FAA 787 approval could come next week: Reuters reports that the Federal Aviation Administration could provide a key approval next week that will open the way to the final documentation required to lift the grounding of the Boeing 787. Meantime, and unrelated to the woes of the 787, the FAA has certified the latest performance improvement package for the 787′s GEnx engines.
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.
It’s Christmas Eve but there is some news despite this being a slow day.
CSeries and London City Airport: The downtown airport is a highly challenging one. Aircraft have a challenging approach. The runway is short. British Airways operates the Airbus A318 to New York with a refueling stop westbound. Bombardier says its CSeries can do the trip non-stop. This article provides some detail.
New Life for BAe-146: This airplane didn’t have much to recommend it. In its original 3×3 configuration, it was a cramped airplane. It had four engines. The original engines were unreliable. But here’s a new life for them.
SPEEA’s next step: The Boeing engineers’ union takes another step to prepare for a strike, beginning Feb. 1.
Ed Colodny on US Airways mergers: He headed Allegheny Airlines and US Air for years, guiding the carrier through four mergers–including Piedmont Airlines, which critics widely considered that he screwed up, and PSA, which US did screw up. The Street gets his thoughts on the potential American Airlines merger.
GEnx PIPs slip a bit: The Performance Improvement Package program for the GEnx engine that powers the Boeing 787 and 747-8 has slipped a bit, according to this article.
Airbus last week announced additional gross weight upgrades and improvements to the A330-200/300 that increase range and reduce fuel burn. Aviation Week has this story about the enhancements.
This is the latest in a series of improvements taking advantage of the four year delay in the Boeing 787 program that Airbus believes will enable the airplane, which first entered service in 1994, to remain viable well into the 2020 decade.
Boeing launched the 787 in December 2003 and promptly claimed the aircraft would kill the A330. Had the aircraft entered service in May 2008 as originally planned, Boeing might have been able to make strides to do so. But delays allowed Airbus time to incorporate several Performance Improvement Packages (PIPs). The European company has sold more A330s post-787 launch than it did before.
The latest improvements give the A330-300 an anticipated range of more than 6,000nm, compared with less than 4,000nm when the airplane entered service.
There appears to be a lot of focus on delays in delivering the next Boeing 787s to United Airlines–which has received one–but neither Boeing or United is saying what’s behind the delays. (Update, Dec. 1: one of the three was delivered yesterday.)
According to the Ascend data base, line numbers 45, 50 and 52 are supposed to be delivered this year and 55 and 77 are supposed to be delivered in January. All are with GEnx engines.
Here are some possible reasons for the delay:
- Rework is the obvious one. The first “clean” airplane to come off the Boeing assembly line in Everett was around line #66. The lower the line number, the more rework. UAL’s line numbers are higher, but rework is still necessary.
- GEnx engines. The failures on the 787 and 747-8 GEnx engines were unrelated and, as these things go, not especially severe, but fixing them is, we are told, complex for engines already assembled. Qatar refused delivery of its first 787 because of the GEnx issue. Contractually delivery has been accepted but the airline also wanted additional IFE (inflight entertainment equipment) installed and physically hasn’t accepted delivery. So…
- IFE upgrades: These UAL 787s were ordered by Continental Airlines prior to the merger and it’s been reported in the press that the delays in Boeing’s delivery left UA/CO will older, less sophisticated Buyer Furnished Equipment (the IFE). Maybe UAL wants more current IFE?
We were asked by media if this is another blow to the 787 program. We don’t think so. At this point, we haven’t heard of anything about the reason for the delay and pretty well shrugged it off anyway.
Meanwhile, Airbus is in talks with at least some of its A380 customers seeking compensation for the operational interruptions resulting from required inspections related to wing rub brace cracking. Compensation could amount to millions of Euros per customer.