Sorting out reports of new 787 delay

For anyone who has picked up the reports on Yahoo or Google News about the Focus magazine story of another potential round of 787 delays, and Boeing’s response Sunday denying the report, this all must be very confusing.

We don’t know if the report, which cites unidentified sources in the FAA, is correct or not. The report also says Boeing will announce another delay of three to six months in May, though the English-language reporting of the Focus story doesn’t say where this timing information comes from.

What we do know is that since before the 787 roll-out, the FAA has been concerned about a variety of issues relating to the ground-breaking technology of the 787 and has issued several “special condition” rules that Boeing has to meet. This is not anything to get exercised about.

We also have been told, however, on many occasions–also beginning before the roll-out–that the FAA is short on the technical expertise to assess some of the technology and that it’s had to rely on engineers at the US Air Force who have greater experience in composites and other areas than those at the FAA. This lack of technical expertise at the FAA may be what’s at work here, if the Focus report has any validity.

The New Delta

Here’s an attractive suggestion for the New Delta, combining Northwest and Delta liveries. This comes from the Modified Airliners photos website, an enthusiast board for people who like to play with designing liveries.

Ominous development for Northrop’s tanker

An ominous political development for the Northrop tanker award by the USAF may be developing in the US Senate.

An article today in The Washington Post discusses the future of Sen. Robert Byrd, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Byrd is 90 years old an ailing. He’s been frequently absent from his Senate duties, and here’s where this could become ominous for Northrop. According to The Post, Byrd at times last year turned to Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to assume the lead role in appropriations matters.

Murray, known within Washington State (and probably Washington, DC, too) as the Senator from Boeing, has made it her mission to kill the Northrop award. If Byrd’s ill health means turning over reigns, even on spot-issues, to Murray, this does not bode well for Northrop–which, along with partner EADS, has blithely dismissed Murray’s effectiveness as a Senator.

(As a constituent of Murray’s we can attest that she is far more effective than either Northrop or EADS give her credit for.)

Assuming the Democrats gain seats in the Senate in the November election, as conventional wisdom currently concludes, Murray could gain even more clout as a senior member of Appropriations. Regardless of the outcome of the Boeing protest to the GAO over the contract award, Murray’s increasing influence and stature on Senate Appropriations isn’t good news for Northrop.

Boeing Commercial plans for KC-767 protest rejection

Another in a series of cartoons from The Mobile Press-Register’s JD Crowe. The reference to flying tricycles is to a comment a Boeing official made about Northrop Grumman’s planned production model for the KC-30 was like building tricycles at Christmas.

Flight International reported today that Boeing may tap the 767-300ER to help fill the gap created by 787 delays. Writes Flight: “Boeing has yet to tell 787 customers exactly how their delivery schedules will be impacted by the latest delay, but it has floated the idea of producing brand new 767-300ERs to help fill the capacity gap.”

Boeing would gain the 767 capacity from the KC-767 program, which looks doubtful now that the Air Force has awarded the tanker contract to Northrop Grumman. Boeing protested the award, but has acknowledged the likelihood of prevailing is remote. Accordingly, supply-chain and production capacity that had essentially been reserved for the tanker could shift to the commercial 767-300ER.

Boeing should know by June 19 whether the protest will be upheld.

The company would not be able to boost the production all that much vis-a-vis 787 demand, and not immediately. The current production rate of the 767 is one a month; Boeing could double that, or go slightly more to perhaps an incremental 15 a year, or 24-27 a year, including current customers, but not before 2010. By then, Boeing originally planned to be delivering 120 787s a year.

Here’s a Boeing-oriented cartoon.

Boeing complains that a cost disadvantage is that it has to pay for health care costs while Airbus, which builds the A330 on which the KC-30 is based, is part of Europe’s social health care system and doesn’t have this burden. (One could argue the taxes paid by Airbus for the national health care system is their representative burden, but the point in the cartoon is on the mark nonetheless.)

A little humor in a humorless debate….

Northrop’s supplier distribution map.

Qantas again reveals penalties

When the Airbus A380 was delayed two years, everyone from airplane geeks to airlines and Boeing wondered what kind of penalties Airbus would have to pay. Australia’s Qantas, apparently from a regulatory filing, revealed at the time that it received A$104 million (about US$84 million at the exchange rate at the time).

Now comes a new piece of information from Qantas via The Herald Sun. In a story dated April 16 (it’s already tomorrow there), The Sun writes, “Qantas sources said only that the amount will be will in excess of the $200 million Airbus paid after it pushed back by two years the delivery to Qantas.”

Note the amount is double what originally was reported. The story goes on:

“‘If you look at the size of the Boeing order against the 12 planes that Airbus delayed, you get some idea of how much Boeing will have to pay,’ a senior airline source [said].”

At A$100m, this suggests Boeing’s penalty for the 65 contracted 787s is more than A$540 million. Double the Airbus penalty and this suggests Boeing’s penalty to Qantas alone is north of A$1 billion. At list prices, the Qantas order is worth more than $11 billion, but figure hefty discounts because Qantas was an early customer.

If the penalties are north of A$1 billion–and this may or may not be a big if–then the penalties suggested by a host of Wall Street aerospace analysts are way under the mark. Their estimates range from $800 million to a high of $1 billion (USD), as we reported in our Corporate website update this today.

The Qantas number, whatever it is, is food for thought, and the first tangible indication, however vague, of the penalties facing Boeing.

Comment on the Delta-Northwest merger

The AirInsight team comments on the Delta-Northwest merger in this 11 minute podcast.

Leeham Co. website updated 4/15

Our Corporate Website has been updated for this week. We discuss what’s perceived by many as Boeing’s scorched earth approach to its protest over the tanker award to Northrop Grumman; and we expand our previous discussion on the financial impact of the delays for the Boeing 787.

We also have documents from Boeing related to the tanker protest.

Boeing Field book

We found a new book about Boeing Field. This 128 page book has only black and white pictures and it’s $19.99. Photos date to 1910, before Boeing Field was built, with a plane landing on the site, to the arrival of the Concorde. It has a photo of the nose-gear collapse of the 707 prototype, happening when the brakes failed and the airplane had to be ground-looped.

The book description and an on-line order form may be found here.

We found our copy at Barnes & Nobels.

Tanker wars, continued

Boeing and Northrop continue their tanker public relations war. Boeing fired off this press release about the KC-767’s “survivability” vs. the Northrop KC-30.

Northrop fired off a release about jobs, steering people to a 3 1/2 minute National Public Radio report.

Northrop partisans also made sure we saw this biting cartoon.

(For the record, we previously have asked Boeing to send us any similar cartoons supporting the KC-767, but were told none existed. If there are any, we’ll post them.)

Here’s a pro-Boeing cartoon, which for some reason we can’t insert the image, so here’s the link.

Lost 787 Revenue: WAG $30bn

The WAG estimate for lost revenue to Boeing for the delays of the 787 program is around $30 billion through 2013, based on some production estimates from a Goldman Sachs report issued this morning.

Goldman predicts $3 billion in penalty payments.

Goldman revised its delivery forecast, based on the Boeing program update conference call Wednesday, from 629 airplanes through 2013 to 407 airplanes. This forecast, by aerospace analyst Richard Safran, shapes up this way:

GS Current Assumption

2009: 25

2010: 60

2011: 85

2012: 120

2013: 120

Total: 407

January 2008 assumption

2009: 109

2010: 120

2011: 120

2012: 140

2013: 140

Total: 629

Difference: 222

We took these figures and applied it to Boeing’s list prices for the 787-8 and 787-9. Goldman’s data doesn’t break out how many of each type might be delivered during these years, so we calculated the average price of both models. At the low end based on all 787-8 deliveries, Boeing’s lost revenue during this period is $35.96 billion. Based on all 787-9 deliveries, the average lost revenue is $43.18 billion.

Applying an average 25% discount, which is not atypical in deals, the low end revenue loss is guesstimated to be $26.97 billion and the high end revenue loss is guesstimated to be $32.38 billion. Taking a somewhat middle-ground figure, we settled on $30 billion in lost revenue through 2013.