 777X, A321XLR certifications

Every once in a while, it’s necessary to catch up on this and that….

By Scott Hamilton

April 11, 2022, © Leeham News: The announcement drew little notice because the topic wasn’t sexy. De Havilland Canada last week said that Norway’s Wideroe Airlines became the first operator to sign up to extend the service life of its Dash 8-100s from 120,000 cycles to 160,000 cycles. The carrier previously contracted to extend the life of the Dash 8 from 80,000 cycles to 120,000 cycles.

“Combined, our two Extended Service Programs add another 30 to 40+ years to the operational life of Dash 8-100 aircraft – that’s double the original service life of the aircraft,” DHC’s Robert Mobilio, Vice President Engineering, said in a statement.

The move is significant because there are no replacement aircraft in the 30-seat category. The market for airplanes this size is very small, and any replacement aircraft would likely be beyond the financial reach of many regional carriers. Extending the life of these airplanes—for an astonishing 30-40 years—is the only viable alternative.

DHC is separately evaluating hybrid technology, with engine maker Pratt & Whitney Canada, to make the Dash 8 series more environmentally friendly. A Dash 8-100 will be used for the hybrid-electric demonstrator.

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Pontifications: Returning MAX to pre-grounding rate one key to Boeing’s launch of new airplane

April 4, 2022, © Leeham News: Returning the 737 MAX production rate to pre-grounding levels, and beyond, is a key element to positioning Boeing to launch a new airplane program.

By Scott Hamilton

So far, Boeing hasn’t provided any guidance to Wall Street aerospace analysts beyond reaching a rate of 31/month this year.

A month ago, LNA reported that hints of new rates came from Boeing suppliers ATI and Spirit Aerosystems during their investor day presentations. The two days were a week apart. ATI is a parts supplier. Spirit builds entire fuselages for the 737. The investor days suggested that Boeing will return to rate 52, the pre-ground MAX rate, by 2024.

LNA has learned more specific information from its sourcing in the supply chain. Boeing notifies the chain when to expect rate breaks to higher or lower rates for planning purposes.

According to LNA’s latest information, Boeing is planning to achieve a rate of 38 by January 2023 and boost it to a rate of 47 by the summer of 2023. Another rate break would boost production to 52 a month early in 1Q24. When regulators grounded the MAX in March 2019, Boeing was geared up to boost production to 57 a month by year-end.

So far, Boeing apparently hasn’t given guidance to its supply chain beyond rate 52. But if the pattern holds up, rate 57 could be in the cards by the end of 2024. Orders for the MAX, especially for the MAX 10, have picked up nicely.

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Pontifications: Horizon’s plan to focus on single fleet type appears a blow to TPNG hopes

March 29, 2022, © Leeham News: Alaska Air Group announced last week that its subsidiary, Horizon Air, will retire 32 De Havilland Canada (DHC) Dash-8-400s by the end of 2023. The regional airline will go to a single fleet type, the Embraer E175-E1. AAG owns some of the 175s. Regional partner SkyWest owns and operates others.

By Scott Hamilton

The plan adds to the struggles of DHC to return to service -400s stored at the start of the COVID pandemic. At the end of 2021, there were more than 150 stored. As of last week, this number was down to 142, according to the ch-aviation data base. Another 17 were in maintenance. There were 398 in service. The number stored represents 25% of the -400 fleet.

Consolidating to a single fleet type doesn’t bode well for Embraer’s efforts to win Alaska/Horizon as a launch customer for its new TPNG. This advanced turboprop, proposed in 70- and 90-seat versions, has engines mounted on pods at the rear in the latest concept shown to the industry. A new engine will replace the aging but reliable Pratt & Whitney PW-series used on the Dash 8 and ATR-42/72. P&W, GE and Rolls-Royce are developing a new generation engine.

Embraer wants to launch the program this year with a proposed entry into service of 2027.

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Pontifications: From the aviation perspective, there’s something in China to watch

March 21, 2022, © Leeham News: Eyes are focused on Ukraine and the Russian War. In our corner of the world, commercial aviation, the stakeholders follow the fallout from the war: sanctions placed on Russia which affect overflights, supply chains, oil to Europe (fuel), and Russia’s confiscation of about $10bn worth of airliners from Western lessors and lenders.

By Scott Hamilton

But there is another drama playing out on the other side of the world, too. This one involves China and one of its commercial aviation companies, AVIC.

AVIC is a major aerospace company in China. It also has a variety of none-aerospace companies. It’s one of these that caught our eye last week.

The Wall Street Journal on March 14 reported that AVIC subsidiaries involved in solar energy filed for bankruptcy to avoid an $85m judgment after allegedly absconding with intellectual property from two US companies. The firm had to settle for 30 cents on the dollar.

It’s another example of China companies simply ignoring international IP laws.

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Pontifications: The soup du jour

March 14, 2022, © Leeham News: You might call it the soup du jour.

By Scott Hamilton

EcoAviation is all over the place at aviation conferences these days. It was a key topic at last October’s Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Likewise at last month’s annual conference of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA). EcoAviation also was an element of the Speed News conference in Los Angeles early this month and at another event the following week. Investor Day events now routinely include ecoAviation discussion.

This is all well and good, but at last, some key members of the industry are putting caution and realism to the pie-in-the-sky stuff that is sucking up investment like the Dot Com era a few decades ago. Only a few ideas and technologies will be successful.

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Pontifications: Ukraine impact on commercial aviation

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 28, 2022, © Leeham News: The clouds are very dark over Ukraine today. The unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by an international autocratic lying amoral thug is horrible. What the implications are for neighboring European countries, the greater Europe, the US, and the rest of the world won’t be fully understood for months.

But reality is reality, and LNA’s focus on commercial aviation must look at things from this perspective—narrow as it is in the context of human tolls underway in Ukraine now. In the dark cloud of the Ukraine crisis, we must look at what the impacts might be on commercial aviation.

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