Focus on quality not slowing innovation, says GKN

By Tom Batchelor

April 18, 2024, © Leeham News: The crisis at Boeing forced the entire supply chain to re-evaluate manufacturing processes and double down on quality control – but that is not yet stifling innovation, according to Peter Dilnot, CEO of Melrose PLC, the parent company of aerostructures and engine components supplier GKN Aerospace.

GKN Aerospace has undergone a restructuring that is now largely complete. Source: GKN

Melrose is most of the way through a comprehensive restructuring, and the company has emerged as a pure-play aerospace business that has consolidated production sites and exited “non-favorable” contracts.

“We don’t want to be everywhere,” explained Dilnot during a briefing in London attended by LNA this week, which was intended to set the scene ahead of July’s Farnborough Airshow.

“One of the reasons I think aerospace is so much in vogue at the moment is that it is one of the very few markets where you’ve got structural growth. Aerospace is unique in that we’ve got these long order backlogs, structural growth and as a result a growing top line for industry participants.”

From 50 production facilities pre-COVID, GKN is now down to 33, and it will soon be at 31 sites. Its four global technology centers remain in the UK, where it is headquartered, the US, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

The positioning of Melrose as a leaner business after the spin-off of its automotive unit is producing positive results. The company posted revenue of £3.35bn ($4.29bn) for 2023, 17% growth over the previous year, and adjusted operating profit of £420m (up from £186m in 2022), in its full-year results last month. Operating margin reached 12.5%, up from 6.3%, and profits of £700m are being targeted by 2025.

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Dissecting Boeing CEO’s statement next new airplane will cost $50bn

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By the Leeham News Team

April 15, 2024, © Leeham News: It was a stunning number.

Boeing CEO David Calhoun said his successor will have to decide on whether, or how, Boeing will proceed with its next new airplane. The price tag, he said, will be $50bn.

The Bombardier C Series was the last all-new, widely used single-aisle jetliner design completed and in service today as the Airbus A200. China’s C919 has only a handful of aircraft in service and Russia’s MC-21’s EIS is uncertain. Credit: AP Canada.

No airplane program at Boeing, except for the 787, ever came close to this cost. No program at Airbus did, either—and certainly none came close at Bombardier or Embraer.

The 787’s cost was a financial and industrial nightmare. Design, production, and industrial snafus combined to create delivery delays of 3 ½ years. Deferred production and tooling costs reached a peak of about $32bn. Customer compensation and other factors are believed to have boosted the total cost to around $50bn, a figure Boeing never confirmed.

On March 25, Boeing announced Calhoun will retire no later than Dec. 31. Chairman Larry Kellner won’t stand for reelection to the Board of Directors at the annual meeting (date TBA). Stan Deal, the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA), retired immediately. He was replaced by Stephanie Pope, the former CEO of Boeing Global Services and current EVP and COO of The Boeing Co. Pope’s new role at BCA is in addition to her corporate position.

Shortly after the Monday Morning Massacre, Calhoun appeared on the financial network CNBC and, among other things, made his stunning price tag prediction. It’s a figure he referenced in passing before—but this time it caught the attention of broader media.

Single-aisle airplane programs historically cost between $10bn and $12bn. Widebody programs cost between $15bn and $20bn, excluding cost overruns. Bombardier’s C-Series, the most recent all-new, widely used single-aisle airplane, cost an estimated $6bn before Airbus took over.

Boeing hasn’t done an all-new new single-aisle airplane since 1982’s 757. Airbus hasn’t done an all-new single-aisle airplane since 1984’s A320.

LNA explains Calhoun’s number below.

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A350-1000 or 777-9? Part 2

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By Bjorn Fehrm

April 10, 2024, © Leeham News: We are doing an article series comparing the capabilities of the Airbus A350-1000 and the Boeing 777-9. The A350-1000 has not been a hot seller, and a lot of analysts asked why. Is there a capability gap or what is the reason?

At the same time, the reworked Boeing 777X had reassuring initial sales at the November 2013 launch at the Dubai Air Show, where Emirates ordered 150 777-9 out of a total show orderbook of 259 aircraft for Emirates (150), Qatar (50), Lufthansa (34), and Ethiad (20). The orders have since grown to 481 as of late 2023.

The A350-1000 has had a recent resurgence in orders and switches from the A350-900 orders, whereas the 777–9 has seen several delays due to engine and certification problems and is now scheduled for 2025 delivery instead of 2020.

Does the 777-9 or the A350-1000 hold the upper hand in a long-term race between the largest widebodies after the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8i stopped deliveries? We use our Aircraft Performance and Cost model to compare the two to understand their present performance and potential for upgrades.

  • The Boeing 777-9 is a larger and heavier aircraft with a 12% higher passenger capacity.
  • Does an advanced wing and later generation engines compensate for an older and heavier fuselage structure?

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Airbus charges and write-offs since 1999: more than €33bn

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By Scott Hamilton

April 8, 2024, © Leeham News: The A400M is Airbus’s biggest financial albatross when it comes to taking charges and write-offs, an analysis shows.

LNA last week reported Boeing’s long history of charges and write-offs that arguably hurt shareholder value in a company that’s placed this metric ahead of all others since the 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas Corp. (MDC). Boeing has written off or taken charges of more than $73bn since 1996, the last year before the merger.

Airbus’ public records go back to 1999. Since then, the company wrote off more than €33bn (about $35bn using today’s exchange rate). This is about half of Boeing’s $70bn from 1999 through 2023.

The A400M military transport has been a financial thorn in Airbus’ side since inception. More than €10.5bn has been written off. Airbus’ other financial albatross, the A380, saw write-offs of €3.7bn.

Airbus’ infamous bribery scandal resulted in $4.2bn in European and US fines. Of this, $500m was paid to the US Justice Department for violating ITAR rules, which govern technology transfer to restricted governments such as China. (Notably, Boeing paid a criminal penalty fine of just $244m to Justice in connection with the two 737 MAX MCAS crashes in 2018 and 2019 in which 346 people died.)

The A350 program resulted in charges and write-offs totaling €2.57bn.

Airbus purchased Bombardier’s C Series for $1 for 50.1% control of the program. Airbus completed this purchase in 2018, taking a €2.6bn charge the same year for the purchase (and has invested billions of euros since then).

Below are two charts detailing the charges and write-offs. The first is by year and the second is by category.

Related Article

Boeing took +$73bn in charges since 1996

Airbus charges and write-offs by year

Airbus charges and write-offs by category

Airbus’ A350-1000 or Boeing’s 777-9?

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By Bjorn Fehrm

April 4, 2024, © Leeham News: Korean Air confirmed an order for 33 Airbus A350 in the week, 27 of which are the larger A350-1000. The order is significant on two accounts:

First, 27 A350-1000 and only 6 A350-900, where analysts have for years asked why the -1000 isn’t selling.

Secondly, for a carrier that has a rather 50-50 fleet of Airbus and Boeing planes, its large widebody was the Boeing 777-300ER, whereof it has 27 out of 37 Boeing 777 in total. Korean Air now chooses the A350-1000 to replace the 777-300ER. Why not the 777-9?

Was this a question of availability (the 777-9 should have been delivered in 2020 but has had several delays; the present plan says 2025), or was there a technical-economic reason for Korean Air’s decision? We examine the characteristics of the two planes to find the answers.

  • The Boeing 777-300ER was an exceptionally successful stretch of the original 777-200. The 777-9 is the sequel to the 777-300ER.
  • The market did not like the original A350-1000. Therefore, the present -1000 is a reconfigured aircraft compared to the original variant.

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Boeing wrote off, took charges in excess of $70bn since McDonnell Douglas merger

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By Scott Hamilton

April 1, 2024, © Leeham News: The Boeing Co. wrote off or took forward loss charges of more than $70bn since the 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas Corp. (MDC). That’s when most legacy Boeing employees and many observers view the inflection point when Boeing became focused on shareholder value vs the engineering legacy that once defined the company.

LNA has tracked Boeing’s charges and write-offs for years. We’ve also tracked Airbus’ performance since 1999 financial reporting. From then through 2023, Airbus took charges and forward losses of more than €33bn. At today’s exchange rate, this is about $35bn. During the same period, Boeing’s figure was more than $70bn, twice that of Airbus.

From 1997 through 2019, when Boeing suspended stock buybacks due to the first 737 MAX crisis, Boeing spent more than $60bn in stock buybacks to boost shareholder value, according to an analysis for LNA.

For a company focused for decades on shareholder value, the write-offs and charges is a lot of money out the door.

A detailed analysis reveals a surprising detail. More than half of Boeing’s charges and write-offs come from Boeing Commercial Airplanes–$44.66bn. More than $22bn was incurred since 2020, when the MAX crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic were in full swing.

In the charts below, LNA breaks down the charges and write-offs under each chief executive officer beginning with Phil Condit, the CEO who engineered the merger with MDC. Unsurprisingly, most of the charges came under current CEO David Calhoun and his predecessor, Dennis Muilenburg because of the MAX and the pandemic. Fixed price defense contracts also were major contributors. The KC-46A refueling tanker and Air Force One lead the way.

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When does a larger airliner pay off? Part 4

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By Bjorn Fehrm

March 28, 2024, © Leeham News: We are doing an article series about what drove the cross-over from Airbus A319 to A320 and then to A321. We analyzed the change from A319/A320ceo to neo last week and discussed why the neo shift for the A319 meant if stopped selling.

Now, we study the change from A321ceo to A321neo and what caused the acceleration of growth of A321 sales and deliveries as it was upgraded to neo.

  • The increase in sales and delivery of the A321 when it went from ceo to neo has less to do with improved operating economics than other factors.
  • One of these factors was it filled the MOM (Middle Of the Market) gap that Boeing identified 10 years ago.

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Exclusive: IAM to seek Boeing Board seat

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By Scott Hamilton


Jon Holden, president of the IAM 751 union that assembles Boeing’s airplanes in the greater Seattle area. Credit: IAM 751.

March 25, 2024, © Leeham News: Boeing’s largest union, the IAM 751, will seek a seat on the Board of Directors in its contract negotiations that began on March 8.

The union assembles Boeing’s airplanes in the Renton and Everett (WA) factories.

LNA wrote in January 2020, when David Calhoun became CEO of The Boeing Co., that labor representation was needed on a Board of Directors that was filled with politicians, defense and finance people—but none versed in safety or even commercial aviation production. Commercial aviation was Boeing’s largest profit center for decades before the 2018-19 737 MAX crisis began.

The day Calhoun assumed his position on Jan. 13, 2020, LNA published a list of things facing the new CEO. Among them was a need to reconstitute the Board. Included in this was a suggestion that members from the IAM and Boeing’s engineering and technician union, SPEEA, be appointed (among other specific ideas).

About half the Board has changed since then, resolving some but not all of the issues raised—but neither the IAM nor SPEEA have representation on the Board.

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On Jan. 29 of this year, LNA opined that the forthcoming labor contract negotiations with the IAM 751 was a good opportunity to begin changing the culture at Boeing. The following March 15, The Seattle Times editorialized the same theme (also citing our report in the process).

The administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Mike Whitaker, slammed Boeing’s culture in a March 19 interview with NBC Nightly News.

“There are issues around the safety culture in Boeing. Their priorities have been on production and not on safety and quality. So, what we really are focused on now is shifting that focus from production to safety and quality,” Whitaker told news anchor Lester Holt.

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When does a larger airliner pay off? Part 3

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By Bjorn Fehrm

March 21, 2024, © Leeham News: We are doing an article series about what drove the cross-over from Airbus A319 to A320 and then to A321. We started with the ceo range last week. We could see why the A320 was a better choice than an A319, with only a few more passengers per departure required to close the operating cost difference for a route, whereas the A321, being a larger jump in capacity, did not have the same per seat mile economics until traffic increased substantially.

Now we study the change to the neo generation and try to understand why the A319, a popular model as a ceo variant, did not sell at all as a neo.


  • The A319ceo had a suitable capacity for routes before 2015.  It also had a passenger mile cost advantage over the A320 for thinner routes.
  • After 2016, when the A320neo entered the market, the A319neo didn’t sell at all, despite the continued existence of thin routes. We explain why.

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Embraer goes for growth after ‘solid’ 2023

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By Tom Batchelor

March 18, 2023, © Leeham News

A strengthening order backlog and an uptick in deliveries helped Embraer turn a profit last year.

In a call with investors as the company outlined its 2023 earnings results, Francisco Gomes Neto, president and CEO of Embraer, said commercial activity had “intensified” over the last 12 months, with “solid demand” across its markets.

Unsurprisingly, Embraer has felt the effects of supply chain delays buffeting the entire industry (though it said not as acutely as in 2022). The company still managed to deliver a total of 181 jets, up from 160 in 2022.

Of those, 64 were commercial aircraft, 115 were executive jets (74 light and 41 medium, helped by the strong performance of the Phenom 300) and two were military C-390s. E2 family deliveries more than doubled year-on-year, from 19 to 39 in 2023.

The recent firm order from American Airlines for 90 E175s, with purchase rights for 43 additional jets, had resulted in a “great start to 2024”, Neto added.

Revenues totaled $1.975bn in the fourth quarter and $5.269bn across 2023, which was 16% higher than in 2022 but at the lower end of the guidance range for the year.

In 2023 as a whole, the company reported adjusted EBIT of $350m, with adjusted EBIT and EBITDA margins of 6.6% and 10.7%. Adjusted EBIT stood at $181.7m in 4Q23, with adjusted EBIT and EBITDA margins of 9.2% and 12.8%, respectively.

Looking ahead to 2024, Embraer said total company revenues would sit in the $6 to $6.4bn range, with an adjusted EBIT margin of between 6.5% and 7.5%.

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