News Item A-1: Check out the 777X Video Click here for video
News Item A-2: Singapore Airlines Grounds 2 787-10s for Engine Blade Cracks” by (ATA) Chen Chuanren, April 2, 2019.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) has grounded 2 of its 9 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners because of premature blade deterioration found on the Rolls-Royce (RRC) (Trent 1000 TEN) engines. “As safety is our top priority, the (SIA) Group, in consultation with (RRC), proactively identified other (Trent 1000 TEN) engines in the group’s 787 fleet to undergo precautionary inspections. All of these engine inspections on (SIA)’s 787-10 fleet have now been completed, and a remaining check will be completed on a Scoot (SCT) 787-9 by April 3rd. Pending engine replacements, 2 (SIA) 787-10 airplanes have been removed from service.”
(SIA)’s 787-10 are used on regional to medium-haul routes, including Bali, Osaka, Tokyo-Narita, Fukuoka and Taipei. Some of the affected flights are being replaced by the Airbus A330-300 and the smaller capacity Boeing 777-200. “(SIA) is working closely with Rolls-Royce (RRC) and the relevant authorities for any additional follow-up actions and precautionary measures that may be required going forward,” the statement added. However, (SIA) observer site, Mainly Miles, noted in its website that the 1st 6 787-10 were still on the ground as of April 2, and 7 787-10 routes were affected and replaced with the A330 and 777-200. The website also pointed out that on March 30 a 787-10 flight to Nagoya returned to Singapore empty and a 777-200 was dispatched to retrieve the passengers, resulting in a 10 hour delay. (SIA) is the launch customer for the 787-10 and received the 1st 787-10 in March 2018.
News Item A-3: “Boeing Cuts 737 MAX Production Rate” by Michael Bruno and Sean Broderick, April 5, 2019.
Boeing (TBC) announced late April 5 it will slow 737 MAX production from 52 to 42 airplanes a month by mid-April, indicating that the type’s grounding and delivery halt will last longer than initially expected. The announcement came minutes after stocks closed regular trading on Wall Street and after Boeing (CEO) Dennis Muilenburg released a videotaped statement earlier in the day expressing the USA manufacturer’s sorrow for lives lost in recent 737 MAX crashes and how the company is working to change the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS). “As we continue to work through these steps, we’re adjusting the 737 MAX production system temporarily to accommodate the pause in 737 MAX deliveries, allowing us to prioritize additional resources to focus on software certification and returning the 737 MAX to flight,” Muilenburg said in announcing the slowdown. “At a production rate of 42 airplanes per month, the 737 program and related production teams will maintain their current employment levels while we continue to invest in the broader health and quality of our production system and supply chain,” Boeing continued. “We are coordinating closely with our customers as we work through plans to mitigate the impact of this adjustment. We will also work directly with our suppliers on their production plans to minimize operational disruption and financial impact of the production-rate change.”
The 737 MAX fleet has been grounded since March 13. The production slowdown is a significant turn of events considering that in February Boeing was looking to raise 737 MAX production rate to 57 airplanes a month this summer. Boeing and suppliers were rehearsing for a rate increase from 52 a month before Ethiopian Airlines (ETH) flight ET302 crashed March 10. Immediate ramifications of the slowdown remain unclear. Following Boeing’s announcement, Spirit AeroSystems announced the company will maintain its 737 deliveries to Boeing at the current rate of 52 shipsets per month. Engine maker (CFM) International said it had no plans to decrease production of (LEAP-1B) engines. “The decision to maintain the current production rate was made to allow (CFM) to build on the momentum it has gained over the last year in meeting the historic (LEAP) ramp up requirements and will help ensure the stability of the global (CFM) supply chain,” (CFM) said. “We have great confidence in Boeing and the 737 MAX and will continue our close coordination on this program.”
News Item A-4: “Dennis Muilenburg Recounts Boeing Response to 737 MAX Crash, Grounding” by Ben Goldstein April 12, 2019.
Boeing Chairman, President & (CEO) Dennis Muilenburg described his response to the March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines (ETH) flight ET302 and the subsequent grounding of the 737 MAX 8, as the Boeing finds itself scrambling to restore confidence in the airplane type. His remarks came during an April 11 speech at the George W Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. “I joined our Boeing test pilots (FC) last week aboard the 737 MAX flight for a demonstration of the updated software,” Dennis said. “During the flight, the crew performed different scenarios that exercise the software changes in multiple flight conditions. The software update functioned as designed, and I was impressed by the work and professionalism of our team.” “Overall, our team has made 96 flights totaling >159 hours of air time with this updated software,” he added. “They will continue additional test flights in the coming weeks and continue to demonstrate that we’ve identified and met all certification requirements.” Dennis also described an informational event the company hosted at its Seattle campus in March to brief >200 international regulators and airline officials about the planned software update and revised training requirements for the 737 MAX 8. He said Boeing leadership has concluded similar meetings in the UK, Singapore and China with international airline pilots (FC) and investigators.
“Pilots (FC) and leaders in 67% of our >50 737 MAX customers and operators around the world have participated in simulator sessions that included the new software update. We want everyone to be confident that the additional training and educational resources we’re developing and deploying will do the job.” Dennis stressed the importance of communication during times of crisis, and described how he scrambled in the days and weeks following the (ETH) crash walking the floor of his facilities and meeting with workers “on the front lines” of the 737 program. “In times like these, it’s not possible to over-communicate, and I’ve been updating our people frequently as details emerge, when it’s appropriate to do so (aligned with our international aviation protocol).
* “Boeing Completes Testing of 737 MAX Software Upgrade” by Guy Norris and Sean Broderick, (ATW) Plus, April 18, 2019.
Boeing has taken several major steps toward completing upgraded 737 MAX maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) flight control law software in recent days, giving Boeing confidence that it is “making steady progress” in its bid to get the grounded 737 MAX fleet operating again, its top executive said. Boeing conducted a 40-minute final test flight of the updated (MCAS) control law software over western Washington State on April 16.
** “Boeing Knows its Hardest Cost is Restoring Confidence” by Karen Walker in (ATW) Editor’s Blog, April 24, 2019.
Boeing (TBC) will have been glad to get this day behind it, the latest in a series of grim days since the 2nd 737 MAX crash and the new narrow body was grounded. (TBC) posted its 2019 1st-quarter earnings, the 1st such posting since the March 10 2nd 737 MAX crash. As expected, the results broke an 11-quarter-long trend line of exceeding Wall Street estimates. The company remains profitable and financially strong (it’s a cash-rich, $100 billion company with a diversified portfolio and a backlog of >5,600 airliners worth $399 billion. But Boeing will not give any more financial forecasts this year, indicating its own uncertainty on the true and final cost impact of the 737 MAX crisis, which now involves 2 ongoing crash investigations, a recertification program and the cutting of the 737 monthly production rate from 52 to 42. But the real unknown cost, as Boeing has started to acknowledge, will be what it takes to restore confidence in the 737 MAX (a hugely successful airplane in sales terms, with some 370 delivered and 5,000 sold.
As Dennis said with Wednesday’s earnings release, Boeing must now re-earn the trust and confidence among its airline and leasing company customers, regulators worldwide, and the flying public. Regardless of when the software fix is approved, or when the 737 MAX groundings are lifted, the airplane is unlikely to return to most airline schedules until well into the summer. Airlines have already taken the decision to keep their 737 MAXs out of their schedules as far out as mid-August. On the face of it, that enables them to avoid more disruptions and uncertainty through the peak summer travel period. But it also buys them more time to formulate their communication plans to their passengers about why it is safe to fly the 737 MAX. Boeing will be expected to support its airline customers with those communications. Dennis indicated one line of thinking on the issue when he told analysts, “We think a key voice in all of this will be the pilots (FC). That bond between the passenger and the pilot is one that is critical.” Boeing executives repeatedly stress that safety is, and always has been, the company’s number one priority. Sadly, and crucially, they now must prove it.
*** Boeing Shareholders Reject Push for Independent Chairman” by Michael Bruno, (ATW) Plus, April 29, 2019.
Dennis Muilenburg appears likely to keep all those titles after company shareholders opted not to make the Chairmanship an independent position. At the company’s annual general meeting on April 29 in Chicago (the 1st since the crashes of the 2 737 MAX 8s) Dennis faced a shareholder resolution calling for an independent Chairman of the board of directors. The failed effort was backed by several influential shareholder advisors.
News Item A-5: Ethiopian Airlines (ETH) launched operations between Addis Ababa (ADD) and Istanbul Atatürk (IST) on April 1.
(ETH) will operate the 3,689 km route 3x-weekly using its fleet of 737-800s. It joins fellow Star alliance (SAL) member Turkish Airlines (THY) on the city pair, with the Istanbul-based (THY) serving the route between 5x-weekly and daily, with its weekly schedule fluctuating throughout the summer season. Like Ethiopian Airlines (ETH), Turkish Airlines (THY) is serving this route in spring 2019 using 737-800s.
News Item A-6: “Icelandair Fills Boeing 737 MAX Gaps with 767s, 757” by (ATA) Alan Dron, April 16, 2019.
Icelandair (ICE) is wet-leasing 767s and acquiring a 757 on a temporary basis to compensate for its 737 MAX 8s affected by the global grounding. (ICE) has 4 737 MAX 8s in its fleet, +3 more on order and orders for 6 737 MAX 9s. (ICE) said it was bringing in the 767s and 757s on the assumption that the 737 MAX is to be grounded until June 16. (ICE) is wet-leasing 2 767s in 2-class, 262-seat configuration. 1 767 will arrive imminently and the 2nd at the start of May. Both will be in service until the end of September. (ICE) is also temporarily acquiring a 757-200 with 184 seats, from May 15 until the end of September. (ICE) is a major operator of the 757, with around 25 in service.
Regarding the effect of the suspension of 737 MAX services, (ICE) said that it intended to reduce its schedule by around -100 flights during the period April 1 to June 15. “In most cases, these are flights to destinations where >1 flight is available on the same day. Despite these changes, the total seat capacity during the period will essentially remain the same, since (ICE) will use 767 airplanes that are larger than the 737 MAX. Therefore, these changes will not have significant effects on the total number of passengers during the period. “The financial impact of the suspension of the 737 MAX airplane is uncertain at this time, as the amount of compensation from Boeing is still under review.”
The (FAA) has indicated that it expects to be able to issue an Airworthiness Directive (AD) in late May or June that would permit the 737 MAX to return to operations, but it is not known how long it will take for other regulatory authorities around the world to follow suit. Several airlines, including American Airlines (AAL) and Southwest Airlines (SWA) have made scheduling adjustments that will extend their 737 MAX fleet freeze until mid-August.
Separately, (ICE) said that it was cancelling its planned services from Iceland to Cleveland in the USA and Halifax in Canada this year. It said that this was partly because of the 737 MAX grounding, but also part of a decision to focus on meeting increased demand for flights to and from Iceland rather than as a transit hub between Europe and North America. “Because of changes in the competitive environment, (ICE) has decided to add flights to southern Europe.
News Item A-7: “World’s Largest Plane Makes 1st Flight over California” by Reuters, April 14, 2019.
The world’s largest aircraft took off over the Mojave Desert in California on April 13th, the 1st flight for the carbon-composite plane built by Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, started by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, as the company enters the lucrative private space market. The white airplane called “Roc,” which has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by 6 engines on a twin fuselage, took to the air shortly before 7 am Pacific time (1400 GMT) and stayed aloft for >2 hours before landing safely back at the Mojave Air and Space Port as a crowd of hundreds of people cheered. “What a fantastic first flight,” Stratolaunch (CEO) Jean Floyd said. “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems, Floyd said. “We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew (FC), our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”
The plane is designed to drop rockets and other space vehicles weighing up to 500,000 pounds at an altitude of 35,000 feet and has been billed by the company as making satellite deployment as “easy as booking an airline flight.”
Saturday’s flight, which saw the plane reach a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour and altitudes of 17,000 feet, was meant to test its performance and handling qualities, according to Stratolaunch. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, announced in 2011 that he had formed the privately funded Stratolaunch. The company seeks to cash in on higher demand in coming years for vessels that can put satellites in orbit, competing in the USA with other space entrepreneurs and industry stalwarts such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX (SPX) and United Launch Alliance (a partnership between Boeing (TBC) and Lockheed Martin.
Stratolaunch has said that it intends to launch its 1st rockets from the Roc in 2020 at the earliest. Allen died in October 2018 while suffering from non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma, just months after the plane’s development was unveiled. “We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, Chair of Vulcan Inc and Trustee of the Paul G Allen Trust. “The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.”
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