Boeing's MAXimum Pain
- The shattered aircraft market, so strong for so long, got another blow when Norwegian cancelled all 97 of its remaining Boeing orders. Most (all but five) are B737 MAXs. The others are B787s. The airline also cancelled a lucrative maintenance contract with Boeing, covering both plane types. And it’s suing the aircraft builder to claw back pre-delivery payments, arguing that MAX delays and Dreamliner engine reliability issues caused it significant losses. In one sense, the crisis is helping Norwegian. Under normal conditions, it would never have been able to escape so many of its earlier contractual obligations without a formal bankruptcy proceeding. It’s now a radically altered airline, simpler and nimbler.
- Singapore’s BOC Aviation is cancelling MAXs too, in its case orders for 30. It also deferred delivery on other MAX orders. The world’s leasing firms, to be sure, still have an appetite for the latest narrowbody planes, as a flurry of sale-leaseback deals makes clear. But just not as many as they ordered pre-pandemic. BOC itself, in May, bought ten of Southwest’s MAX 8s, plus six A321 NEOs from Wizz Air. All of BOC’s MAXs now set to arrive before 2023 are under firm commitment among various airlines.
- The MAX, as it happens, took its first steps toward re-entry with FAA recertification flights last week. Regulators were examining changes to the aircraft’s flight software during the test. It’s a long road ahead, however. The aircraft must complete several more test flights for the FAA, and other regulators, including EASA have different demands and have asked for more changes to the way the aircraft behaves in flight. The FAA and worldwide regulators must also approve pilot-training programs for the 737 MAX. Still, several buyers said they expect to have the plane flying again before year end.
- The object of Juan Trippe’s dreams and product of Joe Sutter’s genius is finally reaching the end of the line. Bloomberg reports that Boeing will end production of the B747-8, with the last of the leviathans rolling off the line in two years. Boeing hasn’t said anything publicly, but has signaled the type’s end in financial reports, Bloomberg said. Launched in 1970, the B747 helped usher in the era of mass travel, stitching the world closer together and making travel affordable to more people just by the sheer number of people a jumbo could transport, versus then-existing jetliners, like the B707 and the DC-8. Boeing saw off its competitors with this successful aircraft. Of the three early jumbo jets — the McDonnell-Douglas DC-10, and Lockheed L1011, both of which followed closely on the B747s launch — only the 747 remains in production, and over the last 50 years, Boeing has sold more than 1,500 of the type, of all variants. The A380, meanwhile, never fulfilled its early promise. By the time it launched, the airline world had moved on, favoring smaller, longer-range widebodies, like the B787 and the A350. Larger versions of the B777, meanwhile, with just two engines, offered nearly as many seats with much greater cargo capacity.
- Airbus, reeling from a 40% drop in sales and corresponding cuts to production, said it would reduce headcount by 15k jobs by next summer. The company said it had tried to avoid the cuts, but it now forecasts air travel’s recovery to pre-pandemic levels not to occur before 2023-to-2025. Calling the pandemic the “gravest crisis” in its history, CEO Guillaume Faury said, “We must ensure that we can sustain our enterprise and emerge from the crisis as a healthy, global aerospace leader, adjusting to the overwhelming challenges of our customers.” The airframer is cutting 5,000 jobs in France, 5,100 in Germany, 900 in Spain, 1,700 in the U.K., and 1,300 at its facilities outside the European Union.
- Parking an aircraft in the desert requires more than just landing the thing and taxiing to a parking spot, Avia Solutions Group says. The process is involved. Putting a B777 in temporary storage requires 4-to-6 employees to work 12-hr shifts to cover engines, air inlets, pitot tubes and other sensors, and exhaust ports; to grease and clean landing gear; and to drain and sanitize potable and waste-water tanks, among other steps. Avia estimates that to park the entire Emirates fleet could require up to 18k manpower hours.