Geared Turbo Fan scores big (again)

Flightglobal just has this story out. If it gets materialized (and I have no doubts), this is indeed a big coup for Pratt & Whitney and their PW1133G Geared Turbo Fan. After ILFC's selection for at least 60 of their 100 ordered A320NEO family aircraft (well, it is still an MoU as far as we know, but consider that it will be a firm order by June the latest), this is the second win over the LEAP-X engine. This is a bit surprising, as P&W can be considered a "new" engine OEM in the narrowbody market, as the V2500 offered now is sold by the IAE consortium and not by P&W themselves. So Pratt was believed to have a more difficult start to sell their engine, as they can not count on an own customer base like CFM can.
An advantage in this particular case was that IAE is providing the V2500 for the A320 ordered by Indigo before.
Meanwhile AirAsia CEO Fernandes said that an announcement for a A320NEO order would come soon and there would be some order conversions from the old order for classic A320's to the NEO version. Here CFM has a clear edge over P&W, as AirAsia currently uses the CFM56 and it would be difficult to convert an order from CFM56 powered A320's to GTF powered A320neo's.

There are orders and MoU's for 332 A320NEO family aircraft so far - 210 aircraft will be equipped with the GTF, so the GTF has a market share of (at least) 65% today. I am curious where this is after the Paris Air Show...

P.S.: Meanwhile the press release from P&W is out.


Boeing 737 successor Part III

We still have to wait about 3 months until we probably hear from Boeing what their plan is regarding the future of the B737. But if you read what the Boeing CFO this week said at the JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Defense Conference in New York, one has to question why Boeing should develop a new airplane at all.
If Boeing believes what their CFO James Bell told the audience, Airbus just closes today's gap between the A320 and the B737-800 with the introduction of the NEO. So why then doing something at all? If both big players are on-par, they could go on and share 50% of the market each - at least above the 150 seat level, where Bombardier reportedly will not offer a CS500 (and the announcement of collaboration with COMAC sheds some light on this) and Irkut and COMAC will have a long way to be a player in the the market.
So where is the incentive for Boeing to spend some $10 billion on a new aircraft with all the technical risk involved, but still staying with a conventional tube-and-wing design and the risk that Airbus will follow a few years later leapfrogging the 797 with an unconventional, radical new design.
The low-risk and low-cost solution would be what Airbus says Boeing will do: follow with a re-engined B737 and let the engine maker(s) pay for most of the cost, as now does Airbus (Udvar-Hazy made some comments about this at the ISTAT).
There are just two things that could lead Boeing to design a new aircraft:
  1. Their statement that the re-engining only closes the gap is not true and in reality the NEO's are far better in costs then the NG's. The steadily rising oil price is in favor of the NEO cash operating costs right now and there is probably nobody out there who will predict oil at below $80/barrel in the future. But a re-engining could close that gap - maybe not entirely, but close enough, so that by "adjusting" the purchase price (see A340-600) for the aircraft should be good enough to sell the aircraft.
  2. The basic design of the 737, namely the narrow cabin is too old to be attractive for airlines in the future. This is somehow contrasted by the good response to the Sky interior just introduced for the B737NG.
Bottom line: I am not convinced that Boeing will show the world a B797 in Paris - at least not this year...

There is more about that here:
Part I
Part II
Part IV


Lufthansa next in line for A320/A321NEO

Lufthansa yesterday revealed that their supervisory board approved the purchase of 25 A320NEO and 5 A321NEO (along with 5 B777F, which is also significant, but another topic).
Why is Lufthansa significant? Firstly, because they have one of the best technical departments of all airlines. If they order an aircraft, often this is a sign for other airlines with less capable aircraft evaluation departments. Secondly, Lufthansa is the first european full service carrier (or "legacy airline" or "flag carrier", what ever one might call it) to commit to the NEO. Before we had two low cost airlines (Indigo, Virgin America), a south american airline (TAM) and ILFC as the first lessor. So the customer base not only gets larger, it gets more diversed, showing the attractiveness of the NEO for different kinds of business models. Well, not really surprisingly, as money savings (through fuel savings) works in every business model. But Nico Buchholz, fleet manager of the Lufthansa Group was to be convinced that the fuel savings are not eaten up by higher maintenance costs for the engines. The engine manufacturers always claimed lower (PW) or same (CFM)maintenance costs for their new engines when compared to their current offerings. But as the engines are running considerably hotter, I can understand why many are a little bit skeptical. We don't know yet which engine LH will have on their NEO's - but at least one of the two engine makers must have convinced them - or both: remember that LH is currently using CFM56 on their A319/A320 fleet and the V2500 on their A321's.
A few weeks ago Buchholz gave a interview to AirInsight where he talked about the CSeries, the NEO, the GTF and LEAP-X. He sounded very optimistic about the GTF and saw no risk in the gear anymore. Well, he (LH) is already a customer for the GTF via the CSeries...
The NEO order does not include any A319NEO. This might be a sign of more orders for the CSeries from Lufthansa, especially for the CS300, in the future - they still have 30 options along the 30 firm ordered aircraft.
This morning I read an article about the ISTAT meeting early this week which was very interesting: apparently the lessors reversed their opinion about the NEO from what they thought prior to the launch last October. They now think that residual values for the "Classic A320" would not immediately fall. I argued in October 2010 after the ISTAT meeting why I think that would not happen.
Even Steve Udvar-Hazy, who had no good word for the NEO last year, said that it was the "most sensible thing" for Airbus to do.


Boeing 737 successor Part II

A few days ago I wrote about a possible 737 successor, aka 797.
Every day I get a mail with the headlines from ATI (Air Transport Intelligence) and today there where two headlines that catched my eyes.
  1. Boeing sets performance targets for 737 clean-sheet contender (10Mar11
    23:29 GMT) Boeing would like its possible 737 clean-sheet design to
    have a 15-20% improvement in fuel efficiency over today's
    model, VP for marketing Randy Tinseth says at the Asian
    Aerospace show in Hong Kong.
  2. Boeing: Twin-aisle 737 replacement could increase aircraft utilisation
    (10Mar11 23:25 GMT) Boeing is evaluating how to reduce weight from a 737
    replacement with a wider fuselage accommodating two aisles,
    vice-president for marketing Randy Tinseth says at the Asian
    Aerospace airshow in Hong Kong.
Here are my questions (and in the unlikely case that Randy Tinseth reads this, I would be the most happy man to get the answers directly from himself):
  1. Why does Boeing only target 15-20% better fuel efficiency over the 737? If this is all they want, they can go straight ahead with reengining (Mike Bair said that reengining would yield 11%) plus some (more or less) minor improvements like weight savings through more composites and aerodynamic improvements. As a reengining benefits from grandfather-rights, Boeing would not have to care for some safety regulations that were introduced after the EIS of the 737-100. If Boeing goes with an all-new aircraft, they would have to care for all these with a weight disadvantage for the new aircraft versus the B737NG from the beginning.
  2. Aside from the problems I tried to describe in the earlier entry, I still do not understand how the twin-aisle concept reduces the time for passengers to board and de-board an aircraft. The bottleneck are always the doors, so Boeing should better build wider doors. And for some low-cost airlines they should maybe have an option to build in a same-sized rear exit door, as Ryanair usually does not use airbridges at the terminal but boards and deboards on the tarmac via stairs.
Looking forward for the Paris Airshow this year more than ever...

There are three more parts of this story:
Part I
Part III
Part IV


Geared Turbo Fan scores first

Now we have the long-awaited first battle "GTF vs. LEAP-X" fought out: the GTF (PW1133G) won at ILFC. Today they ordered up to 100 A320NEO aircraft, 60 of them will be powered by the GTF, the rest remains open.
Of course, this is only the first round of the battle, with many more to follow.
But many, including me, would have thought that a leasing company would opt for both engines, leaving their customers a choice.
Per CFM and PW, both engines promise the same reduction in fuel burn.
PW states that the GTF has 20% lower maintenance costs compared to today's engines - probably they compare the GTF to the V2500. CFM says maintenance costs for the LEAP-X will stay where they are with the CFM56 today. So at the end of the day the maintenance cost should be comparable, as the V2500 with it's 2nd HPT stage has "by definition" higher maintenance cost than the CFM56.
So the question is: why ILFC feels better with the GTF than with the LEAP-X - at least for the time being? Do they know something the public does not know?
One could say it is just a matter of a good deal, of course, and that could be right. PW might have offered ILFC a to good deal not to make. But on the other hand, pricing power should be something that CFM could play with - they have thousands of engines in the field and will have many more when the deal comes "online" in 2016 and beyond, so they could cross-subsidize more easily than PW can with their limited market power in the narrowbody market, as they are tied to RR in the V2500 - not to speak about the virtually non-existent widebody market power, where their only really selling products are the GP7000 (in a joint venture with GE) - the PW4000 picked up a little bit recently after it got the Advatage70 package.
Bottom line: it is unlikely that pricing power was the driving factor behind the engine decision from ILFC.
Let's wait for the next battles and their outcomes - maybe we can see some kind of a pattern then...

Oh, and by the way - I would love to know what our "friend" Saj Ahmad from the fleetbuzz Editorial has to say about the GTF now...


Boeing 737 successor

Reportedly, Boeing focuses on a replacement of the B737 rather than doing something with the B777 in the nearer future. Mike Bair, who leads the B737RS studies at Boeing, said in the interview with Bloomberg, that "Six or nine months ago, we were leaning toward a bigger airplane sooner" - meaning that Boeing did not expect Airbus to launch the A320NEO and now finds itself captured between Bombardier on the low-end side of the single-aisle market and Airbus trying to steal traditional B737 customers. So they have to react, but reading carefully the Bloomberg interview and also the latest blog entries from Flightblogger Jon Ostrower makes me believe that they are not really sure what to do. Basically, they have two choices:
  • A 6 abreast family sized from 149 seats (to please Southwest Airlines in particular) to around 200 seats. That would mean, that todays -700 would grow a little bit, todays -800 and -900 could stay in cabin lenght were they are today. For sure, cabin diameter has to increase to "speed loading and unloading, with either a wider aisle or possibly two aisles".
  • That brings us to the second option: a 7 abreast in 2-3-2 configuration with two aisles. That configuration would make it very hard to please Southwest with a 149 seater. The aircraft's fuselage would be heavy in comparison with a 6 abreast aircraft, as the extra aisle takes extra space you have to buid around. Then the 149 seater would have 22 seat rows, compared to 23 rows of the  -700 with 137 seats in Southwest configuration today. It would not only look like a "Mini Guppy" (see below), but the problem is that in case of "one engine out" the stabilizer has a small moment arm and thus has to have a relatively large area, comprising weight for the larger family members, which does not need the large stab. Vice versa is the case with the wing: to get exceptable runway performance and range for the largest family member (runway performance is today's weak point of the -900ER), the wing has to be sized accordingly, which means extra weight for the smallest member. Of course that's a problem of today's B737 and A320 families, too. But with the CSeries entering the market, which is optimized around 135 seats and trans-con range, there is an alternative available which does not have to make this heavy compromises.
Another question Boeing and the engine manufacturers have to answer (first for themselves) is: what are the improvements in SFC for an engine with an EIS 2010 compared to EIS 2013 (CSeries) or EIS 2016 (A320NEO, C919, MS-21).
Boeing today dismisses the NEO as the 15% fuel burn improvement would be not enough. Remember: fuel is about 40% of Direct Operating Costs (DOC), even for narrowbodies (the numbers in Jon Ostrowers interview with Mike Bair seem to be too low) and it could rise even further. Historically, SFC gets down by 0.5-1% per year. So the best we can expect for a EIS 2020 engine is 4% better than the NEO engines will be - and they could be upgraded as the V2500 and the CFM56 were upgraded several times in their life.
So where could the big advantage in DOC come from?
  • Aircraft weight: the new aircraft will benefit from new and lighter materials. If you read the interview, it will probably not be a plastic aircraft but a will get a Al-Li fuselage, like the CSeries.
  • Plastic wing with smaller wing area (compared to today's B737) with higher aspect ratio: that leads to lower drag, lower weight and better aerodynamics
  • The first two bullets both lead to a lower thrust requirement, directly leading to lower fuel burn.
  • Maintenance costs of the aircraft: as the B737 today is the airline's darling when it comes to maintenance costs I can't see where this could get dramatically better
  • Maintenance costs of the engines: as these engines will (most probably) be enhanced versions of the LEAP-X and the GTF or something similar from RR (Advantage 2 or 3), the difference in maintenance costs to the NEO engines would be small if at all. They could be even higher, as one way to improve SFC would be to raise OPR and therefore core temperatures.
Conclusion: there will be an cost advantage of the 737RS/797 compared to the NEO: of course. But will it be a step change? I can't see it today. And there are alternatives like the Bombardier CSeries and maybe another 5 abreast model from Embraer - they will decide what to do after Boeing announces their final plans - what could happen in June according to Bair. So in the second half of the year, we should have an announcement from Brasil...watch out!
This is how a 130 seater in a 2-3-2 seat configuration would look like...

Meanwhile there are three more blog entries about the possible 737 successor:
Part II
Part III
Part IV