Monthly Archives: June 2013

Spraylat

Some of you may have wondered why all aircraft windows and so many other parts in the pictures I showed in previous blog posts about The Boneyard are covered with white paint?

C-130 Hercules covered with spraylat (note that it is fitted with skis for Artic and Antartic operations).

C-130 Hercules covered with spraylat (note that it is fitted with skis for Arctic and Antarctic operations).

To protect heat-sensitive parts from the desert high temperatures these parts are covered with two different coatings: the first layer being a dark paint while the second layer is the characteristic white one, reflecting sunlight and heat. The paint is a vinyl plastic called spraylat after the company that produces it, Spraylat Corporation.

You may check the detail of Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) storage processes in the following two links from the Wikipedia and “AMARC experience” (“AMARC” being the previous name for AMARG).

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Commercial airplanes discounts review

Last week, ahead of the start of the Le Bourget air show, the French portal Challenges.fr, published an article “Le vrai prix des avions d’Airbus et de Boeing” with an interesting graphic showing a comparison of the prices after discounts of commercial aircraft both of Boeing and Airbus.

Find the graphic below:

Commercial aircraft discounts according to "Challenges".

Commercial aircraft discounts according to “Challenges”.

In order to make the graphic, Challenges quotes as sources the consultants of “ASCEND Worldwide” (which has the industry-reference database of world commercial aircraft fleets) and unnamed companies (airlines such as American, Delta or Southwest, as per declaration of analysts quoted in the article).

I have published in this blog yearly estimates for the average discount that Boeing applies to its aircraft. Find here the latest of that blog posts. In that post I arrived to an estimated average discount of 45%. Thus, when I read the article by Challenges I first thought “too high, to be average prices”. I thus run the reverse calculation: departing from Challengesmarket prices” I calculated what would have been Boeing Commercial’s 2012 revenues (1).

Boeing 2012 deliveries and net orders.

Boeing 2012 deliveries and net orders.

Boeing prices as per Challenges (767 added with the same discount as the 777-300ER).

Boeing prices as per Challenges (767 added with the same discount as the 777-300ER).

Boeing Airplanes revenues "as per Challenges".

Boeing Airplanes revenues “as per Challenges“.

Having run the numbers, I find the estimated value of 2012 revenues for Boeing Airplanes as too low (44bn$ vs. the reported 49bn$) using aircraft “market prices” as published by Challenges, as I first thought. I guess that the figures that Challenges published refer to the higher discounts having recently been applied, to the biggest customers making the biggest orders, such as those mentioned in the article (American, Delta or Southwest).

Thus, I would not take them as average or market price, those are the prices that a few can get.

(1) A couple of considerations must be made: Challenges does not publish any market price for 767s (the same discount of the 777-300ER was used), and does publish only one price of 737NGs or 777s; thus the result will not be very accurate.

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Wide-body mix in 15 years of Boeing CMOs

A couple of days ago I wrote about the publishing by Boeing of its Current Market Outlook for 2013-2032. In that post I made a very brief review of it, and mentioned that I was puzzled by the change in the predicted mix of twin-aisle sales, between small and medium wide-bodies. To recall the numbers:

  • small wide-bodies: from 2,720 a/c in CMO2012 to 4,320 a/c in CMO2013, whereas,
  • medium wide-bodies: from 4,490 a/c in CMO2012 to 2,810 a/c in CMO2013.

Since I keep a collection of CMOs from years back, I decided to compare the figures of this wide-bodies mix along the last 15 years…

Twin-aisle mix distribution (Boeing CMO 1998-2013).

Twin-aisle mix distribution (Boeing CMO 1998-2013).

Seeing at the graphic (made using Boeing figures):

  • During the first 5 years (1998-2003) the trends are quite constant.,
  • From 2003 to 2007, the mix is reverted, possibly to favour the launch of the 787.
  • In 2008 the CMO did not provide the split.
  • From 2009 to 2013, you can see that both trends in the forecasts are erratic… why? Only Boeing knows.

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North American X-15

I once wrote about how it took me some visits to different museums and reading a book to connect the dots and see what was the controversy in France about the Wright Brothers pioneering first flight.

It takes several museums to get a complete glimpse of the story of the X-15.

This experimental aircraft, powered with a rocket engine, was used to reach the edge of outer space and gather data for aircraft and space design. In doing so, it set several records of speed and altitude. To date it keeps the speed record of any manned flight with over 7,000 km/h (bear in mind that this a rocket engine, vs. the record for an atmospheric engine reached with the SR-71). The aircraft also flew several times above 50 miles, which by then in the USA was considered the limit for outer space, thus making some of its pilots being recognised as astronauts by NASA and USAF. The International Astronautics Federation (FIA), however, sets the limit at 100km of altitude. Still two of the X-15 pilots flew over that height being them also recognised as astronauts by the FIA.

The aircraft itself, the North American X-15, is displayed at the National Space & Air Museum at the Mall in Washington DC (which I first visited in December 2008) and USAF Museum in Ohio, while one of the mock-ups is displayed at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson (which we visited last May 2013).

North American X-15 the National Air & Space Museum in the Mall (picture from Ad Meskens).

The flight tests in which the X-15 set so many high altitude and speed records were performed at Edwards AF Base in Mojave (which we visited in May 2013). At the Flight Test Center museum you can read some displayes about its story.

Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards (public domain image).

Finally, the mother ships from which the different X-15 aircraft were launched were modified B-52 Stratofortress bombers. The two aircraft are displayed in the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson (which we visited last May 2013) and again the Dryden Flight Research Center which is also located at Edwards AFB.

NB-52, modified Stratofortress to drop X-15.

NB-52, modified Stratofortress to drop the X-15.

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Review of Boeing Current Market Outlook 2013

Last week, just ahead of Le Bourget air show, Boeing Commercial published its yearly update of the Current Market Outlook (CMO) for the next 20 years of commercial aircraft market (2013-2032).

I just compared the figures for passenger aircraft of the last two years’ CMOs:

CMO 2013 vs 2012 comparison.

CMO 2013 vs 2012 comparison.

Some comments to it:

  • You can see that the total number of new aircraft delivered has slightly increased from 33,060 to 34,430, a 4%, which is consistent with the constant 5% traffic increase that Boeing predicts.
  • The volume (Bn$) increases by a larger percentage, 9% (380 Bn$)… this is due mainly to the double increase in:
    • (1) single-aisle aircraft expected sales 6,2% (+1,430 aircraft), and
    • (2) the average price list with which the list is computed, another 6.3% (from 87.3m$ to 92.8m$)
  • I am puzzled to see the the sudden change in the predicted mix of twin-aisle sales, between small and medium wide-bodies…
    • small wide-bodies: from 2,720 a/c in CMO2012 to 4,320 a/c in CMO2013, whereas,
    • medium wide-bodies: from 4,490 a/c in CMO2012 to 2,810 a/c in CMO2013
    • as you can see the combined figure slightly changes (7,130 vs. 7,210), however the distribution among the two categories is drastically changed. Why is that? A question to Randy Tinseth that he did not address in his blog when the CMO was unveiled.

I would tend to think that the move is done to push some market development based on some models (787) instead of others (777), but given that it is precisely now when the upgraded versions of the 777 are supposed to be pushed into the market I fail to see the logic behind this.

Find below the nice infographic that the guys from Boeing have put up together:

Boeing Commercial Aviation Market Forecast 2013-2032 infographic.

As always, I recommend going through the CMO, as you can learn a lot about the business: from global numbers, to growth, traffic figures, fleet distributions, forecasts, etc… You may find the presentation [PDF, 9.6 MB], the booklet [PDF, 3.0 MB] and the file [XLS, 0.4 MB] with all the data.

For a comparison between this CMO and the respective Airbus’ GMF we will have to wait until after the summer, when Airbus publishes its update. Until then, find here the comparison based on 2012 market studies.

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B-52 Stratofortress, nuclear disarmament and The Boneyard

One of the oldest flying aircraft in the US air force is the bomber B-52 Stratofortress, built during the 1950s. Over 700 of them were built during a decade with only above 70 today being used in the active or reserve forces. The retired ones are either in museums or in The Boneyard.

Part of B-52 retired fleet.

Part of B-52 retired fleet.

During the visit to AMARG, the guide explained us one historical anecdote taking the following picture as the departing point:

B-52 Stratofortress without horizontal tail plane.

B-52 Stratofortress without horizontal tail plane.

The curiosity of the picture: as you can see the aircraft has no horizontal tail plane (HTP). 

The story went as follows: as part of Arms Control and Disarmament agreements between the USA and USSR, the USA had to retire a certain number of B-52 aircraft from service (over 300 of them). At some point a soviet delegation visited The Boneyard at Tucson to witness the retirement of those A/C. However, they said that being the AF base right there, side by side of the boneyard, the USSR could not have any guarantee that those B-52s would not be immediately put back into active service just after the soviets had left the city, and thus required that Americans dismantled the HTPs from all B-52s that were to be retired as part of the agreements. In that way they could always check via satellite image whether they had those HTP on or off…

Later on I checked the story in the Wikipedia where you may see the whole background of the START agreement. Some of the aircraft were chopped into 5 pieces. Those you cannot see in the guided visit to Davis-Monthan AFB but you can see them in satellite image here:

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The Boneyard

The US Air Force’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), known as “The Boneyard”, is one of the places that I had wanted to visit since many years ago. Luca and I visited it a couple of weeks ago.

The Boneyard is an aircraft and equipment storage facility located at Davis-Monthan AF Base near Tucson (Arizona). The are over 4,000 military aircraft stored at the place. Most of them come from the USA (not only from the air force, but from other services as well) but there are some aircraft from foreign countries. The aircraft are stored for several reasons and in different conditions.

  • Some of them are maintained waiting for a possible future use of them (be it with US armed forces or through some foreign military sale, that is the case of several old versions of C-130, F-16).
  • Other aircraft are kept so their parts can be used as spare parts for other active flying aircraft (e.g. C-130, KC-135).
  • Finally, there are aircraft which are stored waiting to be scrapped so the metal can be reused somewhere else.
KC-135 partly scrapped.

KC-135 partly scrapped.

Hundreds of C-130.

Hundreds of C-130.

There are whole fleets of retired aircraft: C-141 Starlifter (retired once the C-17 took over their role), half of the C-5 Galaxy fleet (the A versions, due to budget constrains and fleet strategic decisions), the Vietnam-era helicopters Hueys and Cobras

The Boneyard can be visited with a guided tour organised by the Pima Air and Space Museum (I will write about this museum in another post).  The tour is made with a bus which goes through the Boneyard very slowly and making several stops (though guests cannot exit the bus). The guides are veterans from the US armed forces, who have flown or maintained some of those models that you get to see. The wealth of knowledge that they have about them, the anecdotes and stories that they tell during the tour are worth much more than the 7$ that the tour costs.

The place is impressive, overwhelming. Not only there are thousands of aircraft but the seeing of them fully aligned, whole fleets of different models helps you put things into perspective:

  • World commercial airliner fleet (over 100 pax) has about 16,000 aircraft vs. the 4,000 at The Boneyard.
  • The largest airline fleets have about 1,200 aircraft.
  • Spanish AF has 14 C-130 Hercules vs. the hundreds of them you see at The Boneyard.
  • The dozens of retired Lockheed C-5A Galaxy that you can see there have a combined payload capacity of over 5,000 tonnes… which is more than the complete payload capability of any other air force in the world except the US one…

You may want to take a look at satellite images from the Boneyard here:

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