The US Federal Aviation Administration grounded all US-registered Boeing 787. There are only six–all operated by United Airlines–but equivalent regulators typically follow the lead, though they don’t have to.
This is the first ground of a US-made commercial airliner since the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 was grounded in 1979, following a crash at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
The move was becoming more and more widely talked about in aviation circles. We’re on a multi-stop trip in Europe and more and more people we’ve visiting had been talking about the prospect of grounding.
Buckingham Research issued a note about a company that is in the process of producing a new lithium-ion battery design of later technology:
From the Buckingham note
We think BA does have alternatives if it decides to replace the current Li-Ion batteries.
- We recently spoke with EaglePicher, a competitor to GS Yuasa (787 battery maker).
- EaglePicher has a Li-Ion battery technology currently being certified for a business jet.
- EaglePicher notes it could have a 787 Li-Ion battery designed and certified in 12-15 months.
- EaglePicher’s Li-Ion battery conforms to current (and far stricter) FAA standards for Li-Ion batteries.
- Consequently, we think BA has design alternatives if it decides to replace the current battery.
A key supplier says engine makers aren’t as positive about plans by Boeing to ramp up production.
Allegheny Technologies hosted an investors’ day last month. In a note issued September 14 by Buckingham Research Group, BRG wites:
ATI has confidence in BA’s production ramp schedule but believes engine manufacturers do not. ATI is confident BA will achieve 787 production rates of 10/mo at the end of 2013 and successful ramp on the 737 and 777. Although ATI has faith in BA’s production ramp, CEO Richard Harshman noted that the engine supply chain may not have the same faith in BA’s production ramp. ATI’s observation is that the engine supply chain is being very tightly managed and that engine OEMs are being very guarded about getting ahead of airframe manufacturers (historically they have gotten ahead, anticipating production increase). This somewhat supports our view; although we think execution on the 787 has been better than BA expected, we think BA will be challenged to meet its production rate schedule of 10/mo by the end of 2013. We also think that view is well within buy-side expectations.
From our conversations with suppliers, we know that there is a general fear of the high rates announced by Airbus and Boeing, let alone those being studied. We believe these concerns are natural, given the unprecedented volumes announced and under study. Concern is also driven by a fragile global economy.
Spirit Aerosystems held an aerospace analyst day March 7 and several reports have already been issued. Given Spirit’s close association with Boeing 7-Series programs, we thought the following is useful information. Spirit is also a major supplier to Airbus on the A35, building sections of the composite fuselage at its North Carolina facilities.
Update, May 11: UBS had Boeing’s Mike Bair, the head of the 737 future program, for presentations yesterday and issued its report. Much of the UBS report is similar to the Credit Suisse and Buckingham information captured below; here’s some of the new stuff.
- While still not taking a re-engined 737 off the table entirely, it was clear from our discussion that BA’s preference remains an all new NB for initial delivery in 2019-20. While no major announcement is expected in Paris, BA anticipates material selection in 2012 (metal vs. composite), followed by component selection strategy
(make vs. buy) in 2013 and official program launch in 2013-14, assuming a launch order is in place. BA envisions an eventual production rate of 60-70/month, which it sees as high enough to justify a dual source strategy for some major components.
- While still not taking a re-engined 737 off the table entirely, it was clear during our discussion that Boeing’s preference remains an all new narrowbody with initial delivery in 2019-20.
- Boeing does not expect to make a major announcement at the Paris Airshow. It commented that it would expect a launch decision on a potential new aircraft to come roughly five-six years ahead of first delivery, putting program launch in the 2013-14 timeframe,
assuming a launch customer is in place by then.
- Boeing commented that it would take a defection by a current 737 customer to get it to think more seriously about re-engining. Boeing sees this as unlikely and noted that Easyjet is the only 737 operator ever to defect to A320 and that it took very aggressive pricing by Airbus to achieve that outcome.
Our comment on the last point: Bair is wrong, of course: United and Frontier were two 737 customers to defect and Air Berlin also bought A320s; we believe there were more but don’t recall specifically.
In what is the clearest picture yet of Boeing’s intentions for program development, Boeing Capital Corp. officials met May 3 with aerospace analysts and financial types in one of BCC’s periodic meetings. What emerged from the meeting is a clear understanding of Boeing’s current thinking for the current 737 line and the New Airplane, which for this report we will identify as the 7X7.
This report is based on conversations with participants of the meeting, subsequent analyst reports that were issued and presentations to the group by Boeing.
It’s stunning news: Boeing may be shelving, at least for now, the prospect of a new airplane widely anticipated to be announced at the Paris Air Show.
Boeing previously shelved the prospective 737RE (Re-Engine).
Buckingham Research, a boutique New York investment bank with a good track record of forecasting Boeing moves, issued a note today in which it said Boeing is rethinking the new airplane. Buckingham writes: