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.
We’re feeling irreverent today….
Comment: We remember when Boeing said Alabamans couldn’t build a tricycle (during the bitter competition for the KC-X tanker).
Hunker Down: We’re going into the bunker on this one–Washington should become a right-to-work state. In 2008, IAM 751 (during its strike) boasted WA is the fourth most-unionized state in the country. We know this inhibits expanding aerospace here. We’ve heard it from companies. We’ve heard it from the head of one of the Economic Development Commissions here that unions are the first topic to come up when he is recruiting companies to expand here. We don’t object to unions per se but we don’t think someone should be forced to join one. (That’s how we feel about Republicans, too….)
Take two Viagra and try again: The refueling boom was being extended when it fell off an Airbus KC-30 during a test flight.
Thank you for smoking: Airbus is really pushing Europe to delay implementation of its emissions trading scheme, which jeaopardizes orders from China. Despite the sarcasm, we agree with Airbus–any regulations through be through ICAO, not on Europe’s own, ill-advised hook.
Macht nichts: No AirAsia order at the Berlin Air Show after all. The airline will be the first to operate the A320neo and the airplane with sharklets.
Macht nichts, II: MTU is a partner with Pratt & Whitney on the Geared Turbo Fan for the Mistubishi MRJ, the Bombardier CSeries, Irkut MS-21 and the A320neo but looks to join GE for the new engine for the Boeing 777X.
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.
The Farnborough Air Show isn’t just about orders, though these get all the sex and headlines.
While we weren’t at the show, we had a telephone interview with a company called Constellium, previously known as Alcan. Constellium spoke at the February conference of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance, with which we are involved. We were particularly interested in talking with Constellium because it is a major supplier of Aluminum-Lithium, an alternative material to standard aluminum and a competing material to composites.
Constellium’s Al-Li combines other processes, including a design for recycling, and is named AirWare. Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier are among their key customers, and it is Constellium that is providing the materials for the CSeries. It’s also a supplier on the Airbus A350 (internal components, not the fuselage).
As Airbus and Boeing looked at the A320neo and 737 MAX, and as Boeing is looking at the 777X, we asked them about the prospect of using Al-Li. This is lighter than standard aluminum, more durable, less susceptible to corrosion and enabled 12 years between major maintenance overhauls compared with the 6-8 years now.
But Al-Li is more difficult to work with than standard aluminum. Boeing’s Mike Bair told us in an interview that Boeing considered Al-Li back in the 1990s when designing the 777 but it was too difficult and costly to manufacture. Since then, he praised the producers for strides. There are mixed reports what material will be used for the 777X fuselage: standard metal or Al-Li. The Seattle Times reported the airplane will have Al-Li. We’ve been told it won’t. But with the airplane still months and perhaps a year from launch, there is plenty of time to decide.
Airbus, in an interview at the Paris Air Show last year, said it was evaluating Al-Li for the A320neo. The A320ceo is heavier than the competing Boeing 737 and the re-engine adds about 4,000 lbs. Using Al-Li would mitigate some of this weight. We haven’t heard if Airbus might go ahead with Al-Li, but we’re leaning toward concluding that it won’t.
Boeing told us it will not switch to Al-Li for the MAX because the manufacturing process is just enough different that it would add complexity and cost to the current tooling and procedures.
Al-Li vs composites is a competition that will likely be fierce when it comes time for Airbus and Boeing to design the next clean-sheet airplanes, presumed to be the New Small Airplane, or replacement for the current 737/A320 class. (Boeing may have a new clean-sheet for the 757 class; it has a New Airplane Study underway for this, but the market may be too narrow when one considers the 737-9 MAX and A321neo will do 95% of what a 757 can do.)
Composites, selected for the 787 and A350 XWB fuselages and wings, offer advantages over standard metal fuselages that have been well documented and need not be repeated here. But Airbus and Boeing question the efficiency and benefits of down-scaling composites to 737/A320 category airplanes. Boeing apparently became convinced: Jim Albaugh, former CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the New Small Airplane would have been composite, but the ability to produce it at a rate of 60 per month remained a challenge. Boeing went with the MAX instead.
Vistagy, a composite manufacturer near Boston, told us nearly two years ago, that the down-scaling challenges were met and that production rates were the issue. Autoclaves are very costly and so is the manufacturing process. There is actually less industrial waste than traditional aluminum manufacturing, but the materials are generally more hazardous—though there have been strides on this score.
This is the background that intrigued us when we had the opportunity to speak with Constellium’s Simon Laddychuk, VP of Manufacturing Global Aerospace and Director of Technology. Read more…
Here is an expanded version of a story we did last week for Flight Global Pro.
The refrain that Airbus and Boeing are over-producing the core-A320 and 737 programmes resurfaced with lessor AerCap in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Aengus Kelly, CEO, chastised the Big Two OEMs for production plans announced so far. Airbus will go to a rate of 42 per month by the end of this year and is considering 44. Boeing plans to hit rate 42 by 2014. Both companies are considering rates as high as 60 per month.
Airbus produces airplanes only 11 months of the year while Boeing is on a 12 month production schedule.
In its 2011 20-year forecast, Boeing predicts there is a need for 23,370 single aisle aircraft in the 90-210 seat category. Airbus predicts 19,165 in the 100-210 seat market.
Based on the announced production rates, and assuming no changes through the 2030 forecast period in production—or for adjustments in the forecasts—Airbus and Boeing will produce 18,551 single-aisle airplanes.
If both OEMs go to rate 60 by 2016, their combined production exceeds their own single-aisle forecasts.