Monthly Archives: October 2013

Ballesteros (the movie)

I have never been a big fan of golf and in fact I have only played a few times starting in 2012 during a trip to Scotland. Thus, the phenomenon of Severiano Ballesteros if not unnoticed never fully touched me.

Earlier this month I spent some days resting in the village of Comillas (Cantabria, Spain). There we witnessed the preparation of the set and the filming of a movie. We heard that the crew had a British accent and then lunching in a terrace we learnt that the movie was about the life of Ballesteros.

I then, searched in the web about the movie project. I found several articles and read a couple from The Independent and Today’s Golfer.

The movie is produced by BAFTA award-winning Stephen Evans. The £5m movie project is running late as it was initially supposed to be already released, and now is expected for 2014, after over  5,000 hours of footage. It will tell the life of the golfer from its youth in Cantabria. While reading about the movie I found some sentences that catched my attention:

“He had one of the most fascinating childhoods I have ever come across. It is almost straight out of Charles Dickens.”

“If you don’t understand Seve’s formative years then you can’t possibly grasp why he became the man he did.”

“Like (Ayrton) Senna, Seve transcends his sport and like Senna, Seve was incredibly handsome and charismatic, but unlike Senna, Seve was not handed everything on a plate.”

“Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald are all wonderful players, but that is all they are. There is no real story, so if you tried to make a movie about them people would fall asleep. Seve is different.

I have never seen such a display of triumph and joy in my life. It was incredible, amazing and electric.”

Seve Ballesteros, Spanish golfer (by Peter from Liverpool, UK).

Spanish media tends to elevate sportsmen to the highest quite rapidly after some victories, thus I still wanted to check just a few figures of majors won. Ballesteros won 5: 2 Masters (1980, 1983) and 3 times The Open Championship (1979, 1984, 1988). In the last 50 years, only eight (8) players have won 5 or more majors: Gary Player (9), Jack Nicklaus (18), Arnold Palmer (7), Lee Trevino (6), Tom Watson (8), Nick Faldo (6), Tiger Woods (14) and Phil Mickelson (5).

I obviously missed something. I am now looking forward to see that movie.

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Budget uncertainty in the Congress has kept the Boeing C-17 line open for years

Few days ago, I read in the weekly Aviation Week the following article, Boeing Blames Budget Uncertainty For C-17 Line Closure Timing, where Dennis Muilenburg, president of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, is quoted saying:

“… you quickly come to the conclusion that we cannot continue to spend money to keep that line open, given all of the other budget constraints. So, the fact that we are facing sequestration and uncertainty in the budget drove the timing of our decision.”

If anything, I would say the contrary: budget uncertainty in the Congress is what has kept the Boeing C-17 line open for the last years (coupled with international sales).

To understand that, it is important to remember that the C-17 program initially called for the acquisition of 120 aircraft. This number was later increased to 180 aircraft, and that the US Air Force had been requesting in its yearly budget requests zero aircraft per year since long ago. Only maneuvers in the Congress had been including in the final Defense Budget more C-17 units until the final 223 which were delivered (the last one in September 2013).

You can see an explanation of the plays that have taken place for years in the Congress in this article from 2009 in Business Week (“It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Pork!“):

The C-17 Globemaster offers one illustration of successful opposition to the Obama-Gates push for control of weapons spending. C-17s are large cargo planes produced by Boeing that cost $250 million apiece. They have been used heavily since 1993 to transport troops, tanks, and supplies. Every year since 2006, the Pentagon has said that it has enough C-17s. And every year, Congress overrules the military and authorizes funds for additional planes. In October the Senate approved $2.5 billion in the 2010 budget for 10 more C-17s, which would bring the fleet to 215.


But the real reason Congress wants more of them has little to do with military need. Boeing has built the C-17’s industrial base for political survivability.

The company has spread manufacturing across no fewer than 43 states. C-17 production lines employ more than 30,000 workers, many of them relatively well paid by factory-wage standards. Many of those jobs would be at risk if C-17 work ground to a halt.

The White House understands the challenge. “The impulse in Washington is to protect jobs back home, building things we don’t need at a cost we can’t afford,” President Obama said in August in a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Phoenix. “The special interests, contractors, and entrenched lobbyists—they’re invested in the status quo, and they’re putting up a fight.”


Bond, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and 16 colleagues began circulating a letter in April urging members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to keep funding the plane despite clearly stated objections from the White House and Pentagon. In California, C-17 production employs 5,000 workers at a final assembly plant in Long Beach.


These plays by politicians to try to keep the line open despite of the military not needing more aircraft continue to exist, as a few days ago we could read about a new plan: C-17 swap, to exchange older C-17s for new ones! (while the “old” ones have only about 20 years today possibly not having logged more  flight hours than two-thirds of their life).

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La última cena de William Perry

La semana pasada, con motivo de la celebración del día de la Hispanidad, el diario ABC publicaba una entrevista al ministro de defensa, Pedro Morenés (“Morenés: “Me preocupa el adiestramiento de las Fuerzas Armadas”“).

El portal InfoDefensa hacía referencia a dicha entrevista en la siguiente entrada, “Morenés: “Vamos a reforzar la industria de Defensa desde Navantia a Indra”“, donde además incluía unas declaraciones que no aparecen en la edición digital de ABC. En ellas el ministro habla de la necesidad de consolidar la industria de la defensa española para competir con las grandes empresas del sector: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE, etc.

En esta entrada me quería centrar en una anécdota que se relata:

La anécdota de Weinberger (sic).

Según el diario, el ministró finalizó este tema mencionando una anécdota del secretario de Defensa de EEUU Caspar Weinberger (1981-1987):

“Cuando el señor Weinberger dijo a las cincuenta y tantas empresas de Defensa que había en EEUU, o más, “el año que viene por estas fechas, cuando yo les invite a cenar en esta mesa en la que hoy hay ciento y pico personas, va a haber doce. Arréglenselas ustedes como puedan”. Les dio un mensaje muy claro. Al final hubo 12.

En esta entrada en el blog solo quería precisar:

  • La cena no fue con Weinberger como secretario de defensa (1981-87), sino con Les Aspin en 1993.
  • No fue el secretario de defensa (entonces Les Aspin) sino William Perry (subsecretario entonces, y que posteriormente fue secretario de defensa) quien dijo aquello.
  • No había ciento y pico personas que luego pasaron a 12; sino 12 en la cena que luego pasaron a 5 (representando a Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon); por eso de que a la mesa iban 12 lo llamaron “última cena”.

Esta anécdota se puede leer en numerosas fuentes especializadas en asuntos de defensa y genéricas, como por ejemplo, The New York Times:

The changes now occurring began in the early 1990’s. Industry executives recall the famous ”Last Supper,’‘ a 1993 Pentagon dinner whose host was Les Aspin, then Secretary of Defense, and his deputy, William J. Perry, who succeeded him. At the dinner were executives from a dozen contractors who were told by Mr. Perry that there were twice as many military suppliers as he wanted to see in five years and that the Government was prepared to watch some go out of business. From 1992 to 1997, a total of $55 billion in military-industry mergers took place, according to Securities Data Company, a research concern in Newark.

Quiero pensar que el ministro Pedro Morenés conoce bien la anécdota, y fue el periodista de ABC el que escuchó algo y no se enteró, y más tarde, en la redacción, la reconstruyó como quiso sin comprobar datos en ninguna fuente… raro es que no acabase atribuyendo la anécdota o cita a Wiston Churchill o Mark Twain.

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Boeing 747: 51 in backlog, rate of 1.5 per month… 2016?

I read a few days ago an article from Business Week on the launch of the Boeing 777X (“Boeing Unveils Its Jumbo Killer“). In that article, Adam Pilarski, senior vice president at aerospace consultant Avitas is quoted saying “My assumption is the 747 is dead, or will be dead in a year or two”.

Yesterday, Boeing announced that it will cut down the production rate down to 1.5 aircraft per month (see article in Bloomberg).

Boeing has only been able to book 107 orders and has still in backlog 51 of them. Thus, at the new rate the line would last open just a bit below 3 more years, reaching mid 2016.

That is remarkable taking into consideration that the first deliveries took place in 1969, that would be a production streak of almost 50 years.

The dark side of it is that if no orders are booked between now and then, in just about one year two aircraft production lines such as the C-17 and the 747 would be closed.

However, Boeing still sees a future in the 747 and expects to revamp production again in the following years, especially in the freighter market, however in the past 6 years sales have amounted to 22 aircraft, an average of 4 per year… clearly below the needed to maintain the new production rate (18/year).

  • In this post I compared the sales of A380 and 747 at each program start.
  • Review I wrote about the book 747, “747”, by Joe Sutter with Jay Spencer.

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Is the average aircraft size decreasing or increasing by 25%?

Last year, I wrote a post (Aircraft average size: Boeing’s forecast in 1990 and following evolution) in which I compared what was Boeing’s prediction in 1990 of what was going to be the commercial aircraft average size evolution in the next 15 years versus the same prediction in 1997 and what had been the actual evolution through 2011, as reflected in Boeing’s 2012 Current Market Outlook (CMO).

See the graphics below:

Average aircraft size forecast made in 1990.

Average aircraft size evolution 1991-2011, according to Boeing 2012 CMO.

As I mentioned above, the information of actual evolution was provided by Boeing in 2012’s CMO.

This year (2013), Airbus seems to have responded by providing the same piece of information in its Global Market Forecast (GMF), see the picture below:

Average aircraft size evolution 1992-2012, according to Airbus.

Average aircraft size evolution 1992-2012, according to Airbus 2013 GMF.

The catch then is: is the average aircraft size decreasing (as Boeing says) or increasing by 25% (as Airbus says)?

The best part of the catch is that both cite the same source of information, OAG (Official Airline Guide).

The reader will obviously reach to the conclusion that both companies cannot be taking the same segmentation and that they are using the reported trend to convey an interested message.

After, having seen the number plays that Boeing has recently done in their CMO with the mix of wide-bodies widely changing from year to year in order to promote 787 or 777 (which explained in this post), I take the stand to take with grain of salt the graphic provided by Boeing, and thus, unless I see the numbers by myself, I will understand that average aircraft size has been growing since the 1990s (1).

(1) The funny thing of understanding that the correct interpretation is the one of Airbus (average size has grown by 25%) is that this would mean that Boeing’s own prediction in 1990 would have been proven correct! 🙂

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