Archive For February 24, 2011

Boeing wins Tanker – for now

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The latest round in a decade long procurement came to a close today when the Pentagon announced that Boeing has won. Well this round at least. Richard Aboulafia from Teal Group thinks that even if EADS does not want to protest, its allies will force them to do it. Which is to say the saga is headed for more delays.

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Skymark starts Japanese disruption

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Today Skymark made it official.  As the Airbus PR states: (more…)

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GTF Completes Initial Ground Tests

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This morning P&W sent out an update PR.  Here is an excerpt.

“Pratt & Whitney successfully completed initial ground testing on its first PurePower® PW1000G series engine, the PW1524G engine for the Bombardier* CSeries* aircraft. The engine completed nearly 200 hours of ground tests at the company’s West Palm Beach, Fla. facility. Pratt & Whitney is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX) company.

“The engine continues to exceed our expectations,” said Bob Saia, vice president, Next Generation Product Family. “We have already completed an unprecedented amount of testing on this first engine, including a full structural evaluation, performance, noise and emissions testing. Testing has validated overall engine operational characteristics including component design, rotor dynamics and engine fuel and lubrication systems. This testing confirmed the benefits and robustness of the Geared Turbofan(tm) engine that Pratt & Whitney initially established during the 2008 Demonstration Engine Program.”

The first engine ran nearly three times longer than Pratt & Whitney’s legacy experience for a first engine test program. Pratt & Whitney began ground testing of the PW1524G engine on schedule in September. Assemblies of the second and third PW1524G development engines are nearing completion. The second engine will also be tested at the West Palm Beach, Fla. test facility before being shipped to the company’s Mirabel Aerospace Centre facility in Québec, Canada. The engine will be mounted to the Pratt & Whitney 747 flying test bed for first test flights scheduled to begin in mid-year.  Engine certification and aircraft first flight are scheduled for 2012.”

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This PR underscores what we hear independently from numerous sources.  P&W’s quiet confidence is becoming less quiet.  The fact that the engine has been tested three times longer than usual demonstrates the company’s concern not to miss anything – critics take note.   From our own conversations with Mr Saia we know he is careful with his words.  His expectations for this engine were high sometime back, and if he feels these are being exceeded, then P&W has a very good engine on its hands.

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FAA Forecast Conference

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This morning we got to speak with MIT’s Bill Swelbar after he gave his presentation to the conference.  Provocative as always, you may disagree with Bill, but he will make you think. We talk about the changes over the past 30 years – the most critical he cites is an apparent move away from market share to profitability.  But looking forward, with limited airports and the fact that ~200 airports account for 97% of traffic, you can expect unpleasant choices coming.  Throw in the fact that the FAA sees traffic doubling over the next 30 years.  We talk about how airlines might respond to this.

Click here (Swelbar FAA 2_16 FINAL) to view Bill’s presentation.

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C919 adds Panasonic Connectivity

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Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) last week announced that it signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) to provide communications systems for COMAC’s C919.

While final terms are still being negotiated, the LoI allows the parties to immediately begin working on a custom communications solution that will allow passengers use personal mobile devices for phone services and Internet access on board the C919.  Panasonic has teamed with China Electronics Technology Avionics Co. Ltd. (CETCA), which is based in Chengdu.

This is great news for Panasonic and COMAC’s C919.  But one has to wonder – what about the other C919 deals already announced?  It would seem COMAC has a deal with everyone in the IFEC space. In September Rockwell announced it had a deal.  In November it was Thales’ turn to announce a deal.

Each of these LoIs matches a western IFEC vendor with a Chinese firm.  Panasonic and CETCA. Rockwell Collins and Shanghai Aero Measurement-Controlling Research Institute (SAMRI). Thales and CETCA.

How should one read this?

It would seem that COMAC might want to offer any of these systems to customers to ensure airlines the widest choice.  But it should be noted that such an offering is not typical.  Moreover these deals are all letters of intent.

Is COMAC is following a time-tested method? Learning from these firms to acquire state of art technology.   This method has worked remarkably well for China’s aviation sector.

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US Regional Airlines Deserve More Respect

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The data presented comes from the US Regional Airlines Association.  The story behind these numbers bears some thought.  The last three periods in particular.

Between 1980 and 2009, the number of regional carriers declined 75%.  Yet those which remained grew much larger; 2,334% more ASMs and 985% more enplanements.  The average seats per flight grew from 16 to 55 as carriers switched from small turboprops to regional jets.

As veteran industry analyst Bill Swelbar explains “The numbers reflect jet aircraft technology vs turboprops and the resulting aircraft productivity.  Flying longer and faster.  There were relatively few RJs in 1995, with meaningful growth of RJs in last couple of years of decade.  Scope clauses were really relaxed between 2000 – 2005 permitting not only virtually unlimited 50 seat flying but also permitting the limited use of 70 seat jets.  Most of the growth spike came in the 1998 – 2005/6 period.”

Looking at the first half of 2010, the trends continued.  Enplanements, ASMs and RPMs are just over 50% of the previous year numbers, implying growth.  Note also the slight growth in airplane size continued, rising from 55 seats to 56.

Regional airlines are frequently overlooked by analysts who get caught up with stories about the larger airlines.  Yet RAAs member airlines carry one in four of US airline enplanements.  Moreover, 72% of US communities rely exclusively on regional airlines for all scheduled air service.

“Regionals” (as these airlines are also known) are doing longer haul flying, too. Note average trip length has grown nearly 255% to 457 miles.  Compare this with mainline airlines at 1,279 miles and 770 miles among LCCs.

We suggest that regional airlines deserve a bit more respect and attention.  This is a major component of the industry and operates under the same trying conditions as the majors.

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