Pontifications: Boeing 777 production rates

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 27, 2017, © Leeham Co.: When Boeing announced it will reduce 777 production to 5/mo, with actual deliveries of the 777 Classic to 3.5/mo beginning in 2018, the aerospace analyst at Goldman Sachs immediately concluded Boeing will have to reduce the rate to 2-2.5/mo.

Since then, and other analysts (whether publicly or privately) reached a similar conclusion.

On the 4Q/YE2016 earnings call in January and again last week at a Barclays conference, company executives said 90% of the positions in 2018 and 2019 are sold.

Shortly after the Barclays conference ended, one analyst called me to challenge the assertion by Greg Smith, Boeing’s CFO, about 2019. By his assessment, the analyst could only get to 60% in 2019. Did I see anything differently?

59% or 74%, but not 90%

At that point, I hadn’t looked. When I did later, I got to 59% based on firm orders. I could get to 74%, giving Boeing every benefit. But I couldn’t get to 90%.

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Svalbard Trip Report, Part 3

Here’s our final trip report for our Svalbard adventure. We tacked on four days in Oslo and five in Stockholm, since we were “in the neighborhood.” This was our first trip to Scandinavia, with Norway and Sweden being our 32nd and 33rd countries visited.

The prime purpose of the trip was to go to Svalbard. We previously posted some photos taken with our handy-dandy Blackberry.

Below is just a small sampling of the hundreds of photos we took.

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Svalbard Trip, Part 2: the Realm of the Polar Bear–sort of

(Photos still to come.)

The tour in and around Svalbard was concentrated on the island of Spitsbergen. We were on a small ship, the M/S Expedition, owned by the tour group known simply as G. Capable of carrying 100 passengers, this is the sort of small boat I like because it has a shallow draft and get get into shallow waters, and it doesn’t have the mass of people of larger ships. The atmosphere is far more casual as well.

The tour was called the Realm of the Polar Bear. It should have been called the Polar Experience. The name implies we’d see a large number of polar bears; we saw just five and the cruise before us only one. It certainly did not compare favorably with the up close and personal experience of our Kaktovik, Alaska, trip in October 2010 when we were within feet of yearling polar bears and a short distance for the adults, with large numbers nearby. We had no idea just how special an experience that was.

That’s not to say Spitsbergen wasn’t worth going-it was. But we quickly had to adjust expectations.  Seeing the polar bears in the ice park environment was special. We saw one bear chowing down on a kill and two bear walking the ice pack, testing the ice as they went. The Expedition’s skipper put the put into the ice pack to get closer to the bear, a procedure that also was interesting to watch. (We also overnighted with an ice pack where it was too deep to anchor. Getting out was also an interesting experience.)

Perhaps more interesting was getting close to beached walruses doing what they do best: sleeping. Although ‘action’ was a walrus yawning or stretching (sort of like the saying, Watching grass grow), being within 25 yards of this huge, gentle beasts was a thrill. One of the tour guides ‘barked’ at incoming walruses (sort of a walrus whisperer), which further attracted them. Lumbering on land, they are graceful in the water.

Birds, birds, birds. In addition to what we saw in the course of being in nature, we went to a series of cliffs where 100,000 birds nest and congregate. The comparison with Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds immediately came to mind, though strictly from quantity and not from aggression. The guide did caution, however, against looking up with an open mouth to say ‘wow.’ Photos will have to illustrate-words cannot.

One of the more interesting stops was visiting a closed Russian minining operation. Once populated by 1,000, there are now just 22 living there dismantling the site. At the pace they are going, a few generations will pass before it’s is dismantled. I’ll have more about this when I post photos. This was one of two ghost towns we visited, the other being the marble mining site I previously referenced.

This is my third trip to the polar region. Antarctic is on the Bucket List as well.

Given the over-sold hype about polar bears, am I glad I went? You bet, especially given the opportunity to be in the ice cap and see the bear there. But Svalbard falls within the category, been there, done that, while we want to go back to Kaktovik for another polar bear fix.

Getting there

Getting to Svalbard isn’t easy. Fly into Oslo and take SAS to Longyearbyen. There are limited flights and only one is non-stop: an 8:40pm departure that gets to Longyearbyen at 11:30pm, if on time (ours was an hour late). Otherwise you have to route via Tromso. For reasons that defy logic, even though Svalbard is part of Norway, it is treated as an international destination with all the hassles that go into that: passport control, customs check. If you’re on the non-stop, this is all handled at Oslo. If you go through Tromso, you have to deplane and go through all this there. Coming back was a real pain in the ass. We returned through Tromso (the non-stop is in the 4am hour to make international connections out of Oslo). We had to deplane at Tromso through ground-level ramp boarding, walk through and wait in the open air and the rain as the passport control line backed up. We had to reclaim our luggage and go through the Nothing to Declare/Declare lines (what in the world can you get in Longyearbyen that you would have to declare???) and then go outside security to recheck the backs and be rescreened prior to reboarding.

This all followed disembarking the ship at 8am and being deposited at the Raddison Blu hotel in Longyearbyen until our 1pm pick up to the airport. The Raddison has few chairs for the 100 people waiting and ‘downtown’ Longyearbyen can be ‘experienced’ in about five minutes. This last day of the excursion was easily, as several remarked, an ‘ordeal.’ Really took the edge off the trip.


The food on the Expedition was plentiful and the staff superb. But Norwegian food (both there and in Oslo) has no flavor–it’s totally bland. I kidded some new British friends that the Norwegians must be taking Bland cooking lessons from the British, but this does the Brits a disservice. The food on our first day in Stockholm had flavor. What a concept.

And the food on SAS. I’ll never complain about buy-on-board on US airlines again. We all know US airline cuisine is really bad. SAS charged 20 dollars for one-half sandwich consisting of one slice of cheese and one lettuce leaf, plus a small can of Pringles. Awful doesn’t describe it.

More to come.


We’re off to Svalbard (we know: ‘where’s that?’)

One piece of business: AirInsight has a lot of videos from the Paris Air Show, interviews with key people. Go here for the full listing.

And we’re off….

Long-time readers know we like to do unusual things–like our trip to far north Alaska in 2010, photographing polar bears, musk ox, the Northern Lights and driving the 550 mile haul road (well, others did the actual driving) between Fairbanks and the oil fields. Or like our African photo safari trip in 2000. Or or DC-7B excursion. And more recently our DC-3 ride.

We’re at it again. We’re off to Svalbard.

The most common reaction we get is a blank stare, followed by “where’s that?”

The maps show where it is.

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