The A350, Part 3: The A350-800 versus A330-900

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

January 28, 2020, © Leeham News: Last week, we analyzed the smallest member of the Airbus A350 family, the A350-800. After Airbus changed the variant to a non-optimal “cut and shut” variant, it was no longer competitive.

Airbus froze the development of the A350-800 and then let it slip out of the program (it’s never officially canceled). The A330neo became the replacement for the A350-800. Was this the right decision? Is the A330neo the better airplane?

Summary
  • We saw the A350-800 in its final form had a problem competing with Boeing’s 787. This created a problem for the Airbus widebody program below 300 seats.
  • After a thorough investigation, Airbus found a way to update the A330 to take the place of the A350-800. We use our airliner performance model to find out how well the replacement performs.

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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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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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The A350, Part 1: Intro and A350-800

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction

Dec. 17, 2020, © Leeham News: After running a series on the Dreamliner, LNA will now start a series on Airbus’ latest-generation twin-aisle aircraft, the A350. Airbus should deliver its 400th A350 this month.

After a delayed ramp-up to 10 units per month, Airbus had to cut the A350 production rate to five per month after the COVID-19 pandemic. The European OEM might have to follow Boeing’s footsteps and reduce twin-aisle production rates further.

The A350 program has an official backlog of 532 orders: 415 for the -900 and 117 for -1000. Once passenger traffic recovers, Airbus should ramp production back up of its best-selling twin-aisle aircraft.

Despite its success, the A350 program wasn’t without hiccups. There were several and sizable iterations before Airbus finalized the A350 platform, and the -800 variant is non-existent but not officially canceled.

Summary
  • A few iterations before launch;
  • Development without significant issues;
  • An in-favor aircraft family;
  • The aborted A350-800.

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The 717 and A220, Part 2: Operational economics comparison

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

December 10, 2020, © Leeham News: Last week, we introduced the Boeing 717 and its closest replacement size-wise, the Airbus A220-100. Delta, a major 717 customer, is accelerating the replacement of the 717 with the A220-100 under the pressure of the COVID19 pandemic.

We use our performance model to understand why. What are the gains when going from the 717 to an A220-100?

Delta Airlines Boeing 717-2BD landing at LaGuardia. Source: Wikipedia.

Summary
  • The 717 version of the DC-9 architecture produced a rugged and well-liked short-haul airliner. It’s five abreast cabin is preferred over the six-abreast Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.
  • It’s size-wise in the same 115 seat bracket as the 15 years younger Airbus A220-100. It’s 40 years old airframe architecture holds up well compared to the modern A220.
  • The engines of the two are also 15 years apart. But the Rolls-Royce BR715 of the 717 was originally designed to fly on fast business jets, necessitating a low by-pass ratio design. This is a handicap when used on lower speed airliners. It shows against the high bypass ratio Pratt & Whitney PW1500G of the A220.

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Enhancing the Dreamliner, Part 8: Wrap Up

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By Bjorn Ferhm and Vincent Valery

Introduction  

Nov. 26, 2020, © Leeham News: After analyzing the three members of the Dreamliner family on several routes out of San Francisco to Asian destinations, we conclude the series with a wrap- up of what we learned.

Summary
  • A guinea pig for new technologies and processes;
  • After a long slough against problems, a resounding commercial success;
  • Size-wise, ideally-positioned for the post-COVID world;
  • Future enhancements.

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Enhancing the Dreamliner, Part 4: the 787-9 analyzed.

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

October 29, 2020, © Leeham News: We look deeper at the 787-9, the most successful member of the Dreamliner family. It’s 50 seats larger than the 787-8 but shares the same wing dimensions and engines.

The 787-9 quickly overtook the smaller 787-8 in sales and deliveries once its performance was clear to the airlines.

By following on the 787-8 it could benefit from many enhancements in design and production, becoming a very efficient aircraft in the process. To check its efficiency we run the 787-9 against its predecessor, the Boeing 777-200ER, on the San Francisco to Sydney route and look at the data.

Summary
  • The 787-9 enjoyed all the improvements that came to light when developing the 787-8. The result is one of the most efficient twin-aisle aircraft on the market.
  • Why it’s popular with the airlines becomes evident when we compare with the aircraft it replaces, the 777-200ER.

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HOTR: Rolls 787 engine orders tank last 5 year

By the Leeham News team

Sept. 29, 2020, © Leeham News: Engine orders for Rolls-Royce on the Boeing 787 tanked in the last five years—pre-COVID.

An analysis reveals that over this period, Boeing booked 952 orders for 787. Of these, 755 selected the GEnx. A mere 80 orders were placed with RR. There were 117 orders for which engines were not selected. This gives GE a 90% share of the selected campaigns.

It gets worse.

Of the 80 aircraft that went to Trent 1000, Boeing removed 44 under ASC 606 accounting rules as too shaky to consider firm orders anymore. These include Avianca, Latam, Norwegian Air Shuttle, etc., which either went into bankruptcy or are restructuring as a result of COVID.

Under this scenario, GE’s share is closer to 95% in last five years.

RR’s Trent 1000 on the 787 is a thorn in the company’s side because of serious technical issues that grounded up to 50 aircraft. Groundings began several years ago. RR continues to deal with the financial fall-out. Some customers switched from RR engines to GEnx in follow-on orders for the 787.

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The engine manufacturers worst hit by the pandemic

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

September 28, 2020, © Leeham News: The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is shaking the air travel and airliner manufacturing industries like no crisis before.

More than 9/11, the oil crisis of 1973 or 2005 or the financial crisis of 2008. The problems for the airlines and the airframe OEMs are on the front pages of the world’s media.

The part of the airliner industry that is not so visible but is perhaps hardest hit, is the engine industry. Its weird business model amplifies the effects of the crisis.

Summary

  • Airframe OEMs lose money on the first hundreds of aircraft produced.
  • When they announce “black numbers”, it means the per aircraft losses stop. It doesn’t mean the aircraft program is positive.
  • For engine OEMs, it’s worse. They never reach ‘black numbers” on engine production. Their only money makers are old engine programs that fly a lot.

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Sunset of the Quads, Part 6. The A340-600 versus the 777-300ER.

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

September 10, 2020, © Leeham News: The Airbus A340-600 was designed to challenge Boeing’s hold of the large, long-haul jets. With a capacity 60 seats above the previous largest Airbus jet, the A340-300, and a 7,500nm range, it should put Airbus firmly on the long-haul map.

The A340-600 would be flying its 350 passengers as long and for a lower cost than the 20 seats larger Boeing 747-400, the then-largest long-haul Boeing jet. It would have worked hadn’t Boeing upgraded the 777-300 to the 777-300ER and surpassed the spec. How much better did that make the 777-300ER when it arrived in 2004?

Summary
  • The A340-600 could take almost as many passengers as the Boeing 747-400 and fly these to the same distance.
  • In addition, it loaded more LD3 cargo containers and burned only three-quarters of the fuel of a 747-400.
  • But the advantage of the A340-600 was shortlived. Only two years later Boeing responded with the 777-300ER which bettered the Airbus on almost all accounts.

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