Pontifications: death knell for the E175-E2 as Delta ALPA nixes Scope change

By Scott Hamilton

July 4, 2022, © Leeham News: Any hope that the Delta Air Lines ALPA pilots union will agree to a slightly relaxed Scope Clause in its next contract are just wishful thinking.

Few thought DALPA, as the chapter at the airline is known, would up the weight of airplanes allowed under Scope. This is needed to permit regional airline partners to operate the Embraer E175-E2. The E2 is more environmentally friendly and economical than the E175-E1, a 1990s design with engines (the CF34) that date to 1982 when it first ran on the test stand. The CF34’s design is based on the military TF34 developed in the 1960s.

EMB’s E175-E2 was supposed to enter service in 2021. It’s been rescheduled three times. The current EIS is now targeted for 2027. Few believe Scope will be relaxed by then. There is a growing belief that the E175-E2 is dead. (Embraer says no.) DALPA is often an industry-leading union. Its refusal to relax the weight limit all but assures the E175-E2 is dead.

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Pontifications: Boeing vows to maintain freighter dominance

By Scott Hamilton

June 27, 2022, © Leeham News: Boeing dominated the jet freighter market from the dawn of the jet age. It aims to keep its dominance.

But for the first time since the collapse of McDonnell Douglas in 1997, Boeing is being credibly challenged by Airbus and P2F conversions. Airbus is selling the A350F. EFW, which is a joint venture between Airbus and ST Aerospace, and IAI Bedek offer freighter conversions for the A330. The A350F is Airbus’ first credible challenge to Boeing’s dominance in the widebody freighter section. (The A300-600RF was a niche aircraft. A310 combis and the A330-200F were unsuccessful.)

EFW, Precision Conversions, and nominally at least two others offer conversions for the A320/321. There are more than 100 A330 P2F and at least five dozen A320/321 P2F orders, marking the first challenge to Boeing’s dominance in narrowbody freighters converted by the aftermarket.

Boeing has been testing the market for months on whether to launch a conversion program for the 777-300ER. Boeing Global Services announced in 2018 at the Farnborough Air Show that it was launching a -300ER P2F program, but never followed through. If Boeing proceeds this time, it faces competition from IAI Bedek, Mammoth Freighters, and Kansas Modification Center, each of which already has firm orders for about 65 conversions.

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Pontifications: Why I’m cautiously optimistic about Boeing’s future

By Scott Hamilton

June 20, 2022, © Leeham News: Boeing still has a deep hole to climb out of. There’s still plenty of opportunity for missteps along the way. But I’m cautiously optimistic about Boeing’s future.

Here’s why.

  • There are tangible things to point to that are indicators Boeing internally is now optimistic about its long flirtation with disaster.
  • Despite well-deserved skepticism and concern about when, or even if, Boeing is going to launch a new airplane program, signs point to “yes.” These go beyond the usual rhetoric that often has a hollow public relations ring.
  • The signs are there that Boeing at long last appears near resuming delivery of the 787, a critical step in its recovery.
  • Clearing the inventory of the 737 has been infuriatingly slow. But if one had been paying close attention, this shouldn’t have been a surprise—and China’s refusal so far to authorize its airlines to return the MAX to service is but one issue.

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Pontifications: Some customers anticipate up to year delay in certification of A321XLR

By Scott Hamilton

June 13, 2022, © Leeham News: Airbus scheduled the first flight of its Xtra Long Range A321XLR Wednesday.

Some customers think certification of the airplane will be delayed up to a year as Europe’s EASA and the USA’s Federal Aviation Administration demand changes to the integrated aft fuel tank that gives the XLR an advertised range of 4,700nm.

That was the consensus of those I talked to who gathered last week at an industry event in Chicago. Airbus already said the XLR certification will be delayed by a few months as regulators review how the fuel tank is integrated into the airplane.

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Pontifications: From Just in Time to Just in Case

By Scott Hamilton

June 6, 2022, © Leeham News: Delivery delays by Airbus and Boeing are well-known in today’s recovering environment. The reasons vary from supply chain challenges affecting both companies to Boeing’s suspended deliveries of the 787 and slower-than-expected deliveries of the 737 MAX.

Airbus Canada delivered only five A220s in May vs 10 that were planned. Ten deliveries are planned this month but hitting this target (and 70 for the year) may be problematic. LNA previously detailed the delays for the A220. Airplanes are coming off the final assembly lines without completed cockpits. Embraer is affected by a shortage of seats. CFM’s delivery of LEAP engines for the A320neo and 737 MAX is delayed.

It’s not just the big-ticket items that are hurting the Big Three airframe manufacturers. It’s the little stuff. The supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Some smaller suppliers can’t get the products they need from their suppliers. And some, already facing workforce shortages before the COVID-19 pandemic, are short of workers today.

These issues are causing a shift in what used to be the mantra of Just in Time product deliveries.

Boeing is trying to help its supply chain on a number of levels, said Mike Nieman, Regional Director of Globalization & Supplier Development, during the I-90 Corridor Conference last week in Coeur D’Alene (ID). The group represents the aerospace industry from Spokane (WA) through Idaho and into Montana along the Interstate 90 highway corridor.

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Pontifications: NIAR WERX joins with Precision Aircraft Solutions for A321, 757, MD-87 conversions

By Scott Hamilton

May 30, 2022, © Leeham News: NIAR WEXR, the aerospace research arm of Wichita State University (WSU), will join with Precision Aircraft Solutions for passenger-to-freighter and MRO for the Airbus A321, Boeing 757, and the Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) MD-87.

NIAR WERX already converts and performs maintenance on MD-87s and it partnered with Kansas Modification Center to convert Boeing 777-300ERs into freighters. Kansas Mod is not part of the Precision Aircraft deal.

Although announced last week, NIAR and Precision have been working toward this arrangement for some time. NIAR already has been setting up conversion lines and tooling for the A321 and 757. Emphasis will be on the A321. The hangar to be used is a giant one previously used by Boeing for the 747-200 Air Force One work, which is now performed in San Antonio (TX). Four to five lines can be installed in the hangar. This gives the capacity to convert 12-24 aircraft per year. The first A321/757 lines will be ready in the third quarter this year, says David Jones, NIAR WERX executive director.

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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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