August 2012

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"The million things I've wanted to write about, but haven't had time."

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That was really the best title for this post, because frankly, it really captures the fact that there are a ton of non-787 first flight things going on and I wanted to at least mention them.

Boeing Leaving Puget Sound?
Scott Hamilton of Leeham Co. says, "Yes." His presentation to the Snohomish County Economic Development Council should make everyone sit up and take note, especially political leaders in Olympia, Hamilton contends. The reality is, Boeing has been leaving in pieces over the years with the corporate relocation to Chicago and 787 business model. A decision within a year about the 787 production rate will likely dictate the necessity for a second production line, which Hamilton believes will be outside of Washington State. Many signs point to this conclusion.

American's new 737s

Consider this the reverse canary in a coal mine, American Airlines took delivery of several of its 76 new 737-800s (N979AN being the 1st). The airline already has 77 737-800s in its fleet all based out of DFW. The new -800s will all be based at ORD and will have a 1% fuel burn advantage over their earlier counterparts and 20% better than the MD-80s they'll replace. The interior of the newer 737s are also outfitted with new fixed backshell seats, larger overhead storage bins and electrical plug-in ports in every row and a HUD standard at the business end of the venerable narrowbody.

So why is this a big deal? Well, if financing is the lifeblood of aircraft deliveries, then the fact that a US airline has already secured financing for most of its new deliveries bodes well for other airlines that have a demand for new aircraft and just need financing. Though, unfortunately there's not much that can be done for airlines that have no need for aircraft and just opt for a deferred delivery.

Deferrals, Deferrals, Deferrals
Now consider this the actual canary in a coalmine. Three of the world's top 25 airlines (by revenue) made major announcements last week deferring major aircraft deliveries. By the numbers: QANTAS - 12 737s, 4 A380s possibly 15 787s. China Southern - 777Fs, 787s and A380s. Cathay Pacific - A330-300s, 777-300ERs, 747-8Fs.

These are all on top of other airlines initiating further deferrals announced this year so far: Air France - 2 A380s, 6 777-300ER and 777Fs. Interjet - 4 A320s. Bangkok Airways - 2 A319s, 1 ATR-72-500. Volaris - 3 A319s. FedEx - 777Fs. Aeromar - 1 ATR-72-500. Kingfisher - 2 A380s. Thai Airways - A380s. Mesa - 10 CRJ700s.

To top it off many airlines are pondering deferrals, but have yet to decide: Singapore Airlines - A380s. Aerologic - 777F. V Australia - 777-300ER.

Everything But The New Design

No 787, no A350, no 737RS, no A30X and no CSeries. The demand is certainly there for these products. However, Airlines, waiting for their aircraft on order or are delaying big purchases, along with Boeing and Airbus, are squeezing every last bit of efficiency out of existing designs before taking out a clean sheet of paper to design a new aircraft. 767-300ERs are getting winglets, bringing their range up 200 miles. A330s are pushing to 7200 nm. 737s and A320 are expected to get a whole host of enhancements. Qatar is ripping out lounges for A340-600 efficiency and RNP capabilities are popping up everywhere. Smart business decisions, yes, but is there an acceleration due to the recession? Let's call it an open question.

What plane is this?
I'm out on my balcony Saturday evening and I see this Delta aircraft fly from east to west over Washington, DC around 6:30 PM. Seeing clear skies above, I grabbed my camera to see if I could figure it out. Well, I'm baffled. First glance says its a 737-800 with winglets, though a closer inspection looks like a 767-300ER with winglets. I thought the only wingletted 767 Delta had was in the old colors? Help me get to the bottom of this!


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