Boeing’s production plans

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction  

Jan. 26, 2021, © Leeham News: LNA wrote earlier this month that Boeing needs a boring year after a challenging 2020. Ramping up 737 production, clearing up the accumulated 737 MAX and 787 inventories, and keeping 737-7/10 and 777X certification campaigns on track are among the OEM’s main goals for 2021.

Credit: Boeing

Like Airbus, Boeing had to significantly adjust its production plans downward for the foreseeable future as airlines pushed back scheduled deliveries. Boeing’s latest plans involve increasing the 737 line production rate to 31 per month by early 2022. The 787 production rate will go down to five per month (from a peak of 14) in the second quarter of 2021. The 747, 767, and 777 rates remain at 0.5, three, and two per month, respectively.

Ahead of Boeing’s earnings release on Jan. 27, LNA analyzes the updated delivery schedule for coming years on the five major commercial programs.

Summary
  • Shallower rates on 747 and 767;
  • Dreamliner delivery delays;
  • Analyzing new 737 MAX order and inventory cleanup;
  • Notable changes behind stable 777 production rate.

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Small jet demand likely to stay depressed after COVID

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By Judson Rollins

Introduction 

January 25, 2020, © Leeham News: As passenger travel trickles back to life, one trend that’s already apparent is a long-term diminution of airline yields in most regions.

This is largely driven by a reduction in business travel, some of which is likely to never return.

Regional jets and small single-aisles like the Airbus A220 and Embraer’s E2 family have higher unit cost, or cost per available seat-mile (CASM), than larger aircraft like the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320.

Achieving an operating profit with smaller jets requires high unit revenue, or revenue per available seat-mile (RASM). This will be difficult to achieve in a world where business travel is still down 70%-80% this year, even with a vaccine – and may be down 30% or more permanently.

What role will these smaller jets have after the pandemic? And will production match this new reality? A closer look is required.

Summary

  • Regional jets and smaller single-aisles have higher unit costs.
  • High costs require higher unit revenue to be profitable.
  • Business travel likely slow to return, with some permanently impaired.
  • Smaller jets previously used for routes now in danger of demand fragmentation.

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The A350, Part 2: Analyzing the A350-800

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

January 21, 2020, © Leeham News: Before the holidays, we started a series to look into Airbus’ A350 family. We analyzed the development program and how the variants have sold.

Initially, the A350-800 won about 180 orders. But as the market received more information about the smaller variant, the more it realized it wasn’t an optimal airplane. It was never officially canceled. But orders was up-gauged to the A350-900. Airbus decided the variant wasn’t competitive and developed the A330neo instead. We now look into why.

Summary
  • The A350-800 was positioned as Airbus’ main defense against Boeing’s new 787-9, the most efficient variant of the Dreamliner.
  • As the A350 program was delayed, the A350-800 moved from an optimized variant to a “cut and shut” version. This compromised its efficiency.
  • Gradually Airbus changed its strategy how to compete with the 787.

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The ascent of the Big Three Chinese carriers

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction  

Jan. 18, 2021, © Leeham News: As the COVID-19 outbreak spread throughout China in January last year, their airlines were the first hit by the sudden collapse in passenger traffic. Most of the world’s carriers would follow the same faith by March.

However, as China managed to bring the COVID-19 outbreak under control, domestic traffic progressively picked up. According to IATA statistics, October 2020 Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPMs) in domestic China were down 1.4% year-over-year, compared with a 60.7% decline in the domestic USA market. However, one should note that travel between China and the rest of the world remains very limited, notably due to the draconian quarantine requirements on arrivals from abroad.

Due to the faster recovery in domestic passenger traffic, China Southern Airlines had more RPKs year-to-date than Delta and United, only trailing American Airlines. Air China and China Eastern Airlines have had comparable year-to-date RPKs with Air France – KLM, and more than Lufthansa and IAG. Below is a summary chart:

The three carriers received significant financial support from the Chinese government to sustain their operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic will likely accelerate the big three Chinese carriers’ global importance compared with their equivalents in the USA and Europe. With that in mind, LNA analyzes their structure and financials in recent years.

Summary
  • Three state-owned enterprises;
  • The specific structure of each carrier;
  • Varying financial performance;
  • Ambitious growth plans.

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Outlook 2021: Russia and China

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

Jan. 14, 2021, © Leeham News: China and Russia are both developing a single-aisle domestic airliner in the A320/737 MAX class, a regional turboprop in the ATR 72 class, and is jointly working on an A330neo/787 widebody competing airliner.

While these are similar development programs, the countries are in very different positions in their markets and industries. China is a five times larger market for airliners than Russia, and its airlines are on the way back from COVID riddled passenger numbers. It has the fastest recovery from COVID-19 of any country and its civil airliner industry is on the rise.

Russia on the other hand has a stagnant market, still hit by COVID-19, and its market and industry have become introverted after a decade of flirting with Western markets and technology.

Summary
  • China and Russia drive almost identical civil airliner projects to replace Soviet-era and Western airliners.
  • While similar in their projects, they are different in their markets and state of industries.
  • China is on the way up (albeit from a low state) to eventually compete on the world market, whereas Russia is falling back to a Soviet-style all Russian state-controlled model.

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Outlook 2021: Turboprops challenged

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By Judson Rollins & Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

Jan. 11, 2021, © Leeham News: COVID-19 may ultimately prove to be a net positive for turboprop manufacturers. Near-term orders will be pinched just as for jets, but a long-term loss of business travel and the resulting impact to airline yields will make turboprops’ superior unit costs appealing for shorter missions.

Turboprop engines create their thrust with a very high bypass ratio. The result is 30% better fuel economy than a jet. But it also means 30% lower speed. This limits turboprops to stage lengths to about half that of jets.

The market-dominating ATR and De Havilland Canada (DHC) turboprops use this base efficiency to compete against newer regional jets despite having designs which are 20 years older.

ATR-72-600 Source: Wikipedia.

Summary
  • Turboprops have attractive economics, making them a larger part of the market post-COVID.
  • ATR-72, DHC-8-400 turboprops are old designs.
  • The only new turboprops come from Russia (Ilyushin I-114) and China (Xian MA700), limiting their market reach.
  • Embraer is keen to enter the market with a new clean-sheet design.
  • Continued dominance by ATR, DHC depends on whether Embraer goes ahead.

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Outlook 2021: Embraer faces recovery from failed JV, COVID

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By Bjorn Fehrm and Vincent Valery

Introduction

Jan. 7, 2021, © Leeham News: Embraer faces the twin challenges this year: recovering from the aborted Boeing joint venture and COVID.

Neither is going to be easy.

Embraer reintegrated the Commercial Aviation and 60% of its services unit back into the parent company.

Recovering from COVID depends on how soon and widespread vaccinations are accepted worldwide.

And, the E-Jet product line with its latest E2 variant has challenges.

Summary
  • Overcoming the failed Boeing tie-up.
  • Abating competition.
  • Positive market outlook.
  • E1 customers in one market…
  • And E2 customers in the others.

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Outlook 2021: Boeing needs boring, Airbus looks for recovery

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By Scott Hamilton and Vincent Valery

Introduction

Jan. 5, 2021, © Leeham News: What’s in store for Airbus and Boeing this year?

Boeing needs a boring year.

Airbus is clearly better positioned than Boeing.

Twenty-twenty one is a year of recovery for Boeing. It must dig out from a very deep hole.

Airbus reported that it hit cash break-even in the third quarter. But the company is not out of the woods yet.

Everything depends on something largely out of their control: how quickly the airline industry recovers from the COVID pandemic.

Summary

  • Boeing hopes to deliver about half of the 450 stored MAXes this year.
  • Low-rate production inches up for the 737.
  • Widebody sales dried up for Airbus and Boeing.

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Outlook 2021: Despite vaccines, COVID-19 will continue to dominate aviation in the coming year

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By Judson Rollins

Introduction

Vaccine containers in an air freight container. Source: UPS.

Jan. 4, 2021, © Leeham News: Recent approval of two major vaccine candidates are driving euphoria among aviation investors, employees, and travelers. Many commentators are talking about a “return to normal” later this year.

Alan Greenspan’s famous phrase, “irrational exuberance,” comes to mind. Vaccine approvals provide reason for hope, but not in the near term. Even Singapore’s government, one of the world’s most efficient, says it will need most of 2021 to fully vaccinate its population.

On the other end of the economic spectrum, Duke University’s Global Health Institute says low-income countries may have to wait until 2024 if high-income countries continue to reserve vaccines for their own populations.

Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, which have released efficacy data on their vaccines and are now obtaining approval from various jurisdictions, announced a combined capacity to produce vaccines for up to 3.1bn people by the end of 2021. China’s Sinovac claims it will be able to produce 600m doses, but it is still evaluating the efficacy of its vaccine candidate.

Summary
  • Reluctance to take vaccine likely to slow rollout
  • Borders re-opening depends on rollout, proof of vaccination
  • Pre-travel testing may be a dubious solution
  • Business, leisure travel likely to be permanently impacted
  • Airline financial woes likely to continue
  • New aircraft demand will stay low in 2021

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Senate report reveals FAA retaliation, hostile culture

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

Dec. 21, 2020, © Leeham News: The US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Friday issued a damning report taking Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration to task.

A 20-month investigation began in the wake of the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes in October 2018 and March 2019.

The report concluded Boeing inappropriately coached the FAA pilots during recertification simulator training to test fixes to the now-infamous MCAS system.

Details were widely reported last week.

More troubling is the larger picture painted by the Committee of an FAA for years ignoring several US airlines’ safety violations and attempts by FAA inspectors to enforce safety regulations.

Whistleblowers were subject to retaliation, Committee investigators found. The FAA and its parent agency, the Department of Transportation, refused to make FAA employees available for interviews and stonewalled when documents were requested.

The bigger picture of an agency that protects airlines more than the public raises questions of a culture that favors cozy relationships with airlines. Media reports focused on the Boeing-FAA relationship and not the larger issues.

Summary

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