A320neo with PW1127G-JM certified!

Two important milestones for the A320neo program in one week: last week the LEAP-1A and the identical -1C) got it’s certification, both from the FAA and the EASA.  Today, the A320neo got it’s Type Certificate with the PW1100G-JM. The road to EIS is now free and we can expect that the first aircraft will be delivered until the end of the year, almost exactly 5 years after Airbus announced the A320neo on Dec. 1st, 2010.

The A320neo has about 4500 firm orders today, enough backlog for 7-8 years of production.

Now the suppliers, first and foremost the engine suppliers have to show that they can meet the ramp up. This will be no easy Task!

In my last post I wrote that there is a significant downturn in flying time of the two A320neo equipped with the LEAP-1A. Since then it even got worse. In the last week, there was only one flight from the D-AVVB, the 2nd LEAP-1A prototype. The week before also saw less


A320neo flight test program

After Airbus launched the A320neo program on Dec. 1st, 2010 we are now close to entry into service, with Qatar Airways as the first customer. After several - say - hick-ups in the test program it now looks as the PW1100G powered version is successfully completing the last steps in the certification program. The third aircraft with the GTF engines, an aircraft that will be delivered to Indigo later, joined the test fleet and is doing Function and Reliability testing. There were two hick-ups there two, one in Thessaloniki, were the aircraft was on ground for several days and another in Kiruna, were the aircraft flew back two days later.


A320neo and B737MAX market shares

Boeing had a press release yesterday announcing the first B737MAX is now in the final assembly. First flight is expected in early 2016. Bjorn Fehrm writes here about the timing of EIS of the new or reengined narrowbodies and regionals (he is not right on one thing though: the first flight of the A320neo was NOT late by 6 months).What becomes clear (well, as of now...) is that the B737MAX will enter Airline Service earlier than previously thought. This is also backed from Alaska Airlines, which expects the first B737MAX-8 now in late 2017 rather in early 2018.

There is always a lot of "discussion" between Airbus and Boeing about the market share of the A320neo vs. the B737MAX. Airbus maintains to argue that the A320neo has a market share of 60% where Boeing also consistently says that in the long run market shares will be


Widebody Order Gap Update Septermber 2015

Another update of the „bridge situation” for both the A330ceo/neo and the B777/B777X:

There has been some moves regarding the A330. In August Airbus announced some more orders, 22 of them from undisclosed customers. Whether these orders are part of the 45 aircraft order from China is not clear (yet), so there is some uncertainty around it.
On the other side AirAsia X canceled most of their outstanding A330ceo orders, as I suspected back in March this year. But the cancellation is not yet in the orderbook, so we have to keep in mind that the “real” number of open orders is 12 less than in the O&D Excel Sheet. Plus 15 less for Kingfisher of course. Some other risks remain as I mentioned before.
On the other hand the announced purchases of four aircraft from EVA and four by South


B737NG and A320ceo backlog

Scott Hamilton posted a story last week commenting on the backlog situation of the B737NG. He Comes to the conclusion that there is a rather large gap and Boeing would need more than 350 more orders to fill the production until the B737MAX takes over in full.

How large the gap is depends on when exactly EIS of the B737MAX will be and how fast Boeing (and the suppliers) can ramp up production:


Boeing revises ranges of their aircraft

I already wrote back in 2012 that there is something not adding up in Boeing's range esimations for the B737MAX. Now Boeing officially revised the range numbers for all Boeing aircraft.
Boeing says this has to do with revised assumptions for pax, bags and seat weights. We don't know how Boeing revised those numbers, but as I wrote back then something did not add up from the beginning when comparing the range of the B737NG with the B737MAX.


Will the "nuclear deal" lead to higher narrowbody production rates?

Now that obviously the sanctions on Iran will be lifted in the near future after the "nuclear deal" was reached, both Airbus and Boeing will have no problem in finding buyers for their last-of-the-line A320ceo and B737NG. Airbus is overbooked anyway but could afford to allow customers who want to do so to delay deliveries and to switch to the A320neo. Boeing will find Iranian airlines willing to take B737NG's, as there are still delivery slots open in 2017 and 2018 and maybe in 2019.
The real question though is if the pressure to go to even higher rates than already announced (52 for the B737NG/MAX in 2018 and 50 for the A320ceo/neo in 2017) will now lead to quick decisions at both Airbus and Boeing.
But also Bombardier and of course Embraer could benefit from the accord: Bombardier could especially find customers for the CSeries and Embraer could sell more of their E1 line to bridge production to the E2.
Boeing also might sell some B777's to bridge their production gap between the B777-300ER/B777F and the B777-X.


A320neo testing running out of time for EIS 2015?

Yesterday Flightglobal reported that this year Boeing could, for the first time since 2001, deliver more narrowbodies than Airbus. Boeing delivered 243 civil B737 plus 6 for the US Navy until June 30, Airbus delivered 238 A320. Although normally Airbus delivers more aircraft in the second half of the year (H1 2014: 237, H2 2014: 253) and Boeing had also more deliveries in the first half o f 2014 (239), it will be hard for Airbus to beat Boeing this year. This has to do with the transition to the A320neo, where production times should be a little bit longer initially than for the A320ceo.
Also it is questionable if all planned A320neo deliveries in 2015 will be handed over this year. This is highly dependent on when flight testing with the PW1100G will restart and if there are no more hickups in the flight testing.The Flightglobal article suggests that flight tests will start once the now delivered  engines are podded to the nacelles and integrated into the aircraft. This might be at the end of July. The last flight of a PW1100G powered A320neo happened on April 30th, so three months would be lost by then.
Airbus so far insists that deliveries will start towards the end of the year as planned. With the original first delivery targeted for the end of October, there must have been ample margin in the original flight test program or Airbus has to accelerate testing once the aircraft are back in the air.
But also the CFM LEAP-1A powered first A320neo has not been in the air for two weeks now. We don't know yet what is the reason here, if it is engine or aircraft related (although I would be very surprised if it has anything to do with the airframe). So any learning from the CFM powered aircraft that is transferable to the PW powered aircraft is delayed also.
The margin is getting shorter everyday, and Qatar Airways Akbar Al Baker alias U-Turn Al is probably already thinking about how he can make his "fun" out of the situation.

Is there a China Narrowbody Order Gap?

Looking at data from ASCEND there is a gap in narrowbody orders from some chinese airlines. Look at China Eastern for example: before they announced to order 50 more B737NG for delivery between 2017 and 2019 their last four B737NG deliveries were scheduled for early 2017. So there would have been a delivery stream gap before China Eastern would get their first of 60 B737MAX in larger numbers.
The same can be said for other chinese airlines:
  • Shandong, Shenzen and Xiamen all get their last B737NG this year. Xiamen already announced orders for 70 more B737NG and B737MAX and it could already be included as one from an "Unidentified Customer"
  • China Southern also gets their last B737NG this year, so either they also have new orders in place as an "Unidentified Customer" or they will order soon
  • Air China ran dry of new deliveries for B737NG's and does not have any (official) order for B737MAX
The same can be said - more or less - for Airbus.
Air China and Shenzen already announced orders for a mix of 100 A320ceo & A320neo and I guess it is already in the books as part of the "undisclosed".
The same is true for China Eastern (70 A320neo) and China Southern (50 A320neo & 30 A320ceo). Some of the A320ceo aircraft subsequently trickled from the "undisclosed" to the China Eastern line of the Airbus O&D sheet. The same is true for Spring and Loong. Spring long ago announced to order 30 more A320ceo and they already might have ordered the A320neo. Also you can see some changes at Tibet Airlines.
The order for 60 A320neo from an "undisclosed asian customer" announced at the Paris Air Show might also be from China. 

Bottom line: the most of the "Unidentified" or "Undisclosed" customers should be chinese airlines. There are probably not much more narrowbody orders to expect in the next few years.


A320ceo and B737NG backlog

After the B330 and B777 analysis, here is another update of the A320ceo and B737NG backlog.
Airbus is overbooked on the A320ceo for a long time now and also Boeing narrowed down


Widebody Order Gap Update post PAS15

Here is another round of the "Widebody Order Gap" analysis.

First have a look at the A330, as more happened here than at the Boeing side.
Saudia became the launch customer for the regional version of the A330 at the Paris Air Show. ordering 20 aircraft. Another A330-200 was ordered by ALC and there are commitments from EVA Air for four A330.
Since then South Korea choose the A330 MRTT as their next tanker and will order four of the type.
Finally, China will order 45 A330 and has an option for a further 30.


Widebody Order Gap Update - B777 and A330

Leeham News and Comment has a story today that both Jet Airways and Kenya Airways want to get rid of their B777-300ER. Jet Airways has ten of the type while Kenya Airways has three. Scott Hamilton notes that this could build up to the pressure for Boeing to sell the last B777-300ER until the B777X will go into service in late 2019 the earliest. So let us have a look how many B777-300ER (and B777F) Boeing needs to sell to bridge production without any cut. Also, have a look how Airbus


The CFM LEAP-1B discussion

Last week, after the first flight of the LEAP-1B on the GE Flying Testbed, Aviation Week had a story about the LEAP engine family and the alleged performance shortfall, in particular the -1B for the B737MAX. Leeham then also had a short article, stating that the SFC shortfall, first reported by Aspire Aviation of 4-5% was only measured in one engine, where “tolerances” (i.e. gaps and, in particular radial tip clearances) where intentionally opened to test a deteriorated engine.

This kind of testing is new to me, I never heard that these kind of tests were done. In the end it is very expensive to build a test engine solely to measure the performance with so called “end of life ”clearances”. Normally the clearances in the engine are constantly measured so you get a relation between the change of the clearances due to wear and rub ins and the change of the performance (both fuel burn and compressor stability).

To build in intentionally larger tip clearances makes sense only for the compressors to test compressor stability. And if these tests showed a SFC shortfall of 4-5% (I now heard 5%) then either the performance retention of the LEAP engine is very bad or there indeed is a performance shortfall as the effect of larger tip clearance should not lead to a loss in SFC larger than 2%.

Now CFM always mad big  noise about the good performance retention the LEAP engine family would have, in particular compared to the P&W GTF Family. One could ask: how do they want to know that? And I think, neither CFM nor P&W nor anybody else can know today and will know until real life data is available. With “real life data” I mean data that will come out of the field once airlines really fly the aircraft and engines for some time.

So we don’t know for sure how much of the (obviously measured) 4-5% are attributable to a new and with production tip clearances build engine. But CFM’s argumentation does not add up to the point where they would meet not only their own expectations. To meet the own pretest prediction within 0.5% does not mean a whole lot to the outside world until you know where the prediction was relative to specification, i.e. relative to the target SFC where the B737MAX would meet 14% fuel burn reduction vs. the B737NG.


CFM LEAP-1B missing SFC

The revelation by Aspire Aviation about the performance shortfalls of the CFM LEAP engine family did not came totally unexpected. Rumours have been around for a long time. But the severity of the shortfall in the LEAP-1B engine is somewhat shocking, at least for Boeing customers. The shortfall of 2% in the case of the LEAP-1A is relatively unspectacular: the shortfalls of recent engines at EIS like the GEnx and the Trent 1000 were higher. A shortfall of 2% can be corrected with a suitable performance improvement program (PIP), but a


Further A320 rate hikes needed!

Just a week after – unsurprisingly – announcing a further rate increase for the A320, John Leahy yesterday at the ISATAT Americas talked about further increasing production and potentially announcing this until the end of the year.
Given the current backlog of the A320ceo the rate increase perfectly makes sense –


A330ceo order gap update

Airbus last week announced to lower the A330 production to 6 units a month from the 1st quarter of 2016 on. Today the rate is at 10 per month, coming down to 9 in the last quarter of this year.


Widebody Order Gaps

A lot has been written in the past about the orders that Airbus and Boeing need for the A330ceo and the B777 (non-X) to fill the production lines until the A330neo and the B777X will take over full production.
I started to collect the backlogs for both aircraft every month to see how the backlog will change over time. With the current or announced future production rates I can then calculate how many orders both aircraft will need.
Of course there are some open questions that will influence the number orders needed to fill the so-called gap:
  • How will production rates change until the new aircraft will enter service


A320neo vs. B737MAX market share

At last week's PNAA conference there was one more time the may be never-ending discussion about how Airbus and Boeing will split their market share in the narrowbody market (there is no talk about how Bombardier will be doing with the CSeries, but this is would be a complete different - and at the moment quite sad - story).
This discussion was initiated by Richard Aboulafia, who predicted a 60% market share for the A320neo. Boeing's VP Marketing Randy Tinseth soon dismissed that, saying that he believes Boeing will have a 50% market share with the B737MAX (and he would do a bad job if he would not do so, of course).


After Airbus Press Conference: Rate Increase and LEAP-1A delay?

Airbus today announced their final 2014 orders and delivery results. Beside a new delivery record there is one noticable item that begs two questions: the increasing backlog of the A320ceo shouts and screams for a (very) near term announcement of a rate increase, which was probably decided some months ago. Also, it puts into question if the CFM LEAP-1A, the second engine for the A320neo, will be available on time. The PW1100G seems to be "out of the woods", getting certification late last year and Airbus CEO Bregier during the Investors Days in December said that he expects the first delivery of the A320neo in November 2015.
The backlog for the A320ceo stands now at 1508. This is 38 more than at the end of November, which I analyzed here. Subtracting all 102 "suspicious" orders gets us to 1406 open orders. The still not booked order from CASGC would lead us then to 1476 open orders for about 1164 delivery positions until 2018. So Airbus overbooked the A320ceo lines by 250 aircraft at current production rates.
Now, as I said above, I think a rate increase is coming for sure. For one to clear the A320ceo backlog as soon as possible, but also to be able to offer earlier production slots in upcoming campaigns.
As for the overbooking of the A320ceo, there could also be another reason: the LEAP-1A has still not flown on the GE Flying Testbed. At the time the LEAP-1C began the test campaign on the other GE testbed in early October CFM said that the -1A would follow within a month. Now we are two months later...maybe something was found during the -1C test campaign that needed a change for both variants?