Thursday’s Farnborough impressions

Airbus had its press briefing, rescheduled from Monday, much to the puzzlement and speculation of observers and rivals (or, perhaps, that should be in the singular).

The speculation was rife: Airbus’ super-salesman John Leahy had a big order up his sleeve for announcement. British Airways would announce an A350-1000 order. Cathay Pacific Airways would order the A380 and A350.

Alas, it was none of these. CEO Thomas Enders started the briefing saying that he thought it be more productive for Airbus to recap the week, with orders to talk about, than to start the week with nothing to say. And that’s what it was.

Airbus ended the week with 247 firm orders plus commitments for nine airplanes. One hundred of the orders, however, are left over from the Dubai Air Show–the contract was signed at Farnborough, but these can’t truly be considered a part of this air show.

The breakdown is 128 A320s (70 from Dubai); 11 A330s; 98 A350s (30 from Dubai); and 10 A380s, though four of these were ordered instead of the carrier taking four test airplanes, so this is only a net gain of six.

The A350 program has now sold 472 firm orders, a rate Leahy and the statistics say is faster than the Boeing 787.

This tally is also Airbus’ second best Farnborough Air Show, following the one two years ago when 280 orders were announced.

Other highlights from the Airbus conference:

  • Airbus is looking at developing a freighter for the A330-300, with a decision perhaps 6-12 months out;
  • The company is spending about $160 million annually (at current Euro exchange rates) on research to enhance the A320 between now and a replacement airplane, involving weight savings, new interiors and a soon-to-be-tested blended winglet developed by Aviation Partners;
  • Application of the new P&W Geared Turbo Fan on the A320, once rejected by Leahy, may be a possibility after all, depending on customer demand and the outcome of test flights of the GTF on the A340 test bed;
  • The A350 is essentially sold out through 2017, which parenthetically is also about the same time as the 787; and
  • 3,000 aircraft flying today are 20 or more years old; in five years, this number will double.

Tom Williams, EVP-Head of Programs, called Bombardier’s launch of the CSeries a “brave thing.” He believes the plane will be seen as an interim plane, bypassed by the next generation of single-aisle aircraft, serving a niche market that he believes is much smaller than Bombardier forecasts; that it will be an orphan aircraft, without a family to buy “up” to; and it will enter the low-end of the Boeing and Airbus markets.

Airbus’ end-of-show brief was a very useful wrap; Boeing might want to follow suit at future shows. This timing by default gives Airbus the headlines as the show wraps.

Other stuff, mostly whimsical:

  • Every time a military jet fighter or bomber throttled up for take-off, car alarms up and down the nearby parking lot went off;
  • “Green” aviation was a theme through the air show, right down to the notices on the waste bins to recycle. Maybe they do things differently in Europe than in the US, but there were no separate bins for plastic bottles, newspapers, and trash like back home;
  • At a big 2 1/2 hour press conference on Green aviation where Boeing Commercial President Scott Carson and Airbus CEO Tom Enders were featured speakers, Boeing didn’t have hand-outs of Carson’s speech–not even on flash drive–while the Airbus flash drive was packaged in an oversized, non-recyclable box with non-recyclable plastic neatly holding the drive;
  • At the same eco-conference, an engineer for Rolls-Royce engines couldn’t figure out how to work his Power Point presentation;
  • Boeing had a very classy eco-aviation center;
  • BAE Systems had perhaps the most interesting aircraft display, an indoor retrospective of aviation pioneers with replicas of several wood-and-wire era bi-planes; and
  • Reporters still rate the Airbus media chalet lunch menu the best-of-show, an important item considering most journalists are moochers; Boeing had a good cut fruit tray, though, something Airbus should do next time.

Wide-body GTF

Flightblogger reported a few days ago from Farnborough that an unidentified manufacturer has approached Pratt & Whitney inquiring about P&W’s new geared turbo fan engine for a wide body airplane.

We had the opportunity to ask the obvious question of the obvious people.

John Leahy, the COO-customers for Airbus, said definitively, “No,” it wasn’t Airbus.

That sort of narrows the field, doesn’t it? But no admissions across the tarmac at the Farnborough Air Show.

Scott Carson, the president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, gave us one of his patented, almost mischievous Scott Carson smiles and said, “No comment.” We asked, Will you deny this?

Still smiling, Carson replied, “You’re tenacious.”

Wednesday’s Farnborough impressions

Pretty dull today. A couple of orders. Boeing did dedicated tanker brief, rolling out the successor to Mark McGraw, the previous head of the tanker program. Dave Bowman comes from the C-17 program.

Perhaps not surprisingly facing a large contingent of Europe press, the questions were tough, or in the words of one American journalist we connected with late, “brutal.” Maybe we’re jaded (some will say we’re insensitive, but we won’t pursue this train of thought), but we thought it was just a “tough” press conference with the questions one would expect under the circumstances.

The questions focused on alleged protectionism on the part of Boeing in filing the protest (Boeing previously denied such and did again); whether it will protest a redefined request for proposal, as officials have previously suggested (not directly answered in the 45 minutes we were present, but Boeing takes the position that a redefined RFP ought to result in starting the process over from Square One [our term]); and so on, along these lines.

Boeing, at last, clarified how it comes up with its assertions that the KC-30 of Northrop Grumman, based on the Airbus A330-200, will require $44 billion in fuel more than the KC-767 over 40 years, based on $200/bbl oil.

It was detailed and, for those uninitiated in the ways of airplane economics, rather arcane. To put it succinctly, and very simplistically, Boeing’s paid consultant makes the calculation based on what in the aviation industry is termed “trip costs.” This means how much fuel is burned from engine start to engine stop. On this basis, including other calculations, Boeing’s consultant arrives at his opinion.

Boeing points out, correctly, that the A330 uses more fuel than the 767. Countering Northrop’s long-held rebuttal, and in answer to a question at the briefing, Boeing says comparing the passenger operations of the two airplanes isn’t applicable because the Air Force isn’t concerned with what is known as seat-mile costs. This is the cost of operations divided by the number of seats on board to arrive at a cost-per-seat.

For passenger operations, the A330, larger than the 767, burns more fuel but has more seats so the seat-mile cost is lower. For the Air Force, the dynamics are obviously different, so Boeing contends that trip mile costs should be the relevant yardstick.

Northrop responds (obviously not at the Boeing briefing, though) that the Air Force analysis based on intended operations concluded that the KC-30 is 6% more efficient.

There was a great deal more to the briefing, but we think you have the gist of it.

For a report on who Dave Bowman is and why he is now heading the tanker program, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s James Wallace has this story. The story raises the prospect of Boeing offering a tanker based on the very long 767-400. We asked a similar question of Bowman, only why not the 767-300? This would still be a “medium” plane as defined by the Rand Corp. Analysis of Alternatives (the 777 is a “large” plane, under the Rand AOA), and it would be closer in size to the KC-30.

Bowman essentially said anything is possible, but in response to a question from Steve Trimble of Flight International, Bowman said to avoid a tail strike with the refueling boom on takeoff, a long take-off roll and a shallower rotation would be required, which would potentially not meet the runway performance requirement (7,000 ft) of the RFP.

Here are some of the stories to come out of the air show on the tanker:

International Herald Tribune;

Reuters, including some further reporting on the fuel burn issue;

Finally, The Mobile Press-Register’s JD Crowe once again has a biting anti-Boeing cartoon on the tanker. Boeing needs to get a cartoonist to get equal time.

Update: For those keeping a running tally, through Wednesday Airbus is leading in announced orders, 241 to 201, but 100 of the Airbus airplanes were announced last November at the Dubai Air Show; the paperwork was finally signed at Farnborough.

More on the tanker

Here’s a good article about why the USAF chose the Northrop tanker.

Tuesday’s Farnborough impressions

It’s a quiet show; few orders. One of the biggest, from Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE), signed a contract with Airbus for 100 planes was merely confirming the order announced last November at the Dubai Air Show. Now these orders can finally be booked at Airbus and on its website.

DAE’s order for 100 Boeing airplanes, also announced at the Dubai show, was inked before the end of last year and booked in Boeing’s 2007 numbers.

Reporters are largely bored this year. This item for MarketWatch pretty well sums it up.

Jon Ostrower from Flightglobal gave this 15.40 minute podcast with IAG for Monday’s events. We gave this 11 minute podcast about Tuesday’s events.

This AP story sums up the day’s orders.

The Wall Street Journal today had this interview with Boeing CEO James McNerney that indicate it is a remote possibility that Boeing will bid a tanker based on the 777 instead of rebidding its KC-767. A subscription may be required to read The Journal’s piece. Boeing will hold a full tanker briefing Wednesday.

Update, Wednesday morning: This blog site keeps a running tally of orders. For the record, we don’t consider the Dubai Aerospace Enterprise to be a “Farnborough” order. This was announced last year at the Dubai Air Show; it was merely “inked” at this one. Thus, all news sites keeping tallies should put an asterisk by this one.

Shanahan interview on 787

We had the opportunity to sit down today (Tuesday) at the Farnborough Air Show with Pat Shanahan, the VP and GM of the 787 program.

Here is the transcript of this interview.

Leeham: During the Investors Day conference and the April program update you indicated that there would be 25 deliveries in ’09. Are you still on track for that?

Shanahan: [After a short pause.] My hesitation is I need to look at the schedule situation and what the ramification of that is. At this point I’m assessing it. We’re still on track for first flight, first deliveries. Obviously, anything you do with moving those dates around has an impact on deliveries, so we’ll see.

Q. If I understand you correctly, there’s a possibility that you might not deliver 25 in ’09.

A. Well, there’s always the risk. That’s why putting a buffer into the schedule ends up, you know, I’ve to see where I am on my buffer.

Q. In the program update and investors day, you really didn’t detail what the deliveries are for ’10 and ’11. What are your anticipated deliveries, certainly in ’10?

A. We haven’t talked about any of those.

Q. Now is a good time to do that.

[Laughter all around.]

A. Yeah, yeah. You’d have to break both arms. Obviously we have schedules and deliveries planned. We’ve communicated those to the customers but we’re not ready to be so bold as to announce that to the world. One thing, I think we’re actually in a quiet period [ahead of the earnings announcement next week]. I can’t answer that. I think that will be considered material.

Q. At the Investors’ Day, I believe it was you—it might have been [BCA President Scott] Carson, mentioned a production rate of about two a month, but it really wasn’t put into context. Could you put that into context?

A. I think I didn’t put it into context because that would, I did, I did talk to some people off-line who were trying to figure out how to count the airplanes but at some point, we do get to two a month or higher rates. The only reason I’ve waited doing that is that we have to start counting all the airplanes, which is the goal, right? I’m trying to steer away from all these dates and deliveries because what ends up happening is you move anything around and somebody says you’re program’s not working.

It’s kind of the opposite. All these things are now converging. All the uncertainty that I was planning with before is now becoming certain. The things that I tried to parametrically identify didn’t have a basis of performance…. I feel now I’ve got my arms around the work statement, I have my hands on the controls. Now is the question whether I can move those controls as fast as I like.

After the interview, 787 spokesperson Yvonne Leach called to follow up on Shanahan’s discussion of 2009 deliveries.

“I wanted to clarify one thing,” Leach said. “Pat kind of went on and on about the buffer. We are going to have 25 deliveries in ’09. The plan is the plan. Pat kind of answered in a roundabout way. I just wanted to confirm the 25.”

Farnborough on Monday

Will GE/CFM engine launch accelerate 737/A320 single aisle replacement?

Will CSeries launch be met with Boeing response?

Is the air show this week about cancellations or orders?

Boeing and Northrop optimistic about winning tanker recompete.

This and more from Monday at the Farnborough Air Show.

For those looking for insight from Airbus and Boeing during the first day of the Air Show, you’ll have to wait for Airbus. Much to the puzzlement of observers (and Boeing), Airbus canceled its press briefing and rescheduled it to Thursday.

Why, people asked?

Does super salesman John Leahy have something up his sleeve to reveal Thursday that will blow Boeing out of the orders order?

Will Airbus surprise everyone and accelerate the successor to the A320, especially with CFM launching the successor to the CFM56, or with the P&W Geared Turbo Fan about to go onto the A340 test bed?

As it happens, we know–having found out Monday–but we were sworn to secrecy before we were told.

So with this hanging out there, here’s a recap of Monday’s news outside of the usual order announcements.

Will GE/CFM engine launch accelerate 737/A320 single aisle replacement?

The question was logical and posed to Boeing Commercial President Scott Carson during Monday’s Boeing briefing. The new CFM LEAP-X engine has a target certification date of 2016; Boeing previously said it plans to have a successor to the 737 ready to enter service in 2020. Might Boeing move this up to coincide with CFM’s date?

Alas, Carson was ambiguous–he said the CFM timeline was consistent with Boeing’s timeline. Not by our math, but nobody followed up on the inconsistency.

We suspect Airbus will be asked the same question Thursday.

Will CSeries launch be met with Boeing response?

It doesn’t appear Boeing will accelerate the 737 replacement to match the launch of the 110-149 seat CSeries by Bombardier. Carson noted that the CSeries EIS is 2014 and Boeing’s 737 line is sold out to the same period. But he added that Boeing is becoming less enamored with the smaller airplane as fuel costs, increasing air traffic congestion and aviation taxes in Europe all argue for larger airplanes. Boeing’s new 20 year forecast increases airplane size by about 10-15 seats, he said.

So how small is too small? Where will Boeing draw the line?

Carson didn’t say, leaving open speculation that Boeing just might cede the below 150 seat market to Bombardier and its emerging competitors in Japan and elsewhere. In fact, Japan is looking at the 100-150 seat market, too, as reported by Flightblogger. Boeing has close ties to the Japanese aviation industry. Is there a behind-the-scenes connection?

Is the air show this week about cancellations or orders?

Carson began his briefing with the quip, “Is this week about cancellations or about orders?”

The signs are it’s about orders, even if far fewer than at shows in the recent past. Boeing (and Airbus through the media day of its parent, EADS, on Saturday) said that there have been very few cancellations or deferrals and for those that happened, others moved in to take up the positions. Both companies said that lessors will be perhaps principal in acquiring airplanes and “financing” (ie, leasing) them to airlines that can’t afford planes as the credit crunch spreads to aviation. Airbus’s Leahy, at a press conference for the Etihad order, specifically named ILFC, GECAS and Aviation Capital Group, as lessors who will fill this bill with new airplanes.

Boeing and Northrop optimistic about winning tanker recompete.

Boeing, Northrop, EADS and Airbus are all optimistic they will win the USAF tanker recompete. Isn’t this lovely? And not unexpected?


Flightblogger and Flight Global provide running coverage, as do other specialist media. (We only get to it at the end of the day.) The links on the right will connect you.

Tuesday’s big event will be the 787 Program Update with program chief Pat Shanahan. There’s also an environmental briefing from Boeing’s enviro officer, Billy Glover.

Plus more order announcements; we won’t cover these as a matter of routine–plenty of others will do that.

McGraw out as Boeing tanker chief

It’s buried in this Bloomberg story and there’s little meaningful reported about why, but Mark McGraw is out as the head of Boeing’s tanker program.

The story headlines the prospect that Boeing may protest proposed changes to the forthcoming RFP in the tanker recompete. The Defense Department said that it plans to give extra credit for size, which will favor the Northrop Grumman tanker proposal, in the eyes of Boeing and its supporters.

GE, CFMI commit to new engine

London, England: GE Aviation, CFM International and Safran, all partners in the CFM group that makes the CFM56 engine that’s on the Boeing 737-300 through 900 and about half of the Airbus A320 family and some A340 models, said Sunday it is formally proceeding with what was the R&D LEAP 56 project, committing to the renamed LEAP-X.

Certification is aimed for 2016, two years before Airbus recently said it plans to have a replacement for the A320 family enter service and four years before Boeing’s latest plans to have a successor to the 737.

GE officials declined to speculate whether the 2016 certification will cause Airbus and Boeing to accelerate the own development plans.

The LEAP-X promises 16% lower fuel burn than the CFM56. The GE group expects airframe improvements to further lower operating costs.

Bombardier launches CSeries

Also on Sunday Bombardier launched the 110-130 seat CSeries (it can also seat up to 149 in maximum configuration) following a provisional order from Lufthansa German Airlines for 30+30. The Reuters story may be found here. The plane will compete with the smallest A318/A319 and Boeing 737-600/700 airplanes. Bombardier says fuel burn for its new plane will be at least 20% less than the Airbus or Boeing products.

Bombardier also will tap launch aid from the governments of Canada, Northern Ireland and the Canadian Province of Quebec.

It will be interesting to see whether Boeing objects, as it has over launch aid for Airbus.

Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times took a pre-announcement look at the CSeries within this larger topic and in this specific story in Sunday’s paper. He also profiles Pat Shanahan, the head of Boeing’s 787 program, who will give his quarterly update Tuesday of the 787 at the Farnborough Air Show.

The London Sunday Telegraph published this full page article about Boeing, the 787 and an interview with Boeing CEO James McNerney.

EADS Media Day

We attended the EADS Media Day that is held in advance of the two major air shows, Paris and Farnborough.

Some highlights:

  • EADS CEO Louis Gallois said EADS, one year after implementation of the Power8 restructuring program began, has made progress in becoming a more integrated company with transparent reporting lines. Airbus CEO Thomas Enders acknowledged, however, that there are still nationalistic tendancies between French and German employees and divisions that need to be overcome.
  • Enders said that 26% of the A350 supplier sourcing has now been assigned to the US, compared with 4% for the A320 family. This represents a major shift toward diversifying from European sourcing and more of the remaining 74% of the A350 supply chain that has yet to be sourced will be outside Europe.
  • Gallois, Enders and EADS North America COO John Young (no relation to the Defense Department’s chief procurement officer of the same name) are confident Northrop Grumman will win the recompete for the tanker. Collectively, they said only a few of the seven items of the protest filed by Boeing are centered on Northrop’s KC-30 bid, which is based on the Airbus A330-200; the other items had to do with the USAF process and analysis. The EADS officials believe that Boeing won’t offer a plane different than the KC-767AT that lost the competition. Young opined that the Air Force recompete decision could come as late as March instead of the end of the year, simply because the timeline outlined by the Defense Department is probably too aggressive.
  • Gallois declined to predict dates when EADS and Airbus will meet certain Power8 milestones. “We have been too straight-forward with dates [later missed],” Gallois said. “I admire Boeing for never giving dates. They never give any information!” adding that the last remark was a joke.
  • Gallois repeated the previously disclosed goal that EADS wants to evenly divide revenues between Airbus and defense-related business. Airbus currently comprises between 60%-65% of the revenues, down from 80% only a few years ago.
  • Although Gallois dismissed the premise that Northrop may lose the tanker recompete, he said that would not lessen the EADS desire to broaden its “footprint” in the US as a means of reducing exposure to the weak US dollar to the Euro.
  • Further justifying the push to diversify from Europe, Galloius said that 75% of the aerospace engineers are located outside Europe; and that access [to sales] in certain markets supports diversification, similar to Boeing’s production and resesearch model.
  • Enders, however, said it will be years before the EADS/Airbus employee head count drops below 50% in Europe–though he hastily added that this figure is not the goal. The European head count currently represents 95% of the company’s employees.
  • Enders acknowledged that Airbus is “fighting” and “struggling” with the transition from Wave 1 to Wave 2 for the A380. Wave 1 is the first two dozen or so A380s that have to be hand-wired following the production snafus that resulted in the bulk of the two year program delay. Wave 2 is the automated industrialization plan to install wiring. Slow progress recently resulted in an additonal delay of three to five months.

More reporting from the Farnborough Air Show will continue throughout the week.