Boeing 797

Boeing says its time for a new aircraft.  The next new Boeing, known as the “new midsize airplane,” and unofficially, the 797, would likely be a double-aisle jet.  The long process of design, building, testing, etc would mean the aircraft is not  intended for delivery until around 2025.

The goal is to meet airlines’ needs for a plane bigger than the single-aisle 737, and smaller and with less range than the 787 Dreamliner. The new plane would overlap with the discontinued but still widely used 757 and 767, ferrying 200 to 280 passengers up to around 5,000 nautical miles.

The market for such a plane is questionable, which is one reason Boeing has not started developing it yet. The last 757 came off the line in 2004, and while airlines might like a replacement, it hasn’t been a major priority.

And Airbus has an aircraft in that space already.  It can elongate the popular single-aisle A321.  This would be at a lower cost and lower execution risk, since it wouldn’t be a completely new plane.

That doesn’t mean pursuing the 797 is a bad decision, just one that needs to be done with caution.

Boeing Reported Profit Down 9 Percent

Boeing Reported First-Quarter Profit Down 9 Percent due to a $156 million charge for the KC-46 program, and a $70 million pretax charge for its 747 program. The U.S. Air Force aerial refueling tanker program is over-budget and behind schedule, while the weak air cargo market has slowed sales of the jumbo jet freighter. Earnings fell to $1.22 billion, from $1.34 billion a year earlier, but first-quarter revenue increased 2 percent to $22.6 billion.

Boeing still forecasts that its full-year profit and revenue will match 2015 and it is confident that other parts of its business would make up for the added expenses. The defense business was better than last year’s first quarter. Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said, “Higher year-over-year deliveries of military aircraft and continued solid operating performance on core production programs drove revenue growth and strong cash flow for Boeing in the first quarter.”

Boeing did not report a 787 charge and said the program’s deferred costs rose by only $141 million to $28.65 billion, less than prior quarterly increases, but still the hole deepens. Commercial Airplanes first-quarter revenue decreased to $14.399 billion on 4 percent lower delivery volume of 176 aircraft. First-quarter operating margin was 7.2 percent. In the previous year, revenue was $15.381 billion, and the operating margin was $10.5 percent. 

Earnings from commercial operations fell 36 percent to $1.033 billion from last year’s $1.617 billion. Commercial Airplanes booked 121 net orders during the quarter. Backlog remains strong with over 5,700 airplanes valued at $424 billion. In the first quarter of 2015, Boeing sold 116 aircraft, so sales this year are still strong, but some of those new sales were order changes to different types, which allowed at least one customer to delay delivery. In January, Mr. Muilenburg said Boeing will build between 740 and 745 commercial jets this year, down 20 from the 762 delivered in 2015, and the high-value 747 and 777 wide-bodies will be most affected. Expected revenue and cash flow for the year will drop accordingly. Boeing will build several flight test 737 MAXs this year, as well as the first production versions that cannot be delivered to customers until certification in 2017.

Airbus A350 Deliveries Delayed

Airbus A350 deliveries are also delayed due to shortages of cabin equipment, such as seats and toilets. There are at least six A350s parked and awaiting delivery in Toulouse. Airbus delivered four A350s in the first quarter, while its target for 2016 is more than 50 deliveries. The manufacturer intends to deliver approximately 650 airplanes this year and forecast that hopes to sell 700 new ones. So far, the A350 problem has not reached the same level as 787 delivery delays that strained Boeing’s finances, but the Airbus Group is expected to report a larger than usual seasonal outflow of cash in the first quarter due to comercial jet delays and problems with the A400M military airplane. One analyst predicts a cash drain of €3.2 billion in the first quarter, and a 23 percent drop in operating profit.

Extoling Silver Linings Cannot Hide the Storm Clouds Gathering Over Toulouse and Seattle

Airbus has a growing backlog of undelivered passenger jets crowding the tarmac outside its factories, which is putting pressure on its cash generation this year. More than two dozen A320neos are waiting for Pratt & Whitney engines to be installed, and some plane spotters say that Airbus is running out of room. Only five NEOs have been delivered and several airlines announced delays in taking their planes. Qatar Airways is so angry that it is talking about cancelling its whole order for 50 A320neos and replacing them with 737NGs immediately and 737 MAXs later. 

Aviation analysts say that the problem could tie up around €1 billion ($1.14 billion) in cash this year. Boeing had the same problem with its early model 787s several years ago and is only now finding customers to take the planes. Airbus declined to comment except to say it remained confident of meeting its published delivery targets. Further, the output of the company’s assembly lines is not being disrupted, which means more engineless A320s in the near future.

Adding to its woes, several Airbus customers officially took delivery of A320ceo Family aircraft but the planes were flown to Spain for storage.

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