Pontifications: Why I won’t be flying any time soon

July 6, 2020, © Leeham News: I really, really want to return to traveling by air soon. But I don’t expect to fly until next year.

By Scott Hamilton

I’m not worried about being on the airplane. As LNA’s Bjorn Fehrm detailed over a series of Friday posts, the cabin purification technology scrubs the air every few minutes.

The problem is not the airplane.

It’s the people who fly.

Here’s why.

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Pontifications: Recertification flights for Boeing 737 MAX appear close

By Scott Hamilton

June 29, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing may be set to begin recertification flights of the 737 MAX as early as today, The Seattle Times reported last week.

Testing will take three days, if all goes well. But Boeing still has a lot of work to do to fully satisfy regulators.

According to The Times, Transport Canada and Europe’s EASA require additional modifications to enhance safety on the MAX. The additional changes may not be required for certification but must be done within a year, the paper reports. The MAX 10 must have the changes before it is certified.

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Pontifications: Deferrals, bankruptcies continue; order recovery far off

By Scott Hamilton

June 22, 2020, © Leeham News: Although more passengers are flowing through airports and airlines are adding back service, airplane order deferrals continue.

Airline bankruptcies do, too.

LEVEL’s short haul operation went into bankruptcy last week. LATAM Argentina ceased operations. Lufthansa said it may seek administration if shareholders don’t agree to the government bailout negotiated by the airline.

New orders dried up. And, so far, there is no telling when there might be some placed.

Boeing announced just a handful of new orders last month. Airbus didn’t announce any orders in May.

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Pontifications: bleak near- to mid-term future for Rolls-Royce engine unit

By Scott Hamilton

June 15, 2020, © Leeham News: The jet engine division of Rolls-Royce faces an uncertain future because of its own problems, exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 on commercial airlines.

Beset by problems with its Trent 1000, Boeing 787 engine, hampered by a huge error in judgment to withdraw from a joint venture with Pratt & Whitney, beset by the premature termination of the Airbus A380 program and now facing a long-term impact of the coronavirus crisis, Rolls is an engine maker with few opportunities.

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Pontifications: Pratt & Whitney uses COVID crisis to catch up on GTF fixes

By Scott Hamilton

June 8, 2020, © Leeham News: Pratt & Whitney struggled since its new Geared Turbo Fan engine entered service in 2016 to fix technical, reliability and operational issues.

Plagued by premature engine removals as parts, other than the gear box, failed, Airbus A320neos stacked up in Toulouse and Hamburg while new engines were diverted to operators with aircraft out of service.

India’s regulator issued a grounding order of GTF-powered neos. Shop visits for repairs and modifications overwhelmed PW. The mess cost PW parent United Technologies (now Raytheon Technologies, following a merger) billions of dollars.

Working its way out of this mess was forecast to take into 2021.

Now, with COVID-19 impacts grounding airliners by the thousands, PW is using this as an opportunity to speed replacement and reworked engine deliveries.


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Performance Improvement Packages (PIPs) will be ready this summer.

“If there is any silver lining in the environment we’re in today, it is likely around the GTF and the retrofit,” Raytheon CFO Toby O’Brien said during a UBS webcast last week. “We are utilizing available shop capacity to fix the issues in the fleet. Our goal is to have GTF engines with enhancements by the end of the year as the recovery plays out.”

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Pontifications: New GE Aviation CEO will face big challenges

By Scott Hamilton

June 1, 2020, © Leeham News: The new chief executive officer for GE Aviation (GEA) will face huge challenges when he or she succeeds David Joyce when he retires this year, say industry sources. Joyce was named CEO in 2008.

Like other sectors of commercial aviation, the COVID-19 crisis hit GEA hard.

Initially, the workforce was cut by 10% in March. This was deepened to 25% in May. Non-essential spending was cut. A hiring freeze was implemented and other cost-cutting measures were put in place.

Summary
  • Demand for new airplanes tanked. The Boeing 737 MAX, powered by CFM LEAP engines, has been grounded since March 2019. No return to service is in sight. (GE is a 50% partner in CFM International, which makes the LEAP.)
  • LEAP engines on the 737 and the competing Airbus A320neo family fall way short of on-wing targets. Shop visits, under warranty, add to GE’s cost basis.
  • The Boeing 777-9, powered by the GE9X, is already a year late. A redesign of some critical parts of the engine was required.
  • COVID also decimates the engine aftermarket business, which is core to the OEM business model.

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Pontifications: Aircraft values, lease rates plummet

By Scott Hamilton

May 25, 2020, © Leeham News: Aircraft lease rates continue to plummet as the virus crisis infects the airline industry.

In an update of its periodic look at rates, the UK advisory firm ISHKA last week looked at 5-year old aircraft. Monthly Rates plunged as much at 26%. Aircraft values dropped as much as 15% (22% for an ATR-72).

Since Jan. 1, the Boeing 777-200F lost only 2% of its value but lease rates dropped 11%, despite high demand for cargo airplanes now. The Airbus A350-900 lost 5% of its value but lease rates were off 17%.

A five year old Boeing 787-8, on which pricing was under pressure before COVID decimated the airline industry beginning in March, now can be leased for $575,000/mo, ISHKA says.

The Airbus A320/321ceo and Boeing 737-800 also show sharp value and lease rate declines.

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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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Pontifications: Boeing focuses on design, production vs airplane development–for now

By Scott Hamilton

By Scott Hamilton

May 11, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing killed development of its alphabet soup of airplane concepts for now.

“For now” is a relative term. When Boeing will be ready to show concepts to customers as a prelude to a program launch depends on how quickly the industry recovers from the COVID crisis.

But research and development of a streamlined production system, once key to new airplane projects, continues.

CEO David Calhoun said on the 1Q2020 earnings call that the New Midmarket Airplane (NMA) is essentially dead. He said in the following media call that the “differentiators” for the next new airplane from Boeing or Airbus will be manufacturing and engineering.

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Pontifications: What shape and how long will recovery take?

By Scott Hamilton

April 20, 2020, © Leeham News: There just is little good news for the aerospace industry right now.

Airbus announced it will reduce production by a third across the A-Series airliners. I don’t think this will be the last cut.

Boeing last week said it will resume production in the Seattle area of its wide-body airplanes. It’s also now preparing to restart production of the 737 MAX, clearly a piece of good news. Defense-related production for the P-8 Poseidon and the KC-46A tanker resumed last week.

But Boeing hasn’t laid out its production plans for the 7-Series airplanes. This undoubtedly will come next week. Monday is the shareholders’ annual meeting. This will be held virtually at 9am CDT. Access is via the Boeing website. The first quarterly earnings call will be held two days later, also accessible via the web. Either meeting may outline the production plans for the rest of the year.

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