Pontifications: A little math for 777X, 737 MAX

By Scott Hamilton

Aug. 22, 2023, © Leeham News: We have a follow up to our Aug. 9 post about Boeing revealing the sub-type orders for the first time for the 737 MAX and 777X.

Boeing every month updates its website data for gross orders, cancellations and orders classified under an accounting rule called ASC 606. ASC 606 means orders are “iffy” for contractual or financial reasons with the customer.

The difference between gross orders and net orders represents cancellations, for whatever reason. The airline or lessor may have decided to cancel outright. Some orders might have been swapped within the family (for example, from a 737-8 to a 737-10). Some orders may have been swapped (cancelled) between models—for example, from the MAX to the 787. Boeing’s cumulative statistics haven’t revealed the difference between gross and net orders—until now.

ASC 606-classified order adjustments are excluded from the gross/net tally, Boeing tells me. In other words, for purposes of the tallies, the ASC 606 orders remain included in the gross numbers. They’re still orders at this stage, even if iffy. Airbus, operating under European accounting rules, doesn’t have to identify its iffy orders; LNA has made its best estimate for years of Airbus “iffy” orders, however, in an effort to level the publicly reported playing field. There are times when discussing orders and backlogs that we ignore Boeing’s ASC 606 classification when comparing with the Airbus orders.

With this as background, let’s get to the follow up to the Aug. 9 post.

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Pontifications: Off the beaten path museums

By Scott Hamilton

Aug. 15, 2023, © Leeham News: If you’re in the Puget Sound area (the greater Seattle-Tacoma region) and want to see some well-preserved airplanes that are off the beaten path, take a run down to the McChord Air Force Base south of Tacoma.

McChord was created before World War II. Through the decades, it’s been a fighter, bomber, transport, tactical and strategic base. Today, it’s home to only the Boeing C-17 cargo transport. Refueling tankers are inland at Fairchild AFB near Spokane (WA). Fighters are no longer at McChord; they are stationed at an air base near Portland (OR). (This is why I think McChord should be “BRACed” (declared surplus) and turned over for civilian use as a commercial airport, but this is another topic.)

Douglas C-124 on display at McChord Air Force Base, Tacoma (WA). Credit: Leeham News.

I visited McChord last week to see its museum and its aircraft static displays. The museum is a small building with artifacts, models, photographs and history. As museums go, I’ve seen better, but there’s interesting information here that serves as a good introduction to the air park (called Heritage Hill) where 16 aircraft are located.

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Pontifications: Freighter outlook for the next 20 years

By Scott Hamilton

Aug. 8, 2023, © Leeham News: The cargo conversion market faces the prospect of oversupply of certain types, the consulting firm IBA said last week in a webcast.

The aftermarket conversion of Boeing 737-800s is already at 60 this year, according to IBA’s estimate.

Figure 1.

The forecast doesn’t extend beyond this year—and therefore is incomplete. IBA notes that the Airbus A321 P2F supply is a fraction of the 737-800 conversions, which are undertaken mainly by Boeing and aeronautical Engineers Inc (AEI). There are more than 100 A320 family conversions orders (all but a handful for the A321) that will be coming on line in future years.

Figure 2.

Likewise, IBA’s forecast for widebody conversions doesn’t extend beyond this year. There are also more than 100 orders for Airbus A330ceo conversions (all but a handful for the A330-300). Figure 2, like Figure 1, paints an incomplete picture.

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Pontifications: The see-saw remarketing of China’s 737 MAXes; Air India gets 55

Aug. 1, 2023, © Leeham News: Air India is taking 55 Boeing 737 MAXes originally built for Chinese airlines and lessors, LNA has learned. These are part of the order announced in February for up to 150 MAXes. The order was finalized during the June Paris Air Show.

Two of 140 Boeing 737 MAXes built for Chinese airlines in storage at Moses Lake (WA). Boeing sold 55 of these Chinese airplanes to Air India, resulting in the dramatic drop disclosed during the second quarter earnings call. Credit: Leeham News.

This deal accounts for the sharp reduction in inventoried MAXes reported last week during the Boeing 2Q2023 earnings call. It also represents another development in the see-saw saga of whether to remarket the 140 MAXes built for China.

First, Boeing was going to remarket around 140 737 MAXes ordered by Chinese airlines and lessors but which remained in inventory due to Beijing’s refusal to authorize delivery.

Then, a mere three months later, Boeing CEO David Calhoun—who announced the remarketing effort in the first place—said Boeing would pause remarketing the aircraft.

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Pontifications: Book Review: “Turnaround Time” at United Airlines

Turnaround Time: United an Airline and Its Employees in the Friendly Skies, by Oscar Munoz with Brian DeSpinter. $32.00. Available on Amazon and other outlets.

By Scott Hamilton

July 25, 2023, © Leeham News: Oscar Munoz had been the chief executive officer of United Airlines only about a month when he suffered a massive heart attack that almost killed him. His heart was in such bad shape that he needed a heart transplant.

Munoz was an executive of the railroad company CSX, and on the UAL Board of Directors, scandal erupted at United. Jeff Smisek, the CEO who took over United from the same position at Continental Airlines when UAL and Continental merged in 2010, had agreed to add service between Newark (NJ) and a South Carolina city to appease an executive of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Port owns and operates Newark (and New York’s LaGuardia and JFK airports). The emerging scandal led to the removal of Smisek, and others involved.

Munoz was a reluctant and somewhat odd choice. He had no airline experience, other than being on the Continental and later United boards of directors. He was in line to become CEO of CSX. He initially turned down being considered for the United CEO position when approached by a fellow UAL Board member. But with the Port Authority scandal, and a broken United which had not fully integrated the merger with Continental, he relented.

Munoz tells his story in Turnaround Time: United an Airline and Its Employees in the Friendly Skies. This newly published book is a combination of an autobiography and the turnaround of a troubled United.

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Pontifications: NASA pulls the plug on electric airplanes

Some odds and ends after three weeks on the road.

  • NASA pulls the plug on electric airplane research.
  • NASA and Boeing’s Transonic Truss Brace Wing contract.
  • Engines and the TTBW.

July 18, 2023, © Leeham News: When NASA gives up on a project, it’s time for others to take notice.

By Scott Hamilton

The agency is best known for space travel. But it funds and undertakes research and development for aeronautics, including commercial aviation. NASA, after all, is the acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Boeing, and Airbus, benefitted from NASA research in the past. NASA currently is working with Boeing on the transonic truss brace wing concept (TTBW) that could redefine how airplanes are designed and look as early as the end of this decade.

So, what has NASA abandoned? Late last month, the agency pulled the plug on the X-57 electric airplane before the first flight. NASA concluded that the electric and battery technology for the X-57, a small airplane, is too dangerous. NASA wouldn’t even authorize test flights.

It’s worth noting that LNA’s Bjorn Fehrm, an aerospace engineer, called bullshit on electric airplanes in his first of a series of articles way back on June 30, 2017. Billions of dollars have funded some 200 companies pursuing electric airplanes. This is money that could have been invested in expanding production of Sustainable Aviation Fuel, the leading alternative of alternative energy projects.

The current, continued frenzy over alternative energy vehicles is like the 1990s dot com frenzy. And just as the dot com boom went bust, the day is coming soon when the alternative energy book will go bust, too.

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Pontifications will return July 18

Scott Hamilton is taking some time off. Pontifications will return July 18.

Pontifications will return July 18

Scott Hamilton is taking some time off. Pontifications will return July 18.

Pontifications: A330neo, still struggling, nears 300 sales

By Scott Hamilton

June 27, 2023, © Leeham News: Airbus inked a memorandum of understanding with lessor Avolon for 20 A330-900s at last week’s Paris Air Show. When converted to a firm contract, this will bring the -900 order book to 299. Another 12 of the short, longer-range A330-800 make the total 309.

This compares with 664 A330-200s, 784 A330-300s and 38 A330-200Fs. The A330ceo is one of Airbus’ best-setting widebody airliners. The entire A330ceo and neo families are Airbus’ best-selling widebody, followed by the A350 family. The original A300/A310 family is third.

However, the A330neo has struggled in the market. First offered in 2014, it was the last of the new generation twin aisle airplanes up to that point. Boeing’s 787 and the A350 preceded it. Through May, 2,096 gross orders were placed for the 787. Nearly 600 remain in the backlog.

Why hasn’t the A330neo done better? In an interview with LNA at the air show, Christian Scherer, Airbus’ chief commercial officer, said there were two factors.

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Pontifications: Only time will tell

By Scott Hamilton

June 20, 2023, © Leeham News: Here at the Paris Air Show in what is the first normalized show after the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic, the sense of excitement is almost tangible.

There are predictions by some that when this week is over, more than 2,000 commercial airplane orders could be announced. This would match the heyday of orders in the 2010 decade.

Clearly, there is pent-up demand for new airplanes. Aging aircraft are part of the reason. A push toward more fuel efficient, and therefore more environmentally friendly airplanes is another reason. Full order positions, dating to 2026 for the Boeing 737 and to 2029 for the Airbus A320 is prompting some orders to “get in line.” Even widebody aircraft delivery slots are sold out for the next several years. So is the Airbus A220.

Embraer pulls up the rear with its E-Jet E2. Sales are hampered because the E-Jet family serves a shrinking market, the regional airlines. But Embraer, too, has had a flurry of recent orders.

Airbus and Boeing are talking openly about the next new airplane—Boeing more openly than Airbus. Their confidence is clear.

Alternative energy also takes a front seat at the show. Fuels, batteries, UAMs, eVTOLs, and more vie for attention.

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