The Paris Air Show Order Games

June 18, 2013 on 12:58 pm | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

The order games have begun at the Paris Air Show and there is one takeaway you should absolutely get from it:

It means absolutely nothing.  For at least this year.

Both Boeing and Airbus will land orders, cry out in joy that they won this customer or that but the status quo will largely be maintained.

Airbus will engage in its silly and, in fact, already has by announcing an order for 20 A380 aircraft by Doric Leasing.  Until proven otherwise, this feels like a silly order by a company who isn’t a “name” in aircraft leasing and who perhaps doesn’t understand just how limited the use of the A380 is for most airlines.  Without a few airlines named as taking up these aircraft, I’m not sure I believe the order.

Boeing has announced its easiest order ever for this year:  GECAS is ordering 10 787-10 aircraft.

Also notable is EasyJet who has ordered 135 A320 aircraft (35 CEO aircraft and 100 NEO aircraft) and it’s notable because I think Boeing might have been able to win this on price.  Yet it appears Boeing wasn’t even trying to contend.

And Boeing has officially launched its 787-10 with United Airlines being the US launch partner with an order for 20 of the aircraft.  Other “launch partners” are British Airways (an order for 10) and Singapore Airlines (an order for 10).

This won’t be a year of shock and awe and I suspect many will be glad for it as the industry has had enough shock and awe over the past few years to last quite a while.


United Buys Embraer

May 10, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets, Airline News | 1 Comment

United Airlines has ordered 30 E-175 Embraer jets to use in the United Express fleet.  The aircraft will have 76 seats and offers 10% savings in costs over their current 50 seat fleet.

It’s a good aircraft for the airline but it also points out something that, I think, might indicate a lack of competitiveness on the part of United.

10% improvement over the current 50 seat jets?  Really?  If that is the case and if demand is as good as people say it is, why would United not buy Embraer 190 aircraft instead?  It’s possible that its labor agreements don’t permit it to and, if true, that will hurt United badly in the coming years.

The Embraer E-175 is a fine airplane but it doesn’t offer the seat costs the E-190/195 offer and this isn’t a “new” aircraft family anymore.  It seems like it must be but it isn’t.  These aircraft came online in 2002 which makes their design originating from about 1999.  That’s 11 years or more in age for these airplanes and a lot has happened in the aircraft world since their rollout.

What United needs is the seat costs that American Airlines will enjoy in about 18 months as new aircraft come online and American is able to contract with airlines to obtain and operate bigger regional jets.


What’s next for Boeing and the 787

April 5, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

Boeing is reporting that they are about half finished with tests necessary to restore the 787 to flight and they have crews deployed to customers, especially Japan, to install the fixes at the word “go”.

Unlike many, I find the solution they are engaged with to be fairly satisfying since it is based upon fairly simple science.  Simple science trumps Rube Goldberg ideas every time.  I also find the idea that this is beging regarded as a greater fire hazard than virtually anything else a bit exhausting.

Many are treating a lithium ion battery was more dangerous than, say, an unknown fault in an electrical pump inside a fuel tank.  These problems are going to happen and they can be confounding to figure out and identify a root cause.  Often times, it takes several events to identify a root cause and while that seems unsatisfying, it really isn’t.

It’s the way the real world works.  Sometimes it takes a while to fully figure out a problem.  When you don’t know the root cause, then the next best solution is one where simple science provides some control.

That said, I think that Boeing is still pushing too hard to control this story and insist on it gaining back all the credibility it needs for the 787.  At what point does Boeing admit that it has a credibility problem given that it seems content to allow PR staff and attorneys control the story.

Companies don’t reassure the public or their clients until they own up to their part in problems.  That hasn’t been done yet.

If Boeing thinks their problems go away with a successful return to service for this airliner . . . they don’t.  Boeing has a credibility problem at this point that has gone unaddressed with customers far too long.  If you’re an airline, you want to know that the company you’re buying aircraft from is still the company you once knew.  At this point, how do these airlines know this?

Airlines should be doing a bit more to hold Boeing accountable at this point.  I would expect these airlines to hold meetings with Boeing Commercial Aircraft president, Ray Conner, and explain to him that Boeing’s word is no longer very golden on all things and that its time to get real with facts instead of spin.

As an airline, you have to be able to count on your airliner supplier at all times.  I’m not sure that airlines can do that at this present time with Boeing.


Why doesn’t it make sense?

April 3, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

Keeping the new American Airlines re-branding should make sense at this point, right?  It is a fait accompli in the airline world.  There are a number of airplanes now painted in the new American Airlines livery and repainting aircraft costs a lot of money, right?

Well, maybe.

Doug Parker is responding to questions about the rebranding with a fairly non-committal answer that indicates that nothing is decided.  I would wager that Parker was annoyed, at the least, with the rebranding roll-out in January and especially so given how close the merger really was at that point.

Anything can happen and nothing likely will until Parker is in charge.  This is an example of exactly why I don’t think it’s a good idea that Tom Horton remain in place.  He rolled out that rebranding despite all he knew about the near certainty of a merger and that was disrespect for the merger and Parker.  That rollout could have waited.  Even if you needed to paint 777s, you could have waited.

Will it remain?  I kind of doubt it.  I think there will be a revision of it at the least and I think it will embody a replacement of the airline livery on the tail.  The billboard titles for American Airlines will remain and I think even the logo will remain but I think those tails will be changed and I think whatever replaces them will show a certain continuity for American Airlines history with a nod to US Airways.


And then there were 4 but will there still be regional jets?

March 4, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

Consider this market landscape that we should see, in fact, by the end of this year:

  • Delta Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • American/US Airways
  • Southwest Airlines

Those 4 airlines will carry about 85 to 90% of airline traffic in the domestic United States airline market.  Of the 4, 3 of those airlines will use regional airlines for “feed” to their hubs.  The bulk of those regional airlines will still be using many 50 seat regional jets (CRJ200/ERJ-145 aircraft) for those regional jet routes.

The original regional jets were built and meant for routes that were spokes to a hub from a region.  For instance, those regional jets might serve cities such as Waco, Abilene and even Midland/Odessa from DFW airport.  They still do today.

For those short, simple flights, there cannot be much quarrel with the airliner being used.  (Well, there can but that’s a blog post for another day.)

But regional jets get used for routes that go far beyond a “region”.  I remember that when I flew Continental from Dallas to Milwaukee, I had to take an ERJ-145 from DFW to Cleveland and then another from Cleveland to Milwaukee.  It was a total trip time of 5+ hours in the air and that’s a bit much in those airliners.

Many believe that the new 70 to 100 seat regional jets are taking over such routes.  Here and there, that’s true.  There are presently 50 seat (or less) regional jets also flying routes such as OKC to EWR (Oklahoma City to Newark, NJ and 1325nm long) or Milwaukee to DFW (853nm) or Portland, OR to Ontario (Los Angeles), CA (838nm).  Try Cleveland to Miami at nearly 1100nm.

It’s the Long and Thin syndrome.  We can fill 40 seats a day on this aircraft and fly it for over 3 and sometimes 4 hours and earn money by feeding people into a hub that is as much as halfway across the country.

But just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.  Those routes add incremental revenue but they are rarely stand-alone profitable for an airline.  In fact, the one airline who is getting away from that mentality is Delta.  A route gets evaluated for its ability to stand on its own two feet at that airline, more often than not.

Will there still be regional jets?  Yes.  Will there still be 50 seat jets?  Yes.  For the foreseeable future the 50 seat regional jet will be used.  It will be used less and less and you won’t find another newer, more efficient 50 seat jet showing up to replace it either.  Airlines will continue to use them if for no other reason than the fact that capital costs of a 50 seat jet will approach unheard of low levels as time goes by.  If you can acquire a used 50 seat jet cheap enough, you can still make money.

And those aircraft are getting cheaper every month.

I think we’ll see them around for another 7 to 10 years but then I think we’ll see them replaced more and more with either larger mainline style regional jets or smaller turbo-prop regional aircraft.

There won’t be any such thing as a replacement for those first generation aircraft.



New American Eagle Livery

February 26, 2013 on 1:00 pm | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

Oh my.  Look what they did to poor American Eagle airplanes.

New American Eagle Livery

New American Eagle Livery


No difference

February 26, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

A comment found on Executive Travel’s website and made about the A380:

“Actually, there’s no difference between flying 30 passengers and 526,” says Harald Tschira, a Lufthansa first officer.

The main differences really center on what you have to learn about the systems of the aircraft.  On a larger aircraft, there are more systems to learn than, say, on an Embraer ERJ-140.  But the flying and, most specifically, the act of preparing for departure, flying a route and landing, is pretty much the same from one aircraft to another.

The idea that a larger aircraft is more difficult to fly is also specious.  It’s not.  In fact, large aircraft can often be easier to fly than smaller aircraft.

Upgrading into larger aircraft is often a large benefit for pilots because it means they’re flying flights with more hours / flight which means they have to fly fewer flights overall each month.

Nominally, you are putting more experienced pilots into cockpits of aircraft carrying more people and that might mean you have fewer accidents where there are a large number of casualties.  But I really don’t think that is substantiated by statistics.  When aircraft crash, they’re of all makes and models.  The Air France Airbus A330 disaster was a total loss of life, for instance.  Theoretically, that aircraft was staffed by very experienced pilots who all did the wrong things to recover the aircraft.

Is there a huge difference between the aircraft of size and regional jets?  No, not really.  A qualified pilot could fly either with the existing training.  Is there a reason to have the most qualified pilots on the largest aircraft?  No, not really.

So why do we do it?  Because that’s the way it’s been done since before airlines were profitable.  There was a correlation between an experienced pilot and his ability to fly a larger aircraft when airplanes were not automated.  Today, aircraft are all much more automated and have far better instrumentation which levels the playing ground.


Republic gets American Eagle Flying

January 24, 2013 on 8:19 am | In Airline Fleets, Airline News, Mergers and Bankruptcy | No Comments

American Airlines has inked a deal with Republic Airways to flying under the American Eagle brand.  Republic will operate 53 Embraer E-175 jets with 12 first class seats and 64 coach seats.  The contract will last 12 years from the time the aircraft are put into service and the full complement won’t be in service until 2015.

If I were American Eagle or an employee of American Eagle, this would worry me.

It’s clear that no matter who runs AA in the future, contracting out American Eagle services will only increase, not decrease.  In addition, it will likely go to regional airlines that either have the equipment today or the orders for the equipment already in place.

American Eagle has neither.  It’s fleet is primarily comprised of the ERJ-135/140/145 aircraft although they do have 47 Bombardier CRJ-700 aircraft.  If the team at American Eagle wasn’t getting ready for a new world order, they should be doing so as of this morning.


Airline Consultant Mike Boyd condemns AA Mgt for branding

January 19, 2013 on 12:10 pm | In Airline Fleets, Mergers and Bankruptcy | 1 Comment

Terry Maxon at the Dallas Morning News made a post about Mike Boyd responding to American Airlines’ rebranding and livery change. The short version is that Boyd was scathing in his criticism of American Airlines management for doing this now.

And it mirrors some of my own feelings posted earlier today.

If one considers the priorities just prior to and during bankruptcy, rebranding efforts should have been suspended upon entering into bankruptcy.  I assure you millions of dollars were spent on it leading up to the unveiling of the new livery.

I do think AA needed rebranding ultimately but whether it got done today or a year from now wasn’t really important.  Delivering a great customer service product is the priority right now.


More thoughts on the new AA livery

January 19, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets, Mergers and Bankruptcy | 3 Comments

So, it’s been a couple of days now and I’ve had time to reflect more and time to look at the new AA logo and livery again with fresh eyes.  Here are my final thoughts:

1)  I think they *nailed* it with the silver paint for the fuselage.

2) I think the “blade” aka the stylized aircraft tail next to the name is growing on me some but I still think what is supposed to represent an eagle’s head actually implies a star more.  It’s a touch too stylized, in my opinion.  That said, it’s OK and I think that it is strong enough to be associated with the name going forward.  As people see it, they’ll tag it as AA.

3)  Hate the tail more than I did yesterday.  I simply think it is way too generic and has no connection to the history or branding of American Airlines.

4)  As much as I think the billboard title on the fuselage was absolutely the right way to go . . . I just don’t think it stands out enough against the silver fuselage.  It needs a different color, I think.

It’s interesting to me that when asked if this branding would be redone in the event of a merger, Tom Horton said he didn’t think so.   Well, I think it would be.  I think you would see the silver paint retained.  I think it’s possible the logo would be retained in some form.  But I think there are two things you would see the US Airways crew change immediately.

The tail of the aircraft would be cleaned up considerably.  The billboard “American” title on the fuselage would be made bolder.  And the fact that Tom Horton’s good friend Doug Parker hasn’t paid a public compliment to AA over the re-branding kind of indicates that they are, at best, lukewarm to the concept.  US Airways did issue this statment:

“We applaud our friends at American as the new brand elements and livery mark the culmination of a significant amount of work and coordination, and clearly those efforts have produced a compelling result.”

Make of that what you will.

Does AA need a new brand?  Yes.  Did it need one *today*?  Nope.  There were interim solutions that could have been employed.  Does this new brand move them forward?  Logo wise, yes, I think they’re there mostly.  Does the livery do anything for them?  No, I think if you parked that aircraft at a major european hub it would be lost in a sea of Euro Styling and particularly with those colors.  Heck, I kind of wonder how it would stand out taxiing through Atlanta’s airport.  I see a livery done by committee rather than a leader and its notable that they say this has been in the works for 2 years.

To misquote a certain financial analyst at JP Morgan Chase:  “Really Tom?  Is this all you’ve got?”



More comments on the 787 problems.

January 18, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Aircraft Development, Airline Fleets, Airline News | No Comments

With the temporary grounding of the 787 and the program review kicking off on the design and certification of this airliner, there is more and more fear of it.  I agree that the battery failure looks horrific.  Some (Christine Negroni is sounding particularly shrill to me.) are derailing into what, to me, seems like hysteria, over the battery failure in Boston.

The battery issue in Japan was not a fire.  It was found to be “swollen” and that it had leaked electrolyte.  An important issue but not a fire.

Facts are important in this situation and there is one hell of a lot of speculation going on.  So let me join in:

I find it very curious that these problems have cropped up suddenly and, so far, on one airline’s aircraft.  I keep wondering if there is something being done incorrectly in the operation of the airliner to cause this problem.  I would have expected more failures to occur at this point than what has occurred it was a fundamental flaw in the design.

It’s possible the quality assurance for the battery manufacturing is not very good.  It’s possible that the battery design itself is flawed.  It’s possible that the pilots are operating the aircraft in a manner that is overheating these batteries because of an unanticipated design issue. It could be a battery protection circuit issue or a design flaw in that circuit.

We’ll get the answers.  The problem will be solved in one way or another.

I even think the comparisons to the DC-10 and AA Flight 191 are a bit amusing in one respect:  Flight 191 happened because someone was performing an unapproved procedure to maintain an engine.  In other words, the aircraft was being handled incorrectly during maintenance.

But to run around shrieking “Danger! Danger!” is really kind of foolish.  Wait for facts, then make judgements.


Here it is: The new AA livery

January 17, 2013 on 9:15 am | In Airline Fleets | 3 Comments

Update 04:  Best funny comment I’ve seen so far is:  “So, I see AirFrance and Pepsi had a Cubana love child??”  Seen on

Update 03:  I am amused.  I’ve seen it suggested on Terry Maxon’s blog that the livery is inspired by Greyhound (which gave me a good laugh but no doubt really isn’t true.)  On a third pass over the livery, now I’m feeling like it was designed for the United States Postal Service.   What I’m not getting is any strong connection to the history of American Airlines.  It didn’t inspire me forward and it didn’t connect me to all that is positive about AA’s history.

Update 02:  So far, I am not seeing much in the way of positive response to this livery.  I expected quite a few people to immediately dismiss it but I also thought I’d see some people speak out for it.  Not yet.

Update 01:   It would be very easy to see the US Airways logo embodied in that tail design, I think.  What I’m referencing is the bar representation.  I suspect Doug Parker would be OK with it mostly.

I also think that the billboard title is less obvious than it could be against that fuselage.

I’m still digesting it, however.


Here it is.  A screenshot of their new livery captured from American Airlines’ website.


I think this new livery is going to spark a lot of controversy.  My own thoughts:  My first reaction to the tail wasn’t good but it’s already growing on me.  I don’t like the highly stylized “aircraft tail” symbol in front of the billboard titles for American.  For some reason, it reminds me of Lan Chile.  I also don’t like how they’ve extended the red bars of the tail down below the horizontal stabilizer.

My first reaction is to give this a B or B+.  I feel like I’ve seen better created by amateurs online.  But let’s digest this one first before going all Pulp Fiction on it.  I actually liked THIS and THIS one more.


It’s coming

January 17, 2013 on 9:00 am | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

There is now news chatter that AA is unveiling their new livery at DFW airport this morning at 9:00am.  More as it shows up.

Reportedly it will be on a nearly new 737-800 done in Victorville, CA.


iPads in the cockpit

January 16, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

iPads in the cockpit isn’t exactly news at this point.  Many large legacy carriers have issued them to their pilots to use as Electronic Flight Bags.  The iPads store current flight charts and display them electronically with better organization and that’s a good thing for pilots.  It can reduce the weight a pilot has to lug around by as much as 30lbs.

In fact, with two pilots per aircraft and a savings as much as 60lbs, that actually translates into money savings for airlines in the form of fuel.

The presence of iPads in the cockpit has also caused the consumer to believe that leaving their electronic devices turned on at all times is really OK.  It isn’t.

Pilots aren’t using WiFi in the cockpit.  In fact, they aren’t supposed to use WiFi in the cockpit at all.  That is turned off on the iPads.  And lest you believe that’s an overabundance of caution, you would be dead wrong.  There is enough data to show that unshielded use of cellphones and/or WiFi devices in or near the cockpit can affect flight displays or controls.

Delta is asking for a waiver to use their iPads’ WiFi in the cockpit to use a weather turbulence app as a test.  They contend that the wattage of the iPad’s WiFi is not enough to affect instrumentation on the Boeing 737.

Will we see connectivity in the cockpit?  Yes, I think we will.   The challenge here is that you can shield new instrumentation from the dangers of WiFi fairly easily but that means expensive replacements for equipment on legacy aircraft.  In other words, airlines aren’t going to do this until its time to refresh cockpits or buy new aircraft.  So expect to see this evolution take place literally over the next 2 decades.


The Dreamliner

January 12, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets, Airline News | 3 Comments

There have been a series of events with respect to the Boeing 787 over the past several days culminating in the FAA announcing that it would do a priority review of the 787′s design and manufacture.  This has people asking if the 787 is dangerous and I wanted to address what I think is already incorrect information being disseminated out there.

First and foremost:  I would fly the 787 tomorrow.  With regards to safety, I believe this airliner is as safe as any other relatively new airliner.

Fuel leaks have been found as a result of incorrect manufacturing installations.  That isn’t a design problem, it’s a manufacturing problem.  And manufacturing problems arise in new airliners.

Engine problems in the GEnX engines used for the 787 have been found in a few of the airliners.  These appear to be truthfully isolated in nature and appear to be getting addressed by GE.  That said, I’ll also concede that there hasn’t been as much visibility on this engine as one would ordinarily like to see if you watch this industry.  In fact, these engine problems have typically been described as a problem on the Boeing 787.  They’re not.  They are a problem for the GE GEnX engine.

The battery fire in Boston is alarming and needs quick and sure investigation.  So little is known here that it, alone, shouldn’t prompt a design review.  It should, however, prompt a quick and sure investigation and it has.

I’ve seen reports of windshield cracking from Japan being cited as a problem cropping up with this newly designed aircraft.  That would be incorrect.  Windshield cracking happens frequently and particularly so in the wintertime.  Temperatures get unbelievably cold on the outside of the aircraft while temps in the cockpits are a comfortable 70 degrees.  There can be as much as a 120 degree temperature differential between the outside of an aircraft and the inside.  Windows, even the best ones, periodically crack because of these temperature stresses.  That’s why cockpit windows are heated:  It prevents cracking.

There have been the odd mechanical issues showing up on the 787.  This is extremely normal and nothing approaching the boundary of “normal” for a newly introduced airliner.  It takes operational time to weed these things out, put fixes in and raise the reliability to the measure its expected to meet.

The best contrast I could offer today is this:  I believe the 787 is a safer airliner than the old MD-80s being flown by many airlines today.  It has the best of the best in technologies and an aircraft company behind it with a safety record that is second to none.   If I just took the number of engine shutdowns, rejected takeoffs, engine mechanical issues causing returns to airports for American Airlines MD-80 fleet, I could create a media scare that would dwarf the 787 perceived issues.

The Airbus A380 went through some very similar times in its first few years as well.  We in the United States didn’t notice them much at all because the A380 wasn’t being flown in the US (and still isn’t) and the safety issues weren’t cropping up in our newspapers and on our TV news shows.

So take these reports with a large grain of salt.


American Airlines re-branding

January 9, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

It is a fairly open secret that American Airlines has some re-branding effort going on for the airline.  The current expectation is that we’ll learn what this is when AA unveils its new 777-300ER later this month (according to current plan).  I noticed that AA’s 777-300ER was sitting, untouched, on the ramp of the former Delta, now American hanger located on the east side of DFW airport.  Sorry but the aircraft looked just as it did in other photos.  It’s grey with a whiter tail section that extends downward through the rear fuselate/tailcone area.

Re-branding an airline doesn’t happen very often (except in United Airlines’ case) and particularly not often in AA’s situation.  There are fans who don’t want to see AA change their branding and logo but I think most agree that AA is fairly long overdue at this point.

And they have a functional reason for doing this as well.  Airbus aircraft can’t kept polished easily.  The metal used on their fuselages pretty much requires paint.  In addition, other aircraft that AA is set to receive such as the 787 have fuselages that aren’t even metal.  So it’s time for a new look.

In another life, I did a fair bit of marketing and branding work although for very small companies. Like everyone else, I’ve always tried to consider the message that was being sent with a new look.  In the airline world, a re-branding often takes on more and more “white” on the fuselage with billboard titles becoming more common as well.  Most want to signal a global presence or a brand identity that has not downsides in other countries.  As a result, the look ends up being a bit generic these days.

I’ve thought about what AA might want to signal with its re-branding vs what it likely is going to signal.  I think whatever is unveiled with be extremely modern with strong design cues that harken to the history of the airline.  I think we’ll see a silver or grey fuselage with bigger, bolder titles in a single color and some dashes of red and blue thrown in.  It will be modern in its typeface and almost certainly global in its look.

But I would be very, very tempted to go a very different route with those aircraft.  I would want to signal an element of “cool” and harken back to the days when an airline was truly full service even in coach.  I would want people to seek me out because I was both trendy and retro at the same time.  I would use some variation of these aircraft:

N679AN American Airlines Boeing 757 retro jet

1950′s/1960′s Red Tail Logo on a modern 757

AMERICAN AIRLINES, BOEING 737 (737-800), N951AA, (retro livery "Astro Jet"), at JFK, New York, USA. July, 2011

1960′s Astrojet Logo on a modern 737

I would paint the aircraft a metallic silver and use the 757 scheme (the first image) and I think people would go wild for it.  It would signal all the romance and service of the airline world of the 1960′s and 1970′s and there would be no doubt as to who the airline was when it landed at either a domestic or foreign airport.

Or imagine the lightning bolt cheatline on a silver metallic paint job but place modern billboard American Airlines titles across the top of the fuselage.   Use the 1950/1960 red tail scheme as it appears on the above 757 as well as the later 1960 logo that is used on the above 737 Astrojet and even today’s logo as well.

It will never happen.  It’s far too risky and bold for today’s corporate airline world.  But I think it would be a great move and I think it would have a great effect on the traveling public.


Emirates wants more

November 9, 2012 on 9:39 am | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

Emirates wants more from Boeing and they want it in the form of a very long range, large capacity 777-X.  Boeing has been holding meetings with customers regularly to survey needs and find a solid definition for the next iteration of the 777 and reportedly all are very excited about what Boeing has except the Middle Eastern customers such as Emirates.

Emirates wants both the capacity and a bit more range.  Likely it’s interested in seeing enough range to fly from Dubai to Los Angeles with a full load.  Notably, this is what it really wanted to see out of the 747-8i as well.

No airliner ever failed from having too much range, that much is true.  Range can translate into 2 things for a customer:  the ability to serve long, thin routes and the ability to service slightly shorter routes with a full load.

Current ultra-long haul, high capacity airliners available are:

  • A380 with 500 passengers (plus or minus about 30) for 8300nm of range.
  • 747-8i with 400 passengers (plus or minus about 40) for 8000nm of range.
  • 777-300ER with 350 passengers (plus or minus about 40) for 7900nm of range.
  • A350-1000 with about 300 passengers (plus or minus about 30) for 8300nm of range

The Dubai-Los Angeles route is just a hair over 8300nm in distance and therefore really needs an aircraft with about 8800nm of range.  Boeing could give this to Emirates with the addition of a fuel tank or two, I suspect.

But both Boeing and now Airbus seem to be resisting going much past 8000nm because only a tiny handful of airlines need this range.  The rest are doing missions with these aircraft that are significantly less than 8000nm in distance.

There is also the issue of range costing more fuel than it might be worth at some point.  Each gallon of extra fuel costs more gallons of fuel to carry it.  There is a point of diminishing returns.

I think we’ll see the next generation of long haul, high capacity aircraft get performance improvements that may boost the range just long enough for the 8300nm mission but they won’t be here today or tomorrow.

Ultimately, I strongly believe that the ultra long routes will be better served by aircraft more in the style of the 787, 777-200LR and the A350-800/900.  I kind of expect Airbus to come up with a LR version of those A350 models for their treasured Eastern customers.

Will Boeing do it?  If Alan Mullaly were at the helm, I would say yes.  No airliner ever got harmed by additional range capability and just because it is there doesn’t mean the airlines have to use it all of the time.   Today, I think probably not.  Boeing’s board is increasingly cautious about spending money to build class winning aircraft.  They are mostly focused on derivatives and James McNerny, CEO of Boeing, seems content to have 90% solutions for Boeing customers.

Should they do it?  Yes, I would.  I would work very hard to get enough weight off the aircraft to allow a near 9000nm range in the large and smaller capacity versions of the 777-X.  Why?  Because airlines like Emirates will potentially buy a few hundred of them and no other airliner is going to complain about having more potential if it needs it.  In short, they’ll attract more customers and sales.  It isn’t Boeing’s job to figure out how an airline wants to operate.  It’s Boeing’s job to build and sell aircraft that customers want.


United Studies A350-1000 to replace jumbo jets

November 1, 2012 on 1:48 pm | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

United Airlines is in discussions with Airbus about the A350-1000 as a replacement for aging 747 and 777 aircraft in the United fleet.  A significant portion of the United 777 fleet is comprised of very early build 777 aircraft (-200 series) and their 747s are particularly old as well.

United already has 787 aircraft on order (both on the Continental and United airlines sides of the house) as well as the A350-900.  While Continental executives are largely in charge of the airline today, I would suggest that Boeing pay attention.

It would be tempting to say that this is United rattling Boeing’s cage to get going on the 777-X.  I would agree that it has the secondary purpose of that but I also think United wants to know what it can get its hands on fairly quickly to replace a fleet of fuel inefficient aircraft that will begin to cripple profitability in a few years.

We’re not talking about replacing already old aircraft today, we are talking about replacing them in the 2018 to 2022 time period.  By then, these aircraft will be extremely fuel inefficient compared to other US fleets and time is of the essence.

When your capital costs for such an airliner are greater than $200 million for a single aircraft in that class, you want to buy the very most efficient aircraft you can get.  You want the best technologies because 20 years later, that is what you’ll be stuck with.

Whether Boeing thinks the current 777 lineup is still competitive on a spreadsheet, it is ignoring that it isn’t competitive in perception.  I’ll put it simply:

A350-1000:  New, efficient, modern, new

777-300ER:  Older, somewhat efficient, somewhat modern, not new.

Boeing needs the 777-X and it needs it today and airlines are signaling to Boeing that if Boeing doesn’t build it, they’ll buy it from someone else.

Curiously, Boeing already got this message handed to them over the A320NEO.  You would think that they had learned their lesson (again) and would be paying attention to airlines over the jumbo issue.  US Airlines can’t afford to be just loyal to Boeing anymore.  They must buy the best of the best and Airbus is the equal of Boeing in all categories.

If Boeing wants to sell some aircraft, it’s time to get authorization to offer and build a new range of 777 aircraft for its customers.  Customers who’ve plainly said “If you build it, we’ll buy it.  If you don’t, we’ll buy it from someone else.”


Singapore Airlines A340s go Buh-Bye

October 25, 2012 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

Singapore Airlines has made a deal with Airbus to buy 5 more A380 aircraft that is contingent upon Airbus taking their current A340-500 aircraft back for resale.  It’s a good, smart deal for Singapore and not really a surprise.

Singapore probably could use a few more A380s for 747 replacement and growth.  But those A340-500 aircraft are fuel hogs compared to anything else in their fleet.  It was time for them to go.

Since they’re  leaving, so are the Singapore routes from Singapore to LA and New York City.  The longest aircraft routes on record today will be no more and that leaves the Sydney-Dallas route as being the top leader.   Those routes were prestige routes that never really earned much money and less so today.  If Singapore truly wanted to continue them, they could have added 777-200LR aircraft to that route and flown more people for less costs.

In a way, it’s kind of a quiet ending to what was originally an exciting aircraft.  Admittedly, the A340 got eclipsed by the 777-200LR pretty quickly but it was a very impressive aircraft for range when it arrived and really made people think when it began serving routes that were really about halfway across the face of the earth.


Emirates might order 40 more A380s

October 4, 2012 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

Emirates Airlines CEO Tim Clark said in Seattle that his airline would like to purchase another 40 A380s but that its current hub in Dubai cannot hold that many.

I’ll note that Dubai has plenty of space to expand, if necessary.  More to the point, what does an airline such as Emirates do with its existing 90 A380s (23 delivered, 67 still on order) and how does it deploy them to earn money?

The truth is that every other airline in the world competing with Emirates isn’t going to fail and certainly isn’t going to not try to compete with Emirates.  In way, Emirates brooksmanship with its A380 orders is a bit like putting a match to the competitive flame that the industry has so carefully managed with capacity for the past 4 years.

An additional 40 more A380s leading to an ultimate total of 120 A380 aircraft with a combined seat capacity of 60,000+ seats is not sustainable and the market demand doesn’t reflect this as sustainable.

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