Tag Archives: 747

A380: 747 production rate throughout history

Back in 2013, I wrote a post comparing the orders of the Airbus A380 compared to those of the Boeing 747 Jumbo taking different references for the comparison. As I explained then, the idea for the post was triggered by a conversation with my friend Jose. A year later, in 2014 I wrote an update of that comparison (here).

This post is yet again triggered by another point raised by Jose (1) in another conversation a few months ago, when Airbus announced that it has reached the unit break even point for the A380 programme in 2015 with 27 deliveries. In that news it was already mentioned that the company sought to lower the number of aircraft for breaking even on any given year. The point became more relevant since Airbus confirmed, this week at Farnborough air show, that it would slow down its production pace to a monthly rate of 1 aircraft per month from 2018.

In our conversation, Jose looked at how the Boeing 747 production rate had evolved throughout history. Taking the figures from the 747 article in the Wikipedia (here), you can see the results in the graphic below. The bars show yearly deliveries. The lines the monthly production rate and its 3-year rolling average. I took this average to smooth the curve even if it is very similar to the year-by-year data (1).

747 rate

Some comments on the 747 production rates (taken from its yearly deliveries):

  • The average monthly production rate since its first delivery back in 1969 has been: 2.7 airplanes per month (above 2.25 for A380 in 2015).
  • During the first about 30-35 years (till ~2002-3) the rate fluctuated between 2 and 5 deliveries per month.
  • Since 2003 the rate has averaged 1.3.
  • For the first 10 years of the 747 programme (as the A380 is just about to complete that first decade of deliveries), its production rate averaged 2.9 aircraft per month.
  • Even if not reflected in the graphic, for information, Boeing has announced that it would decrease production rate down to 0.5 airplanes per month (6 a year) from September 2016.

Time will tell if the rate for the A380 is sustainable and whether its market rebounds.

(1) I took 3 years to make the rolling average as the fact of confirming in 2016 a delivery rate decrease to be effective from 2018 may give an idea of lead times.

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The Age of Aerospace (documentary)

The age of aerospaceIn the past days, the first episodes of the documentary “The Age of Aerospace” were released. The documentary consists of a series of 5 episodes each one lasting about 45 minutes and divided in a few chapters. The series, produced by The Documentary Group, covers much of the history of aerospace with a special focus on The Boeing Company, which celebrates 100 years in this 2016.

The series is progressively released in Science Channel, Discovery Channel and American Heroes Channel. It can also be watched via streaming at the website created for the documentary, here.

So far, I have watched the first four episodes, find some notes and comments below:

1 – What Can’t We Do?

The episode covers the initial years of flight: the creation of Boeing, the hiring of Wong Tsu (its first aeronautical engineer, fresh from MIT), the air mail expansion, the creation of United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (including Boeing, Hamilton, Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, United Air Lines… among others), its split after the Air Mail scandal and the investigation led by senator Black, the early retirement of William Boeing, the Boeing 247, the Clipper, the B-17 Flying Fortress.

2 – Miracle Planes.

This episode covers how WWII gave new life to Boeing. From having been wiped out in the commercial aviation by Douglas and having lost to Douglas the contest for a new bomber with the B-17, due to a crash of the prototype, to a new emergence due to Roosevelt’s call for mass production of defense assets: including the success of the Flying Fortress with over 12,000 units produced in 10 years (“some days you would see 8 to 12 coming out”). Black Thursday with the lost of dozens of B-17s and the finding of the need for fighter coverage; the North American P-51 Mustang (Göring: “When I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the war was lost.”). The Big Week in early 1944 and D-Day. The need for a longer range bomber for the pacific, the B-29 Superfortress.

3 – Shrinking the Earth.

This episode covers the jet age, from the operation LUSTY (LUftwaffe Secret TechnologY), the revamp of the swept wing technology originated by Adolf Busemann, the Boeing B-47, the taking over as president of Boeing by Bill Allen, to its inclusion in commercial aviation: the Comet, the prototype Dash-80 (including Tex Johnson‘s unexpected promotional double barrel roll flight), the Boeing 707 (Pan Am’s Juan Trippe: “Tomorrow you will see in the press that I have invented the jet age“), and 747 (Boeing’s Joe Sutter to Trippe: “You are sitting on a 747 in this conference room“).

4 – In the Vastness of Space.

This episode covers the  Space race. From the first warnings of Soviet Union breaking of frontiers to the launch of the Apollo program, the accident of the Apollo 1, its investigation and the need for more supply chain oversight and systems integration, the successes of the Apollo 8 (orbit around the moon), the Apollo 11 (landing in the moon), the Space Shuttle, International Space Station…

5 – The Dreamliner.

(Yet to be released in streaming) [Updated on March 29, 2016]

This episode covers the launch and development of the Boeing 787, the Dreamliner, a “game changer”. The launch of new programmes put manufacturers future at a stake, and after Airbus’ launched the A380 in 2000, Boeing had to define its next move. It first intended to launch the Sonic cruiser, but the 9/11 attacks changed the landscape and Boeing’s bet changed from speed to the economics of flight. Boeing challenged the hub-and-spoke strategy and launched a middle-sized aircraft that could connect middle cities far away from each other more economically. The documentary covers as well other innovations introduced in this programme: extensive use of composite materials, design of large components outsourced to risk sharing partners (check out the images of the giant Mitshubishi’s autoclave), the development of the 747 Dreamlifter to transport sections between partners… It covers as well the development issues (sections not fitting, quality, rivets…), the 3-year delay, the first flight at the end of 2009, the first delviery to ANA and the issue with the Lithium-ion batteries which caused the fleet of 787 in-service to be grounded by the FAA in 2013 for four months (a first in Boeing’s history). This last chapter conveys quite well the size of the undertake that is the launching of a brand new airplane.

gallery-full-13

I will conclude this review post recommending the documentary and leaving its 3-minute trailer:

 

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Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2015

The first wide body commercial airplane, the first twin-aisle ever, the Boeing 747 first flew in February 9th 1969 and it was first delivered to a customer (Pan Am) in December 1969. In the following years new wide bodies arrived to the market: the Douglas DC-10 (in 1971), the Lockheed TriStar (1972), the Airbus A300 (1974)…

In the last weeks, both Airbus and Boeing have released the figures of aircraft deliveries for the complete 2015. With them I updated a graphic I had made back in 2013 with the commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year. Take a look at it.

Commercial wide-body airplanes' deliveries per year, 1969-2015.

Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2015.

Some reflections:

For the first time ever, over 400 twin-aisle aircraft were delivered in a year. The feat is remarkable.

The average number of deliveries for the previous 20-year period (1995-2014) was 215 airplanes per year. Up to now, in the previous 46 years of twin-aisle market, in only 3 years more than 300 airplanes were delivered in a single year (the previous 3: 2012, 2013 and 2014) and only 12 times more than 200 airplanes had been delivered (including the previous 3 with more than 300).

The combined steep production ramp-up during last 4 years has enabled to reach a production rate of almost the double of what was produced just 5 years ago. In particular, the combined compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the rate of deliveries for the last 5 years has been 16.1%, for the last 10 years 10.4%. These rates are the triple and double than the yearly growth of traffic (measured in RPKs).

With the figures up to the end of 2015, almost 8,000 wide-body airplanes had been delivered. Thus, by now, end of January 2016, we have certainly reached the figure (1). We however don’t know whether the 8,000th twin aisle was a Boeing or an Airbus (2).

The share of deliveries in 2015: 65% Boeing and 35% Airbus. Boeing has slightly increased its share of deliveries in the last 4-5 years, in particular with the ramp-up of the 787.

There were 135 787s delivered in 2015. That is another remarkable feat: the largest amount of twin-aisle deliveries of a single model in a single year ever.

Only 6 times ever (combination of model-year) have there been twin-aisle deliveries of over a hundred airplanes: the A330 in the last 4 years (with a peak of 108 airplanes in 2013 -then a record- and 2014) and the 787 the last two years. Only other 10 times there were deliveries of more than 80 airplanes of a single model in a year: the A330 (2010-2011), the 747 in 1970 and the 777 (7 times, including the last 4 years consecutively, out of which the last 3 on the verge of 100 deliveries – 98, 99, 98).

Two days ago Boeing released its 2015 earnings, and with it news of 777 production cut came up. Some time before similar news had come of 747 production rate decrease. With these news, quickly came comments of whether aerospace cycle may have peaked (see here). Looking backwards it’s clear that 2015 was a peak in wide-bodies deliveries. Looking forward it may have been a short-term peak, but looking further ahead it is not so clear. I will leave for another post the outlook of past deliveries mixed with what Airbus and Boeing market forecasts say (GMF and CMO, respectively).

(1) With the sources I used,  at the end of 2015 there were a combined 7,988 wide-bodies delivered. However, I found different figures for the deliveries of the Ilyushin IL-86 (between 95 and 106). In any case, both figures would leave the total tally below 8,000 (making 2016 “the year of the 8,000th delivery”); I took for the analysis most conservative figure.

(2) Working at the moment for the Airbus A330neo programme, I will assume the 8,000th delivery was an A330, rather than a Boeing.

(3) I have indicated in the post that we have just passed the mark of 8,000 wide-bodies delivered since 1969, and, on the other hand, the different studies state that there are about 4,900 twin-aisle in operation. The gap of ~3,100 airplanes corresponds to those retired, parked, scrapped, crashed, displayed in museums…

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Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace (Le Bourget)

The Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, in Le Bourget (north of Paris), is yet another great aerospace museum. It reminded me very much to the Aviodrome (The Netherlands) in the chronological point of view of the visit and the local aspect to it (1), paying special attention to French aviation pioneers, flying aces, French fighter aircraft, etc. This is possible, as the role France has played in the development of aviation is, no doubt, crucial.

You may see the distribution of the museum and its galleries in the plan below:

Plan of the museum.

Plan of the museum.

I will now list some of the things that in my opinion make this museum unique (I will leave some anecdotes or details to future blog posts), accompanied by the respective pictures.

Model of Alberto Santos Dumont's Demoiselle (1908).

Model of Alberto Santos Dumont’s Demoiselle (1908).

Alberto Santos-Dumont was a Franco-Brazilian aviation pioneer (2) who with his 14-bis, “Oiseau de proie“, on the 23rd of October 1906, in Paris, performed the first officially witnessed unaided takeoff and flight by a heavier-than-air aircraft. In the picture above you can see him aboard another of his early models, a Demoiselle from 1908.

Workshop of the brothers Voisin (L’Atelier des Freres Voisin),

Workshop of the brothers Voisin (L’Atelier des Freres Voisin).

Some of the construction pioneers at the time were the Voisin brothers. The museum has model of how an aircraft construction workshop could look like at the time, “L’Atelier des FrèresVoisin” (this reminded me of the William E. Boeing Red Barn at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, see a post about it here).

 

Nacelle of a dirigible  Zeppelin LZ 113.

Nacelle of a dirigible Zeppelin LZ 113.

Not everything in aviation are heavier-than-air machines, above you can see the inside of a nacelle of a Zeppelin LZ 113 used in war operations.

Old Le Bourget airport hall ("8 columns hall").

Old Le Bourget airport hall (“8 columns hall”).

Le Bourget was the first civil airport in Paris, opened in 1919. It was in Le Bourget where Charles Lindbergh landed his Spirit of Saint Louis in on the 27th May 1927 when he first crossed the Atlantic Ocean. The museum today occupies part of the old airport. In the picture above you may see the main hall, designed by the architect Georges Labro in a tender made in 1935 the ministry of aviation. The building was inaugurated in 1937 (this hall reminded me of Berlin Tempelhof, you may see a post I wrote about it here).

Models gallery.

Models gallery.

The museum includes an aircraft models gallery. As a collector of models, I liked to spend some time wandering through these models. It also helps to test your own capabilities as a spotter without having to walk or wait a lot.

Inside a C-47 Skytrain Dakota

Inside a C-47 Skytrain Dakota.

In this museum you can get on board a C-47 Skytrain (Dakota being the British designation for the airplane). I believe this was the first time I was inside a DC-3 (an aircraft of which importance to aviation cannot be overstated (3)), as if I remember well, in the Aviodrome you could get inside a DC-2 not -3.

Cut out of a Dassault Mirage F1.

Cut out of a Dassault Mirage F1.

In other museums I had seen cut outs of engines, here in Le Bourget you may see a full size cut out of a Dassault Mirage F1, a wonderful entertainment for engineers and aviation enthusiasts.

747 and Ariane 5

747 and Ariane 5.

In Le Bourget you can see replicas of the Ariane 4 and Ariane 5 (4). That allows you to get a picture of both in the same frame or to get them with a Boeing 747, as pictured above.

Inside of a Boeing 747 cut out.

Inside of a Boeing 747 cut out.

The Boeing 747 is legendary aircraft in itself (5) and the chances of flying in it are decreasing by the year as more airplanes are being retired from service. In Le Bourget, you get the chance to see it really from the inside, as parts of it are really cut out so you can admire its structure, systems, etc.

Concorde: prototype 001 and series airliner.

Concorde: prototype 001 and series airliner.

Some museums around the world have the Concorde as a highlight. In some of them you may get into it. Here in Le Bourget you may get into 2, one of them being the prototype 001, where you can see some flight test installations used for different experiments made with it.

I definitely recommend to visit this museum if you happen to be in Paris. It is located at Le Bourget airport and the entrance is free of charge. A ticket to get into some of the aircraft (747, Concorde, C-47) is sold for 8 euros. I would suggest to take no less than 4 hours to visit the museum.

(1) In the Aviodrome the local focus is put into the figure of Anthony Fokker.

(2) See in this post a review of French aviation pioneers.

(3) See more of the DC-3 in this post that a wrote as a tribute to Douglas Aircraft Company.

(4) So far, I had only seen a replica of the Ariane 5 at the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse, see here a post I wrote about it.

(5) See here a book review I wrote about “747” by Joe Sutter, the programme chief engineer.

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A380 sales compared to 747 sales at program start (update 2013)

In the previous post I briefly discussed aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia’s assertion “Airbus will be paying the price for the A380 for many years to come” (see original article) from a purely financial and accounting point of view. In this post I wanted to look at it from the market point of view. To do that I will update with 2013 figures a couple of tables and graphics I built last year comparing A380 and 747 orders at each programme start (see last year’s post here).

First see in the graphic below A380 orders since the programme launch (2001) in comparison to those of the 747 (1966):

A380 and 747 orders referenced to the year of launch of each programme (up to 2013).

A380 and 747 orders referenced to the year of launch of each programme (up to 2013).

Both programmes show an initial sales rush at the time of programme launch. In both cases the rhythm of sales slowed down after the second year. In the first 13 years of program, each had managed:

  • 747: 433 orders.
  • A380: 304 orders (30% less).

Thus, we can see that the Boeing 747 was selling better already from the beginning of the programme.

I include again yet another comparison: aircraft orders taking as reference the year of first delivery, having heard so often the industry mantra that some potential customers would wait to see the aircraft in operation before placing orders. See below this second comparison:

A380 and 747 orders referenced to the year the 1st aircraft delivery of each programme (up to 2013).

A380 and 747 orders referenced to the year the 1st aircraft delivery of each programme (up to 2013).

In this case, and due to the shorter time to develop the Boeing 747 since program launch (1966), the difference in sales is narrowed:

  •  747: 301 orders.
  • A380: 304 orders (about the same).

You can see that, 6 years after the 1st delivery of each aircraft (2007 for the A380 and 1969 for the 747) the A380 and the 747 have sold about the same number of aircraft (thanks, no doubt, to the large recurring order placed at the fall by Emirates).

Boeing 747. The Boeing 747 was the first wide-body in commercial aircraft history and still is the twin-aisle with the highest amount of aircraft sold (1,537 a/c as of today, probably to be soon overtaken by the 777) and delivered (1,482 a/c as of today). However, it has taken over 40 years to reach those numbers. The 1,000th unit sold was reached after 25 years of sales in 1990. The 1,000th unit delivered was also reached after 25 years of aircraft deliveries, in 1993.

Thus, in my opinion, when we want to measure the success of the A380 we cannot be distracted by the figures of other commercial aviation segments (single-aisle and small / intermediate twin-aisle) but we have to check what the 20-year forecasts for the Very Large Aircraft say:

  • ~1,300 aircraft according to Airbus GMF,
  • ~600 aircraft according to Boeing CMO,

and then see what could be expected market share for the A380 against those forecasts and whether it is getting the orders to reach it or not.

Finally, as a reader (Matt B.) of the blog pointed in the comment section in last year’s post:  wide-body market has evolved from the 1970s till today, when there are several competitors and other programmes such as the A330 or the 777 deliver close to 100 airplanes per year.

You can find orders and deliveries figures in both manufacturers websites or summarized here: A380 and 747.

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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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A380 sales compared to 747 sales at program start

Some weeks ago, in a discussion with a colleague we tried to put into context whether the A380 sales were such a dismal or not.

My colleague first plotted A380 orders since the program launch (2001) in comparison to those of the 747 (1966). I show below the result:

A380 and 747 orders referenced to the year of launch of each program.

A380 and 747 orders referenced to the year of launch of each program.

Both programs show an initial sales rush at the time of program launch. In both cases the rhythm of sales slowed down after the second year. In the first 11 years of program, each had managed:

  • A380: 262 orders.
  • 747: 357 orders.

Thus, we can see that the Boeing 747 was selling better already from the beginning of the program.

However, I wanted to make yet another comparison: aircraft orders taking as reference the year of first delivery, having heard so often the industry mantra that some potential customers would want to wait to see the aircraft in operation before placing orders. See below this second comparison:

A380 and 747 orders referenced to the year the 1st aircraft delivery of each program.

A380 and 747 orders referenced to the year the 1st aircraft delivery of each program.

In this case, and due to the shorter time to develop the Boeing 747 since program launch (1966), the difference in sales is narrowed:

  •  A380: 262 orders.
  • 747: 281 orders.

You can see that still, 5 years after the 1st delivery of each aircraft (2007 for the A380 and 1969 for the 747) Boeing had sold more aircraft, but with this reference the margin is lower, 19 aircraft.

Boeing 747. The Boeing 747 was the first wide-body in commercial aircraft history and still is the twin-aisle with the highest amount of aircraft sold (1,528 a/c as of today, probably to be soon overtaken by the 777) and delivered (1,464 a/c as of today). However, it has taken over 40 years to reach those numbers. The 1,000th unit sold was reached after 25 years of sales in 1990. The 1,000th unit delivered was also reached after 25 years of aircraft deliveries, in 1993.

Thus, in my opinion, when we want to measure the success of the A380 we cannot be distracted by the figures of other commercial aviation segments (single-aisle and small / intermediate twin-aisle) but we have to check what the 20-year forecasts for the Very Large Aircraft say:

  • ~1,300 aircraft according to Airbus GMF,
  • ~600 aircraft according to Boeing CMO,

and then see what could be expected market share for the A380 against those forecasts and whether it is getting the orders to reach it or not.

You can find orders and deliveries figures in both manufacturers websites or summarized here: A380 and 747.

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