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Commercial Aviation Analysts

Yesterday Boeing announced  another milestone – it started assembly of the 1,000th 767.  The airplane is destined for ANA in Japan.  ANA ordered its first of 89 767s in 1979 – 31 years ago.

That the 767 is a great airplane is unquestioned.  This was the first long range twin that ultimately dominated service across the Atlantic between North America and Europe.  It had just the right capacity to enable service from “secondary” cities and combined this with really good range.  Most recently there has been a number of operators adding winglets to their 767s to add to this range – much as 757 operators have done.

But even as the 1,000th 767 goes through its birth pangs, the sun might be setting on the program.  This wonderful airplane is about to be eclipsed by the 787.

As the aviation world waits for Airbus to decide whether it will re-engine the Airbus A320 family with (as expected) the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan and the CFM International Leap-X, little thought has been given to the advantage PW will have with its GTF.

There has been plenty of debate whether the GTF technology or the more traditional Leap-X approach is the better answer. Engineers and pundits will be arguing about this until there are years of service and experience from which to draw definitive conclusions. And this is where PW will have an advantage.

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The all-electric Cri-Cri, jointly developed by EADS Innovation Works, Aero Composites Saintonge and the Green Cri-Cri Association made its official maiden flight at Le Bourget airport on Thursday. This Cri-Cri is the first-ever four-engined all electric aerobatic plane, which was first shown at the Green Aviation Show at Le Bourget in June.

“This aircraft flies very smoothly, much more quietly than a plane with conventional propulsion”, said Didier Esteyne, who piloted the all-electric Cri-Cri. “But we are still at the beginning and have a lot to learn. We are allowed to start aerobatic manoeuvres only after five hours of flight and 15 landings.” Continue reading

SuperJet International – a joint venture between Alenia Aeronautica (a Finmeccanica company) and Sukhoi Holding – and the US leasing company Willis Lease Finance Corporation signed today a Memorandum of Understanding for the purchase of 6 Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100) aircraft plus 4 options, for an estimated value up to US $300m.  This is a great coup by SuperJet – making its first sale to a US company. Continue reading

  • Flight International has this story taking a detailed look at the Pratt & Whitney P1000G PurePower engine.
  • Flight has this report about the Bombardier CSeries having the first telemetry for flight data recorders.

The comments this week by Boeing Chief Financial Officer James Bell that the prospective expansion of the 737 line from 35 aircraft a month to 40 may be too costly were generally misunderstood by observers. For the most part, they took this to mean too costly to Boeing.

The Renton (WA) plant, where the 737 is assembled, has the room for 40 airplanes a month and with a little effort can even go to 42 a month if 737-based P-8A Poseidon work is moved out of the building. The real issue is two key suppliers to Boeing who will have to physically expand and the cost to them in capital expenditures and the return on investment. Continue reading

The narrow-body aircraft market will undergo a major revolution in this decade, with new aircraft competition from the Bombardier CSeries,  Comac C919, Irkut MS-21, a re-engining of the A320 family from Airbus, and an anticipated new offering from Brazil’s Embraer.

New technology engines are driving that change.   The all-new Leap-X from CFM International promises a 14-16% improvement in fuel efficiency over today’s engines, with the first engines ready for the C919 introduction in 2016.   The Pratt & Whitney GTF, which promises a 16% plus improvement in fuel efficiency over today’s engines, will enter service with the Bombardier CSeries in 2013.

It is unlikely that Boeing can launch an all-new aircraft before 2020, given their current cash flow difficulties and additional delays with the 787 and 747-8 programs.  Boeing has increased its production rate on the current models, trying to deliver as many as possible before new competition renders those models… Continue reading

With announcements of another 787 and another 747-8 delay this week, the credibility of Boeing being able to deliver on its promises has taken another hit -- and leaves folks wondering if these aircraft will enter service in the first quarter of 2011. The additional costs from delays and corrective measure threaten profitability and the timing of 737 and 777 replacement/enhancement programs, eroding Boeing’s future competitive position.
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The news that the head of the troubled Boeing 747-8 program, Mohammad “Mo” Yahyavi, was removed August 27 is long overdue and only endemic of the slow pace at Boeing to address and correct program difficulties.

Inexplicably, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney—who inherited a growing mess from former CEO Harry Stonecipher (and his interim successor and caretaker, the late Lew Platt)—has been excruciatingly slow to make changes in the 787 and 747 programs.

While the 787 has garnered all the attention and headlines for what is fast approaching three years in delays after seven program reschedulings, the less-visible 747-8 is also a poster child for Things Wrong at Boeing.

Even before the 787 roll out on 7/8/07, information was circulating that resources were being diverted to or retained by the 787 program from the 747-8 and other programs. As the 787 problems got worse, so did the insidious affect on other programs. Boeing’s plan had been that once the 787 entered service in May 2008, a replacement airplane for the 737 was going to be pursued, followed by one for the 777. But the issues with the 787 and 747-8 upset these plans.

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Boeing very late August 26 announced yet another delay of its newest airplane, the 787.  Some are trying hard to say this is no surprise – but there is no way any further delays are welcomed by Boeing or its customers.  The 787 program has become a source of management embarrassment and a program that has billions of dollars in cost overruns and customer penalties, aggregating $20 billion by some estimates.

What are the key questions pertaining to this latest delay announcement?

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Airbus is reportedly working furiously on plans to re-engine its single aisle family planes.  As we looked at the A320 family, we pondered how this strategy might unfold – after all its risky and cash is tight.  Very tight.

Moreover, nothing in the industry happens in a vacuum.  Any move by Airbus will elicit a response from you-know-who.  So what is the best move for Airbus?  The move they need to make has to be smart for them obviously, but also is best if made in such a way that it is hard for Boeing.  That is a real win.

In considering this we came up with an idea that perhaps the best move for Airbus is to re-engine with a P&W geared fan engine on the A321.  This means the latest engine ready soonest.  It also means making the move where Boeing has no easy response.  There is no… Continue reading