Last year yielded a few surprises in an otherwise predictable year.
Jim Albaugh shocked the aviation world when he retired unexpectedly at age 62. He was expected to remain in his position as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes until mandatory retirement at 65.
EADS CEO Tom Enders unleashed a surprise merger proposal with BAE Systems. The deal didn’t work due to German government opposition, but he ultimately accomplished a governance restructuring—a key objective of the merger—that will reduce government meddling in the future.
Those were about it. Boeing’s much-anticipated Authority to Offer the 777X didn’t happen. ATO for the 787-10 was stealthily granted. Airbus and Bombardier, to no surprise, delayed the A350 and CSeries by a few months. Boeing came roaring back to become sales leader for the first time in about a decade, on the strength of 737 MAX sales.
What’s ahead for 2013? Here’s what we see.
With the spurt of 737 MAX sales over, narrow-body sales competition between Airbus and Boeing should return to normalcy. Will twin-aisle sales become the next growth market because of the first flight of the A350 and the program launch of the 7870-10? Will ATO of the 777X evolve into a program launch as well? Will Bombardier’s first flight of the CSeries and subsequent testing validate its claims for the new technology airplane and finally spur a large number of sales of the “show me” crowd?
Here’s our OEM-by-OEM rundown.
Odds and Ends: E-190 v Superjet v BBD in Russia; China’s aviation; WestJet’s speed dating; Crandall speaks
E-190 v Superjet v Bombardier: With the finding that the pilot of the demo flight of the Sukhoi SSJ 100 Superjet simply flew into a mountain in Indonesia, rather than there being a problem with the airplane, the cloud has been lifted from the aircraft. So the direct match-up of the SSJ vs the Embraer E-190 can now be compared and this article does so. Bombardier’s CRJ-900 and CRJ-1000 also compete.
China’s Aviation: Airbus and Boeing think China pose the greatest threat in the future, but this analyst is less enthusiastic.
WestJet of Canada: The low cost carrier took a bold step to order up to 45 Bombardier Q400s to feed itself. Now it’s using speed dating to decide where to fly the airplanes.
Crandall speaks on AA-US merger: Former American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall weighs in on the merger between American Airlines and US Airways.
Why Aircraft Are Late: Boeing 747-8, 787, Airbus A380, A400M, A350, Mitsubishi MRJ, Comac ARJ-21, Sukhoi Superjet and probably Comac C919, Bombardier CSeries and Irkut MS-21–all late. It’s the new normal. Ernie Arvai at AirInsight takes a look at why.
Catching Boeing: Airbus may well have trailed Boeing through the Farnborough Air Show in terms of orders, but it may also be on the way toward catching up. The big PAL order for 54 aircraft was announced this week. A 100-airplane order out of China is due to be announced shortly. Another 100 airplane order from AirAsia appears to be pending. Year-to-date, Boeing has 701 net orders and Airbus has 270 net orders. These three orders still leaves Airbus well short of Boeing, and Boeing has more 737 MAX commitments to convert this year. We expect Boeing to finish the year in first place. It will be interesting to see how close Airbus can come.
NEO firm order wrap: Aviation Week has this detailed recap of NEO firm orders. We expect some of the A320neos to be converted to A321neos as time goes on, just as we expect 737-8 MAX orders to be swapped with 737-9 MAX positions.
Price vs Price: More on the price war between Airbus and Boeing in the A320 v 737 contest. Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times has this analysis of hot contest to win an order from India’s Jet Airways, hitherto an exclusive Boeing customer. He takes a larger look at the troubled Indian airline industry.
Finalizing Orders: Norwegian Air Shuttle finalized its order for 100 Airbus A320neos, breaking Boeing’s monopoly here. NAS was also a launch customer of the 737 MAX.
China threat: Maybe, maybe not. Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, cites China as the biggest emerging threat to Boeing and Airbus. Reuters, in Beijing for the IATA AGM, has this article saying, not so fast. The article takes a close look at the ARJ-21, China’s first effort at a modern jet. Although this is a regional jet and not competitive with Airbus or Boeing, it’s a “makee-learn” effort that leads the way to the Comac C919, which is directly competitive with the A320 and 737 class. Implications of the ARJ-21 are also discussed in the article.
LionAir and the 787: Confirming news reports this week, LionAir announced it has committed to the Boeing 787, agreeing to buy five. We’re told these are from the so-called “terrible teens,” those early 787s that required an enormous amount of rework and which were rejected by the original customers. Transaero and Rwanda Air are said to also be taking some of these early aircraft.
EADS Bank: More information on the reports EADS is considering getting a banking license.
Boeing economics and the 787: Jon Ostrower at The Wall Street Journal has an excellent piece today talking about the milestone of 787 #66 and the implications for cost reduction. Unfortunately, the full article is available only for paid subscribers. Contained within the article is this key data:
The losses don’t show up on Boeing’s bottom line, because accounting rules let the company spread the Dreamliner’s costs over years—effectively booking earnings now from future Dreamliners that it expects to produce more profitably. With previous models, Boeing initially spread its costs over 400 planes, but with the Dreamliner it is distributing the costs over 1,100 planes—a number it says reflects unprecedented demand. Boeing already has 854 Dreamliner orders from 57 customers.
Boeing reported that first-quarter profit at its Commercial Airplanes division more than doubled to $1.08 billion from a year earlier. But the company acknowledges that accounting for the costs of each individual plane would have resulted in a first-quarter loss of $138 million—a drop UBS analyst David Strauss says is almost entirely attributable to the Dreamliner.
The Dreamliner’s drain on cash is balanced by strong sales of the profitable single-aisle 737 and long-range 777 models. And analysts estimate Boeing is reducing the losses per Dreamliner by about $10 million each quarter. But maintaining the pace of cost reduction gets harder as the simplest problems are solved. Meanwhile, Boeing aims to increase production of Dreamliners to 10 per month at the end of 2013, up from 3.5 per month today—meaning the losses per plane will be magnified, but will also be tempered by the decreasing cost of each jet.
Some analysts believe Boeing’s target for cost reduction on the Dreamliner could be too optimistic. Mr. Strauss of UBS says the company appears to be assuming it can reduce its cost 50% faster than it did with the 777. If instead the pace of cost reduction matches the 777, says one of UBS’s models, the estimated $20 billion hole could double.
There are several stories of note today: