Tanker wars may be back

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Introduction

Dec. 10, 2018, © Leeham News: The tanker wars may be back.

Airbus has teamed with Lockheed Martin to offer the Airbus A330-200MRTT to the Pentagon in a for-hire business model. The agreement also provides the prospect of “conceptualizing the tanker of the future.” (The press release is here.)

From 2001-2011, the US Air Force, Pentagon and even Congress were embroiled in controversy over recapitalization of the USAF aerial refueling tanker fleet.

The KC-135s, based on the Boeing 707, were aging, expensive to maintain and outdated.

After 9/11, Boeing proposed leasing 100 tankers based on the 767-200ER to the USAF. A scandal surrounding the USAF approval of this deal sent the air force’s procurement office and Boeing’s CFO to jail and resulted in the resignation of CEO Phil Condit. The lease deal was canceled.

Summary
  • Three rounds of tanker procurement were filled with improprieties, bitter charges and counter charges.
  • Boeing currently has a contract for 52 KC-46A tankers out of an initial procurement of 179.
  • The air force sees a need for 100 more tankers on an accelerated timeline.
  • Fee-based refueling is not unknown to the Pentagon.

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Is the A380 less economical than a 777-300ER?

By Bjorn Fehrm

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Introduction

December 06, 2018, © Leeham News.: Our Monday article “A380 suffers new blow, future remains bleak” describes how Air France hands back five of their 10 Airbus A380-800 to their lessor with start next year.

The article details the reasons behind the returns. Other media writes the A380 are notably more expensive to run than a Boeing 777-300ER. As so often, this is a serious case of apples and oranges.

Summary:

  • To compare aircraft like-for-like, they need to be compared with the same rules for cabins and operations.
  • When this is done, the A380 is not more expensive to operate than a 777-300ER.
  • The caveat is: if filled to the same load factor.
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A380 suffers new blow, future remains bleak

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Air France is returning five of 10 A380s to lessors. Photo via Google images.

Dec. 3, 2018, © Leeham News: Air France will return five leased Airbus A380s to lessors next year and in 2020, citing high operating and crew costs compared with the Boeing 777-300ER that is the principal long-haul airplane in its fleet.

This is another blow to the world’s largest passenger aircraft program.

It underscores something Airbus CEO Tom Enders said in 2017: “If you fill it 80% or more, it is a money-making machine.”

Air France’s A380 load factor is not a matter of public record, but the airline itself has a general passenger-avoidance problem due to repeated strikes and generally poor service. The airline’s A380 interiors are dated and the business class is not on a par with even its own Boeing airplanes—nor competitors’ A380s. Read more

Is Airbus working on a 200t A330neo Regional?

By Bjorn Fehrm

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Introduction

November 29, 2018, © Leeham News.: Bloomberg wrote in the week Airbus is bringing out a 200 tonnes version of the A330neo as a counterstroke to the NMA. Having checked the characteristic of such a version, we contacted Airbus for clarifications.

Here is what Airbus said and how any 200t A330neo fits into Airbus future deliveries.

Summary:

  • A 200t A330neo would not be an ideal version to take market share away from a future NMA. It would have a shorter range than even the shortest range NMA.
  • Airbus explained what they really said on Monday. A 200 tonnes A330neo was part of presenting the flexibility of the A330neo concept, including how this flexibility would work against a planned NMA.

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Airbus’ A320neo Plus, A350neo and new single-aisle airplane

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Introduction

Nov. 26, 2018, © Leeham News: There are few secrets that stay secret for long in commercial aviation.

Airplane concepts are discussed with customers. Information must be shared with suppliers. And then there’s the manufacturer’s own website.

Bloomberg News reported last week that Airbus is looking for help to design the A320neo Plus, an entirely new single aisle airplane and a re-engined A350, the A350neo. All this came from Airbus’ website, Bloomberg reported.

Some of this is old news.

Summary
  • The A320neo Plus concepts have been around for a few years.
  • The idea that Airbus has conceived a new single-aisle airplane is not new, either. It’s shown open-rotor and futuristic design concepts at air shows, conferences and earnings meetings for years (as has Boeing).
  • Although not mentioned in the Bloomberg article, a new wide-body airliner is also something Airbus conceived as a possible response to the Boeing New Midmarket Airplane—this isn’t new, either.
  • What is new is the prospect of an A350neo. The airplane has been in service only a few years, but if one stops and thinks about it, a neo is already a logical progression.

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Delta orders more A330-900, pushes out A350-900

By Bjorn Fehrm

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Introduction

November 22, 2018, © Leeham News.: Delta and Airbus announced Friday; Delta will increase its A330-900 order from 25 to 35 aircraft and push out 10 ordered A350-900 five years, to 2025-2026.

Why this change for Delta? Can the 10 added A330-900 replace the planned A350-900? If so, will other airlines do the same?Summary:

  • Delta is a large operator of A330. With the new order, it will grow to 60 aircraft in the next five years. Through its Delta TechOps operation, it has achieved low operating costs for the A330.
  • In its 251t version available from 2020, the A330-900 can cover most of Delta’s Asian destinations.
  • The A350-900 is now a sub-fleet of 15 aircraft until 2025. It will be reserved for Delta’s longest Asian destinations and where higher capacity is needed.

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Automation reduces foreign advantages over US

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Introduction

Nov. 19, 2018, © Leeham News: The move toward increasing automation makes US more competitive than moving work to other countries, an expert in industrial efficiencies said last week at a meeting sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance.

The same is true when it comes to states competing against other states, he said—something that is especially relevant as Washington State girds for expected competition from Southern states, and especially South Carolina, for the prospective Boeing New Midmarket Airplane.

Summary
  • Automation reduces US labor costs.
  • 60% of Boeing’s workforce is eligible for retirement in the next six years.
  • Optimizing the manufacturing value chain based on finite resources.
  • Pressure for speedy decisions is greater than ever.

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How useful is an NMA, Part 6

By Bjorn Fehrm

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Introduction

November 14, 2018, © Leeham News.: Last week we operated the future Boeing NMA from North American hubs. The aircraft would cover the North American market well but would have limitations when flying to South America. The coverage would be sensitive to where our hub would be, as would European coverage.

Now we finish the series by comparing the NMA to its main alternatives for range and operational economics.

Artists impression of the Boeing NMA. Source: The Air Current.

Summary:

  • When comparing the NMA with its competitors, the same cabin type and ruleset must be used for all aircraft.
  • Using a common ruleset and measuring over typical long range operation, the NMA will be the most economical aircraft of the compared types.

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A330neo backlog faces challenging skyline

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Introduction

Nov. 12, 2018, © Leeham News: With the first flight of the Airbus A330-800, it’s time to take a new look at the status of the A330 program.

Summary

  • Additional orders have been recorded, but the skyline remains challenged.
  • Iran Air’s order for 30 ceos and neos is still on the books.
  • AirAsia X has yet to confirm Farnborough’s MOU for 34 A330-900s and reportedly looks for convert some to single-aisles.
  • Lessors have a big chunk.

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How useful is an NMA, Part 5

By Bjorn Fehrm

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Introduction

November 8, 2018, © Leeham News.: Last week we flew a Boeing NMA from the Middle East. We found the aircraft would be well suited to serve this market.

Now we finish the coverage part of the series with checking how useful the NMA would be for North American based carriers.

Artists impression of the Boeing NMA. Source: The Air Current.

Summary:
  • The North American carriers will have a useful aircraft in the NMA. It will cover the domestic US and Canadian markets, including Alaska and Hawaii.
  • The smaller 797-6 will cover wide parts of South America and Europe dependent on the hub. The larger NMA has more of a coverage problem outside the North and Central American markets. Read more