When does a larger airliner pay off

Subscription required

By Bjorn Fehrm

March 7, 2024, © Leeham News: Over the last decades, the choice of domestic market airliners has gone from the typical 120-seater to today 200 seats or more. We will look into what drives these decisions and where the cross-over points are from, say, an Airbus A319 to A320 and then to A321. We will limit the investigation to the Airbus range as the Boeing 737 MAX range has still not their MAX 7 and MAX 10 in service.

We will use our Airliner Performance and Cost Model (APCM) to model typical sectors and investigate what load factors favor a switch.

Summary:
  • The typical domestic cabins have gone from 120 to 150 seats to now 200 seats or above.
  • As airliner types grow, their trip costs increase. At what load factors can you motivate an A321 instead of an A320?

Read more

Machinists want new Boeing contract ensuring work for decades to come

Subscription required

By Dan Catchpole

Updated 2:35 p.m., March 4, 2024

The IAM 741 began promoting a strike fund for 2024 Boeing contract negotiations in 2019. Source: IAM 751.

March 1, 2024 © Leeham News: When representatives from Boeing and the Seattle-area machinists union start formal negotiations on Friday, the context will be a world apart from when they bargained the existing contract 10 years ago. Back then, Boeing management had a new airplane program (777X) as leverage and exploited an internal fight in the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to push through a concession-laden contract.

Now, Boeing is battered after years of self-inflicted crises, a pandemic and problem-riddled supply chain, and, after decades of defeats, labor has scored major victories around the country, especially in aerospace.

Head of District Lodge 751 Jon Holden told Leeham News & Analysis during a recent interview that he is determined to get back what was taken from the roughly 31,000 members he represents in the Puget Sound area.

The union wants better work-life balance, better pay and retirement benefits, and guarantees that will keep it healthy for years to come.

Given its ongoing struggles, Boeing can little afford to alienate the union representing the vast majority of people assembling its commercial jetliners, industry analysts say.

However, Boeing management and the IAM have had a rocky relationship since workers at the company organized in 1935. In the past 20 years, company leadership has taken a hard line against organized labor and repeatedly pushed for concessions despite banking substantial profits and spending billions on share buybacks.

Summary
  • Unions are resurgent in tight labor market
  • Analysts: Boeing can’t afford a labor unrest
  • Talks breakdown between SPEEA, Boeing over Tech and Safety Pilots contract
  • Boeing firefighters reject latest offer

Read more

Boeing’s program accounting reduce future profits

Subscription required

By Bjorn Fehrm

February 29, 2024, © Leeham News: Boeing published the results for 2023 on the 1st of February. It reported a loss of $2.2bn, compared with a loss of $5.0bn for 2022.

Experienced industry analysts know these results do not reflect the company’s state, neither for 2023 nor for 2022. The reason is Boeing uses so-called program accounting for the production costs of its Commercial Aircraft programs. Based on Boeing data, the loss for 2023 would have been at least $3bn higher using classical accounting methods.

The program accounting idea is to average the high initial cost per produced unit of a new aircraft program with the lower production costs of units later in the program. Thus it smooths the reported profits for a new aircraft program.

It has recently been used to “smooth” reported results of troubled aircraft programs, like the 737 MAX. The drawback is that once the troubles are gone, the negative effects on the company’s future profits are not. We will use the 737 MAX troubles to show the effect of this variant of program accounting.

Picture of a 737 MAX production experiencing problems. Source; Boeing and Leeham Co.

Summary:
  • Boeing increased the 737 Max deferred production cost pushed to future payment by 730% between the end of 2018 and the end of 2023.
  • The result of this way of using program accounting to reduce what is shown today is that future profits of the 737 MAX program will be reduced by almost a billion dollars per year during the next 10 years.

Read more

Carrots and sticks needed to achieve sustainability goals, says Airbus

Subscription Required

By Tom Batchelor

February 22, 2024, © Leeham News:  The sustainability challenge is redefining the aerospace industry in all sorts of ways.

An Airbus A350-1000 is refuelled with a 35% blend of SAF prior to its participation at the 2024 Singapore Airshow’s flying display. Credit: Airbus

For Airbus, which spent €3.2bn on research and development last year, that comes in the form of clean-sheet designs for hydrogen-powered aircraft that promise to reduce in-flight carbon emissions to zero. The European planemaker’s ambition is to bring to market the world’s first such commercial aircraft by 2035.

But Airbus is also working on a successor to the A320 family, referred to as the “next-generation single-aisle” aircraft. At the company’s full-year briefing on February 15, more details were revealed about the aircraft, including confirmation that it would run entirely on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

“We’re working on technology to develop the next short-to-medium range aircraft before the end of the next decade, which will be capable of flying up to 100% SAF,” Julie Kitcher, Airbus’ chief sustainability officer, told LNA in Toulouse. “It will be much more fuel efficient, but also feature a new wing design and new materials; we’re working on a lifecycle approach to this aircraft.” Read more

Airbus’s orders at risk

Subscription Required

By Judson Rollins

Introduction 

Feb. 19, 2023, © Leeham News: After last week’s release of Airbus’s 2023 financial results, we undertake our annual analysis of at-risk deals on the OEM’s books.

Airbus has outstanding orders from airlines where there is a material probability that some won’t translate into deliveries. Most resulted from airlines with financial difficulties, but some were related to contractual disputes. When deliveries are delayed beyond a set period, usually 12 months, the customer can cancel orders if the delays are unexcused. Boeing flags such orders as subject to an ASC 606 accounting rule adjustment.

Unlike Boeing, Airbus isn’t subject to the ASC 606 accounting standard, so it only discloses the nominal value of its total adjusted order book in its annual report – but not at-risk orders by program.

LNA analyzed Airbus’s order books in July 2020, November 2020, August 2021, February 2022, August 2022, and December 2022 to identify at-risk orders and develop an apples-to-apples comparison. The above links explain our methodology.

Summary
  • Airbus is more prone to country- and carrier-specific risks than geopolitical.
  • Order risk threatens to push Airbus’s market share even higher.
  • Airbus single-aisle order risk is mainly driven by low-cost carrier exposure.
  • Widebody order risk is a mix of long-deferred orders and regional problems.

Read more

Ryanair, Southwest, United take biggest hit from FAA cap on 737 MAX production

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 16, 2024, © Leeham News: When the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) put a freeze on Boeing 737 production rates at the currently approved 38/mo level, LNA revealed that hundreds of orders will face delivery delays. Boeing faces even greater delays than the 38/mo production level suggests, however.

As LNA reported, and confirmed by several aerospace analysts, Boeing’s true production rate for the 737 was 31 per month and even lower—as little as around 20 per month in some periods. The balance of deliveries came from its large inventory of 737 MAXes built during the first nine months of the 21-month grounding of the aircraft.

With Boeing’s full year 2023 delivery data now available, LNA looked at 2024 deliveries that were planned before the Jan. 5 Alaska Airlines 737-9 MAX emergency door plug blew off Flight 1282 on climb out from Portland (OR).

The incident was characterized as an accident due to the nature of the event and damage to the airplane. Nobody died and there were only minor injuries. The decompression at about 16,000 ft. damaged the door surround at row 26 on the left side. The door plug separated from the airplane and was found in a wooded area a few days later. There was damage throughout the 737’s cabin and the cockpit door was ripped off its mountings.

The pilots landed the airplane a few minutes later in Portland.

Read more

Production rates below Boeing’s claim, low supplier confidence

Subscription Required

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 15, 2024, © Leeham News:   The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may have told Boeing it won’t allow product rate increases on the 737 MAX lines, or the addition of the North Line at Everett (WA) until it’s satisfied production quality is under control.

But as LNA first wrote upon this news, Boeing’s production is well below the currently approved 38 per month. We pointed out that Boeing was consistently struggling last year to roll 31 MAXes out of the factory—and often, the number was substantially below 31.

Sometimes the number of newly produced 737s was less than 20 a month, reports one consultant who tracks the production.

Technically, the FAA can’t stop Boeing from producing more 737s than the 38 per month cap. It doesn’t have this authority, reports Aviation Week. But the FAA is the responsible party for issuing individual aircraft airworthy certificates as the 737s are ready for delivery to airlines and lessors. And, according to AvWeek, the FAA won’t issue more than 38 certificates a month.

The FAA suspended Boeing’s so-called ticketing authority for the MAX before the airplane was recertified following the 21 month grounding beginning in March 2019. This suspension was extended to the 787 when production and quality control problems were discovered at the Charleston (SC) assembly plant.

Several aerospace analysts following Boeing pointed out that Boeing hasn’t produced 38 MAXes a month and, like LNA reported, it’s struggled to meet even the previously advertised rate of 31/mo.

Figure 1. Cirium plotted the actual new production deliveries vs the advertised production rates for Airbus and Boeing single-aisle aircraft.

The consultancy Cirium charted the actual deliveries by Boeing (and by Airbus) for their respective single-aisle aircraft.

Read more

Airbus should tread carefully

  • Airbus announces is 2023 earnings on Feb. 15.

Subscription Required

 By the Leeham News Team

 Analysis

Feb. 12, 2024, © Leeham News: United Airlines has reportedly been looking to Airbus to replace the Boeing 737 Max 10s that Boeing is having difficulty delivering, due to the Alaska Airlines accident and the resulting delays in certification to the Max 7, Max 10 & 777X programs. Airbus has been searching for ways to recover/create slots to take on a premium customer and poach them from Boeing.

A320 production rates are headed towards 75 a month in the 2025/2026 time frame, with Airbus confident that its supply chain can meet the demand and will commit to the rate for the long term. These are record production numbers with the previous high-water mark reached in 2019 with 863 total deliveries: 642 of those from the A320neo family, or 54 a month. The A220 program is also headed for an increased production rate of 14 a month at about the same time.

However, Airbus has its own kinks to work out, along with concerns outside its control:

  • Geared Turbofan (GTF) on wing engine issues from supplier Pratt Whitney.
  • The A220 & A330Neo lines aren’t selling as well as they’d like to
  • 2024 US presidential election could really upend the apple cart.
  • Another Max accident would be a bad thing, even for Airbus (more below).

There has been speculation and calls for Airbus to push the envelope even more, reaching 90 a month to offset the Boeing shortcomings.

75 & 14 a month are already huge goals and pushing suppliers to go past those targets might compromise quality. People will cut corners when they are greedy. Besides, a little scarcity when you are the top dog isn’t the worst thing; Boeing isn’t coming to the party with anything new in the near future.

Read more

2023 Boeing Financial Results: $41m earned at BCA–(or was it?)

  • Airbus 2023 earnings are announced on Feb. 15.

Subscription Required

By the Leeham News Team

Feb. 9, 2023, © Leeham News:  On January 31, Boeing released its year end results for the fiscal year and despite the entire company ending up in the red, analysts and investors alike pointed to the bright spot at Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA). Positive margins and earnings of $41 million. Some good news finally, after five years of less than stellar results.

Boeing has been beset by problems since its last profitable year in 2018:

  • Two 737 MAX crashes and subsequent grounding, leading to a buildup in inventory.
  • 787 delivery stoppage and a further build-up in inventory, with a $3.5bn write-off.
  • 777X certification delay and a $6.5bn write-off.
  • Numerous and costly production missteps.

The slide continued into 2024 when a 737 Max 9 door plug blew out during an Alaska Airlines flight, leading to increased scrutiny by regulators and further delays to the Max 7 and Max 10 certification process.

With the earnings release, there was some good news amongst the rubble; BCA was finally beginning to turn things around in the right direction, posting positive margins and a gain of $41 million. Not earth-shaking, but a small measurable baby step towards profitability.

Read more

Boeing to Suppliers: FAA audit of 737 could change production schedule, but stick to plan for now

[Ed. note: The headline and top of this story have been reworded for clarity.]

Subscription required

By Dan Catchpole

Boeing’s Ihssane Mounir talks to suppliers at the 2024 Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference.

Feb. 8, 2024 © Leeham News: The head of the Boeing Commercial Airplanes supply chain told suppliers to keep making parts for the 737 MAX at the existing production schedule while the Federal Aviation Administration scrutinizes Boeing’s production of the single-aisle jetliner. He added that the production pace could be affected by the FAA’s audit results, which are expected in March.

“I would ask all of you to bear with us,” BCA senior vice president of Global Supply Chain and Fabrication Ihssane Mounir said at an aerospace supplier conference on Wednesday. “Let us get through this process with the FAA, the audit process, and see what the findings are and how we mitigate those findings…and what it’s going to take to get back to the production rates as we forecasted them before.”

The current schedule has the 737 production lines going to 42 airplanes per month starting this month. However, in the wake of a door plug panel blowing out of a two-month-old 737 MAX 9 flown by Alaska Airlines, the FAA on Jan. 24, told Boeing it could not increase the production rate past 38 airplanes per month. The planemaker already had been struggling to deliver that many MAXes each month.

Mounir said quality and safety trump every other concern and that Boeing and its suppliers have to get back to basics when it comes to ensuring quality. For the time being, he told suppliers, “If you have an issue, please call, and we’ll work with you.”

Summary
  • Mounir: Quality trumps everything else
  • Boeing urges suppliers to voice concerns

Read more