During the first-quarter, Chicago-based airframer Boeing continues to rack up orders and commitments for its re-engined 737 MAX aircraft, garnering 301 firm orders, including 100 737 MAX 8s from Oslo-based low-cost carrier (LCC) Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) and 201 737 MAX 9s from Indonesia-based LCC Lion Air in the three months ending 31st March. Its transatlantic arch-rival Airbus, in contrast, received 143 firm orders for the re-engined A320neo (new engine option) aircraft, including 35 from Kuwaiti aircraft lessor ALAFCO, 45 from US ultra low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines, 33 from Avianca-Taca and 30 from Mexican low-cost carrier (LCC) Volaris, in addition to the Norwegian’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) for 100 A320neos.
As the development of the Airbus A350 XWB (Extra Wide Body) family aircraft gears up this year, with the first A350-900 example entering final assembly in March ahead of its first flight in the second quarter of 2013 (“Airbus faces a crucial year on A350 development”, 25th Jan, 12), the same holds true for the competitive response from its transatlantic arch-rival Boeing on the development of a revamped and upgraded version of the highly popular long-range 777 jets.
Boeing has been studying a major upgrade of the twin-aisle 777 aircraft, provisionally dubbed as the 777-8X and the 777-9X, that will succeed the 301-seat 777-200LR and the 365-seat 777-300ER, respectively and mount a significant challenge to the proposed 350-seat A350-1000, whose more powerful Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines from 93,000 lbs to 97,000 lbs increases the range of the aircraft by 400 nautical miles (nm) to 8,400 nm or its payload by 4.5 tonnes over the same range, delayed the entry into service (EIS) of the largest A350 variant by two years from 2015 to 2017.
2011 was more than a milestone year for Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing. Other than delivering the first 787 Dreamliner and 747-8F freighters, as well as launching the re-engined 737 MAX aircraft family and certifying the passenger variant of the revamped iconic 747 jumbo jet, the 747-8I Intercontinental, 2011 was a robust year for Boeing’s profitability.
The world’s largest aerospace company reported a 2011 fourth-quarter net profit of US$1.39 billion, or US$1.84 per share, handsomely beating the Wall Street consensus of US$1.01 per share even excluding a 52 US cents non-recurring gain from a favourable tax settlement. The 2011 fourth-quarter profit was a 20% rise over the US$1.16 billion profit recorded in the same period last year, or an 18% increase in earnings per share from the US$1.56 earning per share in the fourth quarter of 2010.
European plane-maker Airbus, a unit of the European Aeronautics, Defence & Space Co. N.V., has enjoyed a record year of 2011 buoyed by an order bonanza at its re-engined A320neo (new engine option) aircraft programme, which accounted for 1,226 of the 1,419 net orders recorded in the year, after taking into account customer cancellations from the tally of 1,608 gross orders, including the exclusion of bankrupt carrier American Airlines’ (AA) order for 130 A321neos and the first A350-1000 order cancellation from Middle Eastern carrier Etihad Airways that saw its order for the biggest A350 variant being reduced from 25 to 19.
Notwithstanding this, 2011 could not have been a better year for Airbus. On a gross basis, Airbus’ 1,608 gross orders gave it a 64% market share in terms of units against Boeing’s 921 gross orders whereas Airbus had a 56% of market share in 2011 with its gross orders worth US$168.8 billion against Boeing’s gross orders whose values stand at US$133.1 billion. On a net basis, Airbus still maintained the same market share with 1,419 orders against Boeing’s 805 orders, though Airbus’ lead over Boeing narrowed when it comes to market share figures measured in terms of revenues, with Airbus claiming a 54% market share against Boeing’s 46% share, reflecting the different aircraft mix in orders recorded by Airbus and Boeing, with the Chicago-based arch-rival receiving a record number of 200 orders for its lucrative 777 widebody jetliners.
As the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner faced a perennial string of delivery delays since its roll-out in July 2007, the competing Airbus product, A330-200 high gross weight (HGW) version gained traction as airlines sought to cut their fuel costs amid skyrocketing oil prices. Early parts which are heavier, in addition to the discovery of a delamination issue prompting the side-of-body modifications and the addition of fasteners, coupled with a 2%-4% higher than anticipated engine specific fuel consumption (SFC) Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 Package A engine, contributed to weight growth of the mid-sized aircraft and hence led to performance shortfall of the aircraft.
However, a new Aspire Aviation report, titled “Hot Air: The Mid-sized Widebody Race In Early This Decade“, authored by its analyst and editor Vinay Bhaskara finds the cost per seat mile and cost per aircraft mile figures of the 787-8 Dreamliner to be considerably lower than the A330-200 HGW, assuming General Electric GEnx-1B engine-powered 787-8 against Pratt & Whitney PW4000-powered A330-200 HGW. The Aspire Aviation report assumes 787-8 examples from line number LN90 onwards, the first -8 production example meeting Boeing’s original airline-specific operating empty weight (OEW) and manufacturer’s empty weight (MEW) (“Boeing eyes 787 improvements along with production ramp-up“, 11th January, 12).
It is hardly a surprise when Chicago-based airframer Boeing missed its 2011 delivery targets on the beleaguered 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 programmes, after delivering a combined 12, consisting of 9 Boeing 747-8F freighters and 3 787 Dreamliners, against the original target of 15 to 20 aircraft envisioned, including 5-7 787 deliveries, in October when the company announced its strong third-quarter profit of US$1.1 billion (“Boeing posts stellar 2011 third-quarter profit amid 787 & 747-8 concerns“, 1st Nov, 11).
Indeed, the persistent downward revision in the number of 787 and 747-8 deliveries by the world’s second-largest aircraft manufacturer throughout the year highlighted the challenges posed by a significant amount of rework required to bring the early-built 787 production examples to US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) FAR Part 25 certification standard.
After witnessing an unprecedented order influx at its transatlantic arch-rival’s re-engined Airbus A320neo (new engine option) aircraft which garnered 1,196 firm orders only one year since its launch in December 2010, Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing looks set to enjoy a similar orders bonanza for its re-engined 737 MAX aircraft in 2012 as it received a staggering US$19 billion firm order for 150 737 MAX and 58 additional 737 NG (next-generation) family aircraft from US low-cost carrier (LCC) Southwest Airlines.
The Dallas-based low-cost pioneer, which revolutionised air travel even before the US airline industry deregulation in 1978, opted for the 737 MAX 8 in the aircraft’s launch order, a departure from its long-standing trend of launching the smaller variant in the narrowbody offerings of the world’s second-largest aircraft manufacturer such as its launches of the 737-300, -500 and -700 variants in the past, flightglobal Pro reported.
In releasing its 2011 third-quarter pre-tax profit of €1.1 billion, European plane-maker Airbus parent European Aeronautics, Defence & Space Co. NV (EADS) announced the Airbus A350-900 XWB’s entry into service (EIS) has been delayed by up to six months. The start of final assembly of the first A350-900 was deferred to the first half of 2012 and its first flight is now scheduled for early 2013 from the airframer’s previous targets of end-2011 and 2012, respectively. Entry into service (EIS) of the baseline variant in the mid-sized A350 XWB aircraft family, meanwhile, slipped to the first half of 2014 from late-2013.
Airbus’ head of the A350 programme Didier Evrard attributed the delay to the late arrival of the centre fuselage panels at its final assembly line in Toulouse, which are produced by Spirit AeroSystems in its Saint Nazaire, France factory.
On 19th October, 2011, Air New Zealand (ANZ) announced an order for 7 new ATR 72-600 aircraft plus five options for growth of its domestic regional operations. The airline stated that while it had given consideration to both Bombardier and ATR for this latest order, it had chosen the ATR aircraft due to its superior fuel burn performance and optimisation for operations in poor weather conditions. Air New Zealand’s regional operations are currently operated by a mix of 11 ATR 72-500 and 23 Bombardier Dash 8 Q300 aircraft amongst others. Yet despite this split fleet, Air New Zealand has chosen to utilise ATR’s aircraft for its future.
Air New Zealand’s choice of ATR as their regional partner hints at a broader trend across the regional airline industry. Over the course of 2011, ATR has beaten Bombardier on numerous head-to-head request for proposals (RFPs), winning 116 orders for its ATR 72 turboprop versus only 21 orders for Bombardier’s Q400. Within those 116 orders, 49 have been placed for the current generation ATR 72-500, while 67 orders have been placed for the next-generation ATR 72-600, which features a new cabin layout with larger overhead bins, improved seating and a cockpit including required navigation performance (RNP) technology, as well as improvements in fuel burn and maintenance costs over the ATR 72-500.
Following its launch in August this year, the re-engined Boeing 737 MAX aircraft programme has helped the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer regain strong sales momentum seen by its arch-rival European plane-maker Airbus on its re-engined A320neo (new engine option) aircraft, garnering 700 commitments from nine airlines around the world, up from 496 commitments from five airlines received at programme launch (“Boeing 737 MAX to help recover sales momentum”, 5th Sep, 11).
At the same time Boeing said it has chosen a 68-inch fan size for the aircraft’s CFM International Leap-1B engine, which, combined with improved aerodynamics through a revised 787-styled tail cone design, will deliver a 10%-12% fuel burn saving over the existing industry workhorse 737 NG (next-generation), as well as a 4% lower fuel burn per seat and a 7% lower operating cost versus the competing A320neo.