Boeing tops Airbus jet deliveries by $15B in 2016

Thanks to a large order from Iran booked in December, Airbus sold more airplanes than Boeing in 2016.

But Boeing built more airplanes last year, especially the higher-value large jets.

Airbus data released Wednesday reveal that the European jet maker booked a sale for 98 airplanes to Iran in December, which allowed it to outsell Boeing for the year by 63 airplanes.

In production, Airbus struggled with delays especially in the first half of 2016. But in a late push, it managed to deliver a record number of airplanes in December and just beat its target for the year, with 688 jets delivered.

Still, Boeing assembly plants here and in South Carolina last year built 60 more airplanes for a total 748.

And the gap between the two was even wider in the expensive large-jet category, where Boeing built 115 more widebody airplanes than Airbus.

A Seattle Times analysis, based on market-pricing data from aircraft-valuation firm Avitas, shows the value of Boeing’s total production outpaced its European rival by about $15 billion, or one-third more than Airbus’ deliveries.

At a news conference Wednesday in Toulouse, France, Fabrice Brégier, chief executive of Airbus’ commercial-aircraft division, said the first half of 2016 was “unusually difficult from a production perspective.”

Many airplane deliveries were delayed by shortages in cabin-interior parts and the Pratt & Whitney engines for its new A320neo jets

Brégier projected that with those problems behind it, Airbus will deliver more planes this year as it ramps up A320neo and A350 production.

Airbus sales chief John Leahy promised “a new record in deliveries” in 2017.

The 2016 delivery gap preserves Boeing’s status as the world’s No. 1 plane maker for another year.

However, with the cyclical airline industry clearly past its peak, 2016 sales were well down from 2015 for both manufacturers.

Airbus sold 305 fewer jets than in 2015.

Leahy acknowledged in the news conference that the sales weakness will continue this year.

Boeing’s Iran deal

Both plane makers faced a severe sales slump in 2016, though each had the typical year-end rush of orders in December.

Boeing in December announced an agreement with Iran Air for 80 aircraft: 50 737 MAX 8s, 15 777-300ERs and 15 777-9s, valued at about $8 billion after standard discounts.

That sale has not been finalized, however, and remains in some doubt because of opposition to doing business with Iran from members of Congress and the incoming Trump administration.

Airbus’ jets contain many U.S.-made parts, which some industry experts had thought might prove a barrier to finalizing the Airbus order.

In an apparent rush to establish the Iran sale as a done deal ahead of the inauguration of the next U.S. president, Airbus also announced the delivery of the first of its jets to Iran Air, an A321 handed over Wednesday in a ceremony in Toulouse.

With Congress unlikely to want to give the European jet maker an advantage, it seems likely that Airbus’ fast-track sale and delivery may help Boeing nail down its own Iran deal.

Rolls-Royce delivers a slice of history

The first of Rolls-Royce’s Trent 900 engines for Emirates Airline’s latest tranche of A380 super-jumbo airliners, ordered in 2013, have now been delivered to Toulouse for installation by makers Airbus. Geoff Thomas reports.

Emirates picked Rolls-Royce to supply 217 engines, valued at $9.2 billion, for 52 Airbus A380s and says the UK manufacturer is in pole position to power a more fuel-efficient ‘neo’ variant of the aircraft if the long-mooted plan goes ahead.
The new A380s will be the first Emirates airliners to be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, the airline having chosen the UK company’s power-plants in preference to the rival Engine Alliance GP7200 engines that power its previously ordered 90 super-jumbos.
Speaking at a London media briefing, Emirates president, Tim Clark, said that some of the Trent 900s could be converted to more efficient ‘neo’ types, should Airbus decide to go ahead with an upgrade of the A380.
He also commented that the aerodynamically revamped airliner could use an improved version of Rolls-Royce’s Trent XWB engine now in service on the Airbus A350.
The world’s largest international airline has said it could order at least 100 more A380s if Airbus commits to a ‘neo’ version, equipped with engines that are more fuel-efficient.
Any A380neo would, it’s believed, be expected to deliver fuel efficiency gains of between 10% and 13%. Emirates is confident that an order for around 200 A380neo aircraft may spur Airbus into further developing the airliner.
Airbus, on the other hand, clearly believes that re-engining the A380 is unlikely to be as successful as the current A320neo and A330neo projects have been. Only time, and further growth in a relatively stagnant market, will tell.
Many market analysts believe that, while the current A380 is competitive in economic terms with Boeing’s 777-300ER, it is less so when compared with the latest B777-9. So the conundrum facing Airbus is simple: can it maintain sales of the current A380 for perhaps a decade while market demand for the super-jumbo worldwide increases?
The delivery of the initial shipset of four Trent 900 engines to Airbus for installation on the first of Emirates’ 52 A380s was a significant event for Derby-based Rolls-Royce for two key reasons.
Firstly, it was the initial shipment in an order that is the largest ever in Rolls-Royce’s commercial engines history. The decision also made the Trent 900 the engine of choice, both in terms of number of customers and also in terms of overall market share. Rolls-Royce now has just less than 70% of the current firm order backlog for the A380 and 11 out of 17 operators have now selected the Rolls-Royce option.
The delivery was also significant in that Emirates’ Trent 900s are the first to be built to the new enhanced performance (EP3) standard.
The EP3 package, which is the current build standard, includes elliptical leading edges on compressor blades, and a variety of improvements in the internal aerodynamics of the engine, all contributing towards enhanced fuel economy and improved longevity before maintenance is required.
The package also includes casing improvements to optimise cooling air and sealing, together with further improvements around the high-pressure turbine.
This latest EP3 package follows a Trent 900 EP2 programme, introduced in 2014, that included optimised fan blade tip clearances; improved turbine case cooling; improved sealing for the low-pressure (LP) turbine; an optimised intermediate pressure (IP) compressor; an improved engine sector stator; and improvements to the internal air flow system.
The Trent 900 engine that powered the very first A380 commercial flight back in 2007, was the company’s main display exhibit at the most recent Dubai Airshow and, during the event, it was presented to Emirates. This gesture now enables Emirates Engineering apprentices and personnel to familiarise themselves first-hand with the mechanics and operations of the engine.
It was subsequently moved from the air show site to Emirates’ engineering training facility at Dubai International Airport – a location where maintenance and engineering staff can now familiarise themselves and receive hands-on training, learning how to perform tasks that would be difficult to achieve on an in-service aircraft, including fan blade installation and component removal.

ATR chief says in no hurry to develop larger aircraft

Franco-Italian turboprop maker ATR is likely to develop a larger version of its aircraft family in the future, but is in no hurry to act, its chief executive said.

ATR is jointly owned by aerospace groups Airbus and Leonardo, which are seen as split over whether to focus on the existing family of two models seating 42 to 78 people, or build a new model with 100 seats to keep up with demand for more capacity.

“My personal view is that a larger ATR is a question of when rather than if,” CEO Christian Scherer told Reuters, adding that any decision would be a matter for joint shareholders.

“If you want to take a more conservative stance, and I can imagine myself in the shoes of both shareholders, there is nothing wrong with ATR today. It is a very nice franchise and profitable contribution and we don’t see any chess moves that should fundamentally modify the game. So we can go on; there is no urgency,” he said.

“Do I as ATR have the ambition to continue to introduce new features, new airplanes, new products to grow? Absolutely. I am happy to see that we have one shareholder who is of the same opinion. The other one is exercising a perfectly rational business judgment and saying ATR is doing very well, keep on going.”

Scherer, a former Airbus commercial strategy and defence executive, was appointed to run ATR in November.

His predecessor, Patrick de Castelbajac, told Flightglobal last July that Airbus wanted to revamp the existing ATR 42/72 series with new engines, while Italy’s Leonardo was keen on expanding the family with an all-new 100-seat model.

Boeing Set for New Organizing Battle in S.C.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes is preparing for a new battle with the International Association of Machinists, the labor union that represents hundreds of Boeing workers in Washington State. The union on January 20 petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a secret-ballot election for approximately 2,850 production workers to organize and affiliate with IAM at the Boeing assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C.

This would be the second attempt to organize the South Carolina complex, which is the site of Boeing’s second final assembly and delivery operations for the 787 Dreamliner. In March 2015 a petition for an election was filed with NLRB by the IAM, but then withdrawn a few days before the scheduled April 22, 2015 vote.

Earlier, in 2010, the union sued Boeing through the NLRB, contending retaliation (versus IAM workers in Washington state) for building the new plant in a “right to work” state. Boeing and the IAM later settled the dispute, and Boeing agreed to build its 737MAX jet series at the Everett plant.

Boeing South Carolina also fabricates, assembles, and installs systems for rear fuselage sections of the 787 Dreamliner, and joins and integrates midbody fuselage sections. Completed aft and midbody sections are delivered to Everett, Wash., for final assembly, or are moved to final assembly line in North Charleston, S.C.

The South Carolina complex also includes a plant manufacturing 787 interior parts (stow bins, closets, partitions, class dividers, floor-mounted stow bins, overhead flight-crew rests, overhead flight attendant crew rests, video-control stations, and attendant modules for 787s assembled in South Carolina.)

The complex also includes the Boeing Research & Technology Center, which focuses on advanced manufacturing technology and composite fuselage manufacturing; and Propulsion South Carolina, where the design and assembly of the 737 MAX engine nacelle inlet is done. The latter also designs the 737 MAX engine nacelle fan cowl and the 777X nacelle.

According to IAM organizers, Boeing South Carolina workers have remained in contact with the union in recent months, regarding “numerous workplace concerns that remain unaddressed, including subjective raises, inconsistent scheduling policies, and a lack of respect on the shop floor.”

Airbus's Wild Vision For A New Generation Of Modular Planes

There’s a reason that, while you see James Bond drinking cocktails at a bar in first class at the movies, when you hop on a flight even the first-class cabin looks like a collection of smashed La-Z-Boys. Airlines have been crunching more people onto planes to keep their profits high and ticket prices relatively low. And James Bond? He’s pretty much just marketing . . . when he’s not keeping travelers up with his noise.

But Airbus wants to buck this trend, as first reported by Skift. A year ago, the French company opened a Silicon Valley design studio called A3 with the goal of outpacing Airbus to the future so its competitors don’t. In the time since, A3 came up with a radical idea in commercial airplane design. Called Transpose, the concept allows modular cabins to be swapped in and out of the plane between flights. So rather than your standard first class, business class, and coach cabin, Airbus might install a yoga studio for premium flights out of L.A., or a jungle gym on flights filled with kids on the way to Disneyworld. Coffee shops. Desks. Beds. It’s all fair game.

Airbus’s vision means that once-permanent fixtures like sky bars or shops, which might only make sense for certain flights where capacity wasn’t a chief concern, wouldn’t be taking up valuable real estate for all of the flights where capacity was a priority. Aside from these new renderings of the idea, you can see musings of this modular way of thinking all the way back in a patent Airbus filed in 2013.

How could Airbus even build such a plane? It wouldn’t start from scratch. Instead, it would model it after its cargo plane version of the A330. Cargo planes feature oversized side doors that allow large parcels to be moved in and out. Instead of swapping cargo between flights, Transpose would simply bring aboard whole new interior modules filled with posh amenities.

The core idea seems sound, but the details are scant, and the design hurdles are many. Among other issues, A3 needs to figure out how to handle ever-shifting weight and load balance, from both interior design fixtures and people moving around the cabin differently than in your average plane. And even if these issues can be overcome, Airbus would need to sell airlines on both a new plane for their fleets, and the very business plan of making a less human-dense flight just as lucrative as our sardine can alternative. Yet that’s what Airbus’s A3 studio was designed to do—question the status quo of air travel design with Silicon Valley sensibility.

Even if the Airbus’s modular plane never makes it out of the hangar, I think we all long for a better future of travel when we look at concepts like Transpose. Flying right now stinks. And it would be wonderful if our journeys could be as much fun as our destinations.

Iran expects delivery of first batch of Airbus planes by March 2017

Iran says it expects to finalize an aircraft purchase agreement with European aviation giant Airbus within the next two weeks, adding that the first planes could be delivered by March 2017.

Farhad Parvaresh, the managing director of Iran’s flag carrier airline Iran Air, was quoted by media as saying Iran in the first batch could receive five planes from Airbus.

Parvaresh said that the France-based company had agreed to fund the sales of 17 planes to Iran, itself.   He added that Iran was trying to provide the funding for the purchase of the first three planes that would be delivered within the next few months.

“The removal of the sanctions has provided Iran with an opportunity to directly purchase planes from aircraft makers,” the official told Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

This opportunity, he added, should not be wasted and should be used as efficiently as possible.

On Sunday, Iran Air finalized a much-awaited agreement with US aviation giant Boeing to purchase 80 planes.  The purchase involved 50 twinjet narrow-body Boeing 737 planes and 30 long-range wide-body 777 aircraft at a total cost of $16.6 billion. They would be handed over to Iran within 10 years and the first deliveries could take place in 2018.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Parvaresh emphasized that a third plane purchase contract was expected to be concluded with Japan’s Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation shortly after the finalization of the contract with Airbus.

He added that Iran had found a financer to support the planned purchase of Mitsubishi Regional Jets (MRJs).

Iran seals $17 billion Boeing deal, close to Airbus order

Iran signed a $16.6 billion deal for 80 Boeing  passenger jets on Sunday and was said to be close to another for dozens of Airbus  planes to complete what would be the biggest package of firm contracts with Western companies since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

The deal between IranAir and U.S. planemaker Boeing includes 50 narrow-body 737 MAX aircraft and 30 long-haul 777s, split equally between the 777-300ER, which is badly in need of an order boost, and the 406-seat 777-9, which is under development.

An Iranian official told Reuters that IranAir was also at the “very final stage” of formalizing a deal with Europe’s Airbus, which led Western companies back into Iran with a provisional agreement for 118 planes when Tehran emerged from global sanctions in January.

The Airbus deal, which is expected to involve a first batch of 50-60 jets, should be completed in the next couple of days, the official said.

Also closing in on a deal to renew Iran’s aging fleet, kept going by smuggled or improvised parts after decades of sanctions, European turboprop maker ATR said it had received U.S. approvals needed to finalize the sale of up to 40 aircraft.

The Boeing contract, the biggest Iran-U.S. deal since the fall of the Shah, clears a major technical hurdle toward implementing last year’s pact between Iran and world powers to reopen trade in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities.

However, political opposition could yet threaten a deal that would provide a welcome boost to Boeing’s order book after a year in which it has lagged behind rival Airbus.

Congressional Republicans are trying to counter last year’s nuclear accord, with the U.S. House of Representatives passing a bill last month seeking to restrict financial transactions by U.S. banks in an effort to block the sale of Western passenger jets to Iran.


The Iranian official said the Boeing deal was subject in part to further agreements on financing, but added that money from the deal would not pass through the U.S. financial system.

Financial sources said Boeing has a financing plan for 15 777-300ER jets, which are expected to be delivered from 2018, but the rest of the financing may still have to be negotiated.

Sunday’s move could also test relations between America’s top exporter and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, days after he complained about the cost of new Boeing “Air Force One” jets.

Because of the length of the 10-year deal, some U.S. export licenses may need to be extended during Trump’s administration. The president-elect, who opposes last year’s nuclear sanctions deal with Iran, has also rattled Boeing by sparring with China, which accounts for a fifth of the company’s deliveries.

A Boeing statement said the Iranian contract would support tens of thousands of U.S. jobs for the 777-300ER jets and nearly 100,000 U.S. aerospace jobs for the whole package.

In Iran the deal is viewed as a crucial political test for the government of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, who has been criticized by hardliners opposed to opening up to the West.

The first Airbus aircraft are expected to reach Iran in 2017. Iran’s presidential elections are due in May.

Boeing starts final assembly of first 787-10

Boeing said Thursday it has begun final assembly in North Charleston, S.C., of the first 787-10, the third and largest version of its Dreamliner jet family.

“As we enter the next phase of the 787-10’s development, we eagerly watch our first airplane come to life,” said Ken Sanger, vice president of 787 Airplane Development.

He said the progress on the new jet “demonstrates Boeing’s ability to develop great airplanes in a disciplined fashion in order to meet our customer commitments.”

For the two smaller Dreamliner models, most mid-fuselage sections assembled in North Charleston are ferried to Everett for final assembly inside customized Dreamlifter cargo planes. But the 787-10’s stretched mid-fuselage is too long to fit into the Dreamlifter, so final assembly of the -10 model will be done exclusively in South Carolina.

The stretched 787-10 has 95 percent commonality with the 787-9. It adds seats and cargo capacity, though it has less range.

It seats 330 passengers in a two-class configuration with a range of 7,400 miles, compared to 290 passengers on the 787-9 with a range just shy of 8,800 miles.

Boeing has, so far, received 154 orders from nine customers for the 787-10. The first one is expected to fly next year, with first delivery scheduled for 2018.

Airbus posts 600 orders, delivers 577 jets in January-November

Airbus sold 600 aircraft in the first 11 months of the year – or a total of 410 after adjusting for cancellations and conversions between models – the European planemaker said on Tuesday.

It also delivered 577 aircraft including 34 A350s and 43 A320neo jets, after stepping up the pace in November on two models that have been hit by delays. Year-to-date deliveries also included 21 A380 superjumbos.

The world’s second largest planemaker behind Boeing is targeting at least 670 total deliveries in 2016 including at least 50 A350s. Overall, it aims to sell at least as many aircraft as it delivers this year.

Between Jan 1 and Nov 29, Boeing booked orders for 558 aircraft, or 466 after cancellations and model switches.

Delivery data for November is not yet available, but Boeing ended October with a lead of about 100 aircraft over its European rival and is expected to maintain its rank as the world’s no.1 airplane producer in 2016.

FAA orders Boeing 787 safety fix: Reboot power once in a while

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is issuing a rule requiring urgent attention by operators of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner to avoid the possibility all three computer modules that manage the jet’s flight-control surfaces could briefly stop working while in flight.

Operators must periodically shut and restart the electrical power on the planes, or the power to the three flight control modules. That will avoid the problem until Boeing has a permanent software fix.

In an airworthiness directive to be published Friday, the FAA said it is reacting to indications that “all three flight control modules on the 787 might simultaneously reset if continuously powered on for 22 days.”

It said such a simultaneous reset in flight “could result in flight control surfaces not moving in response to flight crew inputs for a short time and consequent temporary loss of controllability.”

A person with knowledge of airline practices, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it is “extremely rare” for any operator to leave the jet powered on for longer than a week.

In a statement, Boeing said the new rule mandates actions the jet maker has already recommended to 787 operators during the past two months.

“Boeing recommended that operators cycle power to flight control modules periodically to ensure overlapping resets do not occur,” Boeing stated. “A permanent software fix is anticipated in the second quarter of 2017.”

The FAA is mandating that the roughly 99 Dreamliners registered in the U.S. act on the directive within a week.

Foreign airlines typically follow the FAA’s lead on such directives. To date, 489 Dreamliners have been delivered worldwide.