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Airbus has formally opened its final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama, and conducted a media tour on Sunday 13 September before the formal opening ceremony tomorrow.  The facility is impressive, and has the capability to build eight narrow-body aircraft per month operating at full capacity, although current plans are to ramp up to four per month by the end of 2018.

The facility is situated on a 116 acre site, and Airbus holds an option on an adjacent 116 acres should it wish to later expand the facility.  About half of the 116 acres are occupied by buildings and tarmac, including four major buildings – the Trans-Shipment Hangar where parts are received, the final assembly line building, where initial construction begins on four stations, the finalization and testing hangar, where aircraft are completed and testing is completed, and the delivery center where they are handed over to customers.

Two aircraft… Continue reading

In the US, Delta is famous for its decision to keep old aircraft flying, and has purchased second hand aircraft into its fleet. The most prominent of recent purchases include the 717 and the MD-90. We, like others, have thought that this strategy may have economic limitations. After all, older aircraft are less fuel-efficient and incur higher maintenance costs. The key is where those trade-offs break even, and how rapidly costs grow.

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News from Indonesia does not look good for Airbus.  Despite the fact that the A350 flight test program was completed without any major hitches, deliveries have been slow.  However, orders have been even slower.  In 2014 and 2015 Airbus has seen negative net orders for the A350.  Recently, at Airbus’ request, Singapore Airlines handed back seven delivery slots. This effectively reduced Singapore’s orders for the aircraft.

Recently IAG ordered eight A350-900s for Iberia.  IAG’s airlines (British Airways, Iberia and Vueling) operate nearly many Airbus types, from the A318 to the A380.   Meanwhile Airbus continues to compete vigorously with Boeing wherever opportunities pop up – there is a competition underway at China Eastern at present. Emirates is another opportunity that is quietly being fought over.

The Garuda deal being cancelled will be unpleasant and it looks like going that way as the Indonesian president apparently supports this.  Even if the airline… Continue reading

We hear it all the time – fuel costs are the airlines’ biggest input cost.  When looking at the data, it certainly is the largest input on flight operations.  However, what does it look like for the aircraft airlines depend on most?  The workhorse aircraft seating from 125 to 200 passengers?  Airbus and Boeing dominate these segments and their aircraft set the tone.

In the chart below we use the US DoT Form 41 data to illustrate what fuel costs are on a per seat per flight hour basis for the past six years.

Of course, fuel prices and hedging contracts also influence these costs, and each airline has a different net cost per gallon over the period.  Another potential bias in the data is route length, which differs for each of these aircraft.  Shorter routes tend to have higher fuel costs because there is less time in cruise, the… Continue reading

Recently we’ve seen a number of instances in which software problems have emerged on commercial aircraft, most recently, a glitch that could shut down a Boeing 787 in flight, rendering the electrical system that controls the aircraft useless.  We’ve also heard that a member of the hacking community, who runs a computer security service, may have caused a United Airlines aircraft to change direction after taking control of the aircraft via the wi-fi system on board.

Couple this with prior glitches with both A380s and 787 that have been told to us by industry insiders, who are afraid to go public to protect their jobs, and it appears the industry has a new problem to address — keeping aircraft systems safe from hackers, viruses and other threats.  So far, we’ve seen some gaps that don’t add to our confidence that the industry is doing all it could, either in initial… Continue reading

The use of DoT Form 41 data is something many analysts argue over. Is the data reliable? (Sometimes) Do the airlines report the data honestly? (We hope) Is there reason to doubt the numbers (More often than anyone likes).   Even with these caveats, Airbus and Boeing will use the data to make a point that supports their position in a campaign. Even with the questions about the data, it remains the most detailed source of airline and aircraft operational data anywhere.

So, as we often do, we go into the data and see what the latest numbers tell us. We decided to examine how the two most popular aircraft in the industry compare over the last five years? Continue reading

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