Calhoun’s moonshot for the Next Boeing Airplane

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By Scott Hamilton

David Calhoun

Sept. 4, 2023, © Leeham News: As people try to figure out when Boeing is going to launch a new airplane, confusion continues over semantics and doubts continue over willingness.

The semantics revolves around the words “launch” and “introduce.”

Brian West, the CFO of The Boeing Co., appears at an investors conference Sept. 7 hosted by Jefferies, an investment bank. The event will be webcast; a link is available on the Boeing website. Perhaps West can clarify the timeline, but here is what’s happened recently.

David Calhoun, the CEO of The Boeing Co., said during Boeing’s investors’ day event on Nov. 2 last year that Boeing will “introduce” a new airplane by the middle of the next decade. LNA at that time asked corporate communications if by “introduce” Calhoun meant entry-into-service or a program launch. Corp Com replied that Calhoun meant EIS.

Last month, at another investors conference, a lower level Boeing official said Boeing would “launch” its next airplane by the middle of the next decade. If this is what the official meant, “launching” the next airplane by mid-next decade would represent a major shift. LNA figured the official was mixing words and asked Corp Com for clarity. A spokesman replied, go with Calhoun’s November statement. So, for the moment, let’s take this at face value.

Then there are the skeptics.

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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 28. Alternative Preliminary design

By Bjorn Fehrm

September 1, 2023, ©. Leeham News: We described the Preliminary design phase of an airliner development program last week. One could say this was the classical way that aircraft projects conduct Preliminary design.

There is a different way that Conceptual and Preliminary design can be run. It’s more along the lines of pre-development of functions, as a reader commented on two articles back.

Figure 1. An alternative new airliner family development plan. Source: Leeham Co.

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The range of Airbus’ A321XLR

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By Bjorn Fehrm

August 31, 2023, © Leeham News: The advertised range of 4,700nm for Airbus’ A321XLR enables true trans-Atlantic single-aisle routes that can originate inland both in the US and in Europe. It was, therefore, worrying when EASA and FAA demanded that Airbus add extra fire protection in the area where the new center tank is placed, the tank that enables the longer range.

Extra fire protection increases the empty weight, which has an impact on range. How much is lost, and what can Airbus do about it? We model the range shortfall and possible fixes with our Aircraft Performance and Cost model.

Figure 1. The Airbus A321XLR. Source: Airbus.

  • The A321XLR is the first trans-Atlantic single-aisle airliner that can fly further than coast to coast between the US and Europe.
  • The range shortfall from the rumored weight increases is less than written about but still troublesome.

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Pontifications: One step forward, two steps back: Déjà vu all over again.

Aug. 29, 2023, © Leeham News: It’s déjà vu all over again.

By Scott Hamilton

Last March, I wrote a piece entitled One Step Forward, Two Steps Back discussing Boeing’s efforts to climb out of the very deep hole dug by the 737 MAX grounding, suspension of 787 deliveries and the pandemic.

I noted that for every step forward, something seems to happen to set it back two steps. (A Boeing official suggested the piece should have been two steps forward, one step back, but the underlying point is made.)

The backward steps seem out of Boeing’s control. But it’s Boeing’s name on the side of the airplane and its Boeing that delivers airplanes to the customers. It’s Boeing with whom customers are frustrated.

The latest step backwards that delays deliveries again of the 737 MAX comes from Spirit AeroSystems. Misdrilled holes for the aft pressure bulkhead are blamed this time. The full extent of the flaw, with impacts, number of planes affected, etc., is still being assessed at this writing. Spirit says a supplier is responsible for this issue.

This follows a previous setback when Spirit found that one of its suppliers provided parts that failed to meet specifications which attached the vertical tail to the fuselage of the 737.

These flaws, revealed within months of each other, negatively impact the delivery of new production 737s and delivery of some of the more than 200 MAXes that remain in inventory due to the 2019 21-month grounding of the MAX.

Before that, Spirit’s quality control on the 787 nose section it builds for Boeing was found to have flaws. Deliveries were suspended for nearly 20 months. Eventually, Boeing had 110 newly built 787s in inventory that require rework. The inventory won’t be cleared until the end of next year.

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The back story to a Chinese lessor sale of 737 MAX orders

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By Scott Hamilton

Aug. 28, 2023, © Leeham News: The order in February by Air India for 190 737 MAXes involves a backstory involving China that until now hasn’t been told. A subsequent sale by a Chinese lessor of all 737 MAX orders to a Middle Eastern lessor further reduces Boeing’s exposure to China.

The Air India was finalized at the June Paris Air Show. When Boeing announced its second quarter financial results the following month, the MAX inventory accumulated during the 21 month grounding of the type was reduced by 55 aircraft. These 55 MAXes were part of the inventory of 140 737s that were built for Chinese airlines and lessors.

Subsequently, the Chinese lessor CALC announced a deal to sell its entire MAX backlog of 54 to the Emirates lessor, DAE. Purchase rights to some 50 more MAXes were also transferred to DAE. This transaction left CALC with no 737s on its order books.

In its 2022 annual report, the most recent CALC financial statements available, the lessor wrote, “As at 31 December 2022, CALC had 226 aircraft on its orderbook, including 131 Airbus, 66 Boeing and 29 COMAC aircraft.”

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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 26. Preliminary design

By Bjorn Fehrm

August 25, 2023, ©. Leeham News: We described the different phases of an airliner development program last week.

We will look at the Preliminary design phase this week, what work is done, the tools used, and how it can be made more efficient.

Figure 1. A typical new airliner family development plan. Source: Leeham Co..

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The reality behind the eVTOL industry’s hyperbole, Part 7.

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By Bjorn Fehrm

August 24, 2023, © Leeham News: We have looked at the promises the VTOL industry made in their Investor prospects and what the reality is as the VTOLs come closer to Certification and production.

We started by using Joby and Archer as examples; now, we wrap the series by looking at some other top VTOL OEMs and how their claims have changed as the projects come closer to reality.

Figure 1. The Lilium jet VTOL. Source: Lilium.

  • Joby Aviation and Archer are not alone in backpedaling on promised performance as certification nears; other OEMs that are investor-financed have the same problem.
  • In summary, the VTOLs in the first generation can only fly short-range missions. Longer flights run into energy reserve and cost problems.

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Pontifications: A little math for 777X, 737 MAX

By Scott Hamilton

Aug. 22, 2023, © Leeham News: We have a follow up to our Aug. 9 post about Boeing revealing the sub-type orders for the first time for the 737 MAX and 777X.

Boeing every month updates its website data for gross orders, cancellations and orders classified under an accounting rule called ASC 606. ASC 606 means orders are “iffy” for contractual or financial reasons with the customer.

The difference between gross orders and net orders represents cancellations, for whatever reason. The airline or lessor may have decided to cancel outright. Some orders might have been swapped within the family (for example, from a 737-8 to a 737-10). Some orders may have been swapped (cancelled) between models—for example, from the MAX to the 787. Boeing’s cumulative statistics haven’t revealed the difference between gross and net orders—until now.

ASC 606-classified order adjustments are excluded from the gross/net tally, Boeing tells me. In other words, for purposes of the tallies, the ASC 606 orders remain included in the gross numbers. They’re still orders at this stage, even if iffy. Airbus, operating under European accounting rules, doesn’t have to identify its iffy orders; LNA has made its best estimate for years of Airbus “iffy” orders, however, in an effort to level the publicly reported playing field. There are times when discussing orders and backlogs that we ignore Boeing’s ASC 606 classification when comparing with the Airbus orders.

With this as background, let’s get to the follow up to the Aug. 9 post.

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KMC’s “low risk” 777 P2F approach struggles to get traction

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By Judson Rollins

August 21, 2023, © Leeham News: Converting Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft to freighters has been fraught with challenges. One need only ask longtime P2F provider IAI, whose debut -300ER freighter has flown only once – nearly five months ago. Even Boeing shelved its own P2F plans for lack of a viable business case.

Photo credit: KMC.

Kansas Modification Center (KMC), launched just two years ago, believes it offers a P2F concept with a smoother path to certification. KMC says its competitive edge is a forward cargo door, requiring less structural reinforcement and thus significant weight savings versus an aft door.

KMC believes it will receive FAA type certification by December 2024, with European regulator EASA expected to follow in early 2025.

LNA received a program briefing from Jorge Della Costa, KMC’s CEO, and Eric Kivett, program manager at contractor National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) WERX. NIAR WERX, a unit of Wichita State University, provides engineering and modification services for KMC’s forthcoming 777-300ERCF.

  • Front loading door saves weight but may add loading challenges.
  • Lead engineering partner brings prior conversion experience.
  • Local partnerships, short supply chain reduce production risk.
  • Certification risk mitigated by human factors planning, not modifying software.
  • Lack of sales, capital are open questions.

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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 26. Airliner development program

By Bjorn Fehrm

August 18, 2023, ©. Leeham News: We started last week to look at how to make the development of a new airliner family more efficient.

First, we describe how development projects are phased and how many people with what competencies are engaged in each phase. Then we can start the discussion of what changes can be made and what would be the consequences.

Figure 1. The JetZero Blended Wing Body that USAF partially funds to prototype. Source: USAF and JetZero.

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