Tag Archives: A350

Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2017

In the last weeks, both Airbus and Boeing have released the figures of aircraft deliveries for the complete 2017. This is just a quick post to update a graphic with the commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year since 1969 (year of the introduction of the 747) till 2017 (1).

Commercial wide-body airplanes' deliveries per year, 1969-2017

Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2017.

Some reflections:

For the first time ever, in 2015 over 400 twin-aisle aircraft were delivered in a year (412), the same feat was achieved in 2016 (402). In 2017 production descended to 394 twin-aisles, still the third best year in wide-body history.

The average number of deliveries for the previous 20-year period (1997-2016) was 239 airplanes per year. Up to now, in the 49 years of twin-aisle market, in only 6 years more than 300 airplanes were delivered in a single year, the six last years, and only in other 9 years more than 200 airplanes had been delivered.

The combined steep production ramp-up during last years has enabled to reach a production rate of more than the double of what was produced in 2010. In particular, the combined compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the rate of deliveries for the last 10 years has been 7.1%. These rates are above the yearly growth of traffic (measured in RPKs).

With the figures up to the end of 2017, nearly 8,800 wide-body airplanes had been delivered. Thus, by mid-2018, we will certainly reach the 9,000th. However, we won’t know whether the 9,000th twin aisle will be a Boeing or an Airbus.

The share of wide-body deliveries in 2017: 59% Boeing and 41% Airbus.

There were 136 787s delivered in 2017. A remarkable feat: one aircraft short of its 2016 record of 137 deliveries, the largest amount of twin-aisle deliveries of a single model in a single year ever. Only the 787 and the A330 have ever been delivered in excess of 100 aircraft in any given year (4 times for each aircraft).


(1) See here a previous post with the figures up to 2015.

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Twin-aisle aircraft deliveries 20-year forecast (update 2015)

In a previous post I shared a graphic with the “Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2015” (see below). I then commented:

“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.”

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

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

Last November, I published a post, “Airbus vs. Boeing, comparison of market forecasts (2015)“, with the following table that compares Airbus’ Global Market Forecast and Boeing’s Current Market Outlook:

Comparison of Airbus GMF and Boeing CMO 2015-2034.

Comparison of Airbus GMF and Boeing CMO 2015-2034.

If we focus on the twin-aisle segment, we see that both companies are very closely forecasting between 7,500 and 7,600 passenger aircraft deliveries (with less than 90 aircraft of difference, a 1.2% deviation). The forecast for the freighters is not shown in the table but it is also very similar for the segment, between 718 (Airbus’ view) and 800 (Boeing’s) freighter aircraft. In combination, each company foresees between  8,290 (Boeing view) and 8,297 (Airbus’) airplanes’ deliveries in the segment. Remarkably similar and definitely converged from years ago.

In the very large aircraft segment both forecasts do not converge. But since the figures of deliveries are an order of magnitude lower, I will focus on what they define as “twin-aisle” segment.

Let’s put forward again the question: was 2015 a peak year in terms of twin-aisle deliveries?

Quick math: if we take those ~8,300 aircraft to be delivered in the next 20 years, we arrive at an average of 415 aircraft per year. That figure excludes the very large aircraft. In 2015, there were 367 deliveries of twin-aisles (excluding A380 and 747):

  • A330: 103
  • A350XWB: 14
  • 767: 16
  • 777: 98
  • 787: 135
  • IL-96: 1

Thus, in 2015 we would have been far from the peak. If we simply linearized those 8,300 deliveries from 2015 levels up to 2034, we would get the following profile:

Twin-aisle deliveries historic and 20-year forecast.

Twin-aisle deliveries historic and 20-year forecast.

The reader may correctly think that market forecast figures are not engraved in stone and are rather optimistic. Fair enough.

Both forecast have been rather accurate in the past forecasting traffic growth. Not necessarily in forecasting the number of aircraft in each specific segment. See the post, “Aircraft market forecasts accuracy (update 2014)“,  in which I analyzed Boeing CMO forecast of 1999 with the actual fleet at the end of 2013. See the result below:

Comparison of aircraft fleet at year-end 2013: 1999 forecast vs. actual (sources: Boeing CMO 1999 and 2014).

Comparison of aircraft fleet at year-end 2013: 1999 forecast vs. actual (sources: Boeing CMO 1999 and 2014).

Thus, in 2013 there were 27% less twin-aisle aircraft than what had been predicted in 1999.

If 2015 market forecasts were off the mark in the same proportion (27%), that would mean that instead of 8,300 airplane deliveries in the next 20 years we would see about 6,050… meaning ~300 airplanes per year in the 20-year span.

In that case, we might have seen the peak.

Let’s take a look at current backlogs at the end of 2015:

  • Airbus: 1,112 a/c
    • A330 family: 350 a/c
    • A350: 762 a/c
  • Boeing: 1,383 a/c
    • 767: 80 a/c
    • 777 family: 524 a/c
    • 787: 779 a/c

Thus, at the end of 2015 the combined backlog (firm) stood at ~2,500 airplanes. That is a 30% of the 8,300 forecast, and a 41% of the 6,050 aircraft (i.e. forecast reduced in 27%).

The sceptic reader could still have doubts of the quality of the backlog (i.e., some customers may go through troubled waters and cancel orders).

Last year, I published a post, “Boeing 787 orders, cancellations, deliveries & backlog through 2014“, in which I showed the orders and cancellations of the 787 programme since its launch. See the summary graphic below:

787 orders, cancellations, deliveries and backlog through 2014.

787 orders, cancellations, deliveries and backlog through 2014.

The 787 programme experienced serious delays and industrial issues from 2009 to 2013 in the midst of the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Through 2014, the programme had suffered 247 cancellations out of 1,318 gross orders, that is almost 19% of cancellations.

I believe that 19% can be considered an upper ceiling of how much of the current 2015 twin-aisle backlog (~2,500 a/c) could be considered as dubious. Thus, at least about 2,000 firm orders could be seen as rather secured.

Let’s see at the question (was 2015 a peak year?) from a different perspective: in the immediate coming years, what are the announced production rates?

Thus, according to the announced production rates and targets, in 2016 we should see about 380 twin-aisle combined deliveries, higher than the 367 we saw in 2015.

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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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Learning Curves (case in point)

In a previous post I made an introduction of the concept of learning curve and the gains that can be achieved through experience, with the focus on aerospace industry.

Case in point 1

Few days ago I found an interesting blog post at Leeham News, “Lessons learned from A380, 787 benefit A350“, which discusses lessons learned reportedly being applied into the A350 programme and includes two interesting tables. I will use one of those tables in order to show an exercise of learning curve calculation, without caring of whether the information included in the table is accurate or reflects actual lead times of A350 at Final Assembly Line (FAL). [I do not validate the information of the table despite of using it for an intellectual exercise.]

A350 days in FAL as reported by Leeham News (Reprinted with permission by Leeham Co).

If we take the lead times reported by Leeham News in the table above, we can calculate to what learning curve profile would those lead times correspond. See the result in the graphic below:

Learning Curves.

Learning Curves.

The information reported by Leeham News corresponds to a learning curve between 85% and 90%, about 88%. If figures resemble the reality, between the first and second units, the learning was closer to 95%, however, between the 2nd and 3rd it improved greatly. Since the 3rd unit, the learning is more stabilized at about 88%. [Again, having made this calculation as an exercise does not validate the information taken as an input]

It is important to bear in mind the units used in this calculation are days. Days of assembly are linked to unit production costs, but not necessarily in a linear fashion, as it will depend on the labor / automation being employed in the production of each unit, which may change as production evolves. It is also important to note, that the example of learning curve calculated would refer only to assembly at FAL and not to the overall production process, from material costs, production at earlier stages of the manufacturing process, etc. The value added at FAL is but a minor percentage of the value of an airplane.

I leave for a following post a case in point 2, with the learning curve of the 787 during 2013.

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Twin-aisle aircraft deliveries 20-year forecast

I read in the following article “Airbus seeks to increase Washington State supply business; aims for 13 A350s/mo” (from Leeham News) how from a presentation of a A350 supplier (ElectroImpact) at an aerospace suppliers event in Washington State, it was concluded that the Airbus aimed at building 13 A350s per month, as the mentioned supplier had built its factory with capacity to extend production rates up to those 13 aircraft.

This would be news because in its presentations Airbus talks about a production ramp-up up to 10 a/c per month (as does Boeing for the 787, which 10 aircraft/month should be reached by the end of 2013).

Having analyzed several times Airbus’ Global Market Forecast (GMF) and Boeing’s Current Market Outlook (CMO), I believe that those production rates of above 10 aircraft per month should be expected by industry followers just by seeing the numbers included in those forecasts.

In 2012, the GMF forecasted about 6,500 twin-aisle to be delivered in the next 20 years. The CMO indicated 7,210 aircraft. In 2013, Boeing CMO slightly reduced the figure to 7,130 a/c.

Comparison of Airbus GMF and Boeing CMO 2012-2031.

Thus, both companies expect between 6,500 to 7,200 twin-aisle passenger aircraft to be delivered in the following 20 years (excluding freighters, 747 and A380 – these 2 considered as Very Large Aircraft in the studies).

1st approach. If we were to take the mid-point of both forecasts, about 6,850 a/c, and simply divided by 20 years, we would reach to an average figure of 343 twin-aisle aircraft to be delivered per year between the 2 manufacturers, or 28 a/c per month. If Airbus wanted to maintain the long-term 50% market share, it would have to aim at delivering 14 a/c per month between all its twin-aisle products, which soon will be A330 and A350.

2nd approach. However, current twin-aisle production levels are in no way close to those 343 a/c per year. In 2012 there were 258 deliveries thanks to the introduction of 787s, but in the previous decade the average was about ~165 a/c per year. Thus, manufacturers must have a deliveries’ ramp up to accommodate those 6,850 in the next 20 years. Not knowing what that ramp-up is, I just linearized from where we are today and what is to be delivered.

I plotted in the graphic below all the deliveries of twin-aisle (excluding Very Large Aircraft) from the 1970s to 2012, and then what a forecast could be departing from 2012 deliveries’ figure to accommodate ~6,850 a/c in the next 20 years.

Taking a look at the graphic, one can already understand that if we take the GMF and CMO forecasts as good ones, the manufacturing rhythm will have to accelerate in the following years, especially in the second decade. In the late 2020s, over 400 twin-aisle would have to be delivered per year (over 33 per month), thus manufacturers will have to churn above 16 a/c per month each, that is the double of what they produced during the last decade.

Twin-aisle deliveries: historic series (1970s-2012) and forecast (excludes VLA -A380  & 747).

Twin-aisle deliveries: historic series (1970s-2012) and forecast (excludes VLA -A380 & 747).

Market shares. One could wonder whether this growth will favour more one company or the other. I compared market shares (excluding VLA):

  • in 2012: Boeing delivered 155 twin-aisle (26 767s, 83 777s, 46 787s) vs. Airbus 103 a/c (101 A330s, 2 A340s)… 60% / 40%.
  • in 2003-2012: Boeing delivered 839 twin aisle (148 767s, 642 777s, 49 787s) vs. Airbus 880 a/c (44 A300s, 687 A330s, 149 A340s)… 48% / 51%.
  • in 1993-2012: Boeing delivered 1,687 twin aisle (572 767s, 1,066 777s, 49 787s) vs. Airbus 1,521 a/c (175 A300s, 31 A310s, 938 A330s, 377 A340s)… 50% / 45%.

[The shares in the past decades include marginal deliveries from Ilyushin models and McDonnell Douglas models, which share I kept out of Boeing even after the merger in august 1997, these are ~30 a/c to be added to the 1,687]

Seeing that market shares have been fluctuating but always around 40-60% for each company, they could expect to have to at least deliver 40% of those 6,850 a/c in 20 years, or of those above 400 a/c in the late 2020s.

Backlog. Finally, just to see how the twin-aisle mix for each company is going to be, let’s look at the aircraft on order (backlog) that each company has as of today (end June 2013):

  • Airbus (43%):
    • A330: 260 a/c to be delivered.
    • A350: 678 a/c to be delivered.
  • Boeing (57%):
    • 767: 56 a/c to be delivered.
    • 777: 339 a/c to be delivered.
    • 787: 864 a/c to be delivered.

Thus, of the 6,850 twin-aisle to be delivered in the next 20 years, about 2,200 are already contracted as of today (plus the above 130 a/c delivered within the first half of 2013), thus 33% of those 6,850 a/c is more or less secured and among those the split is 57 / 43 for Boeing.

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An aircraft worth its weight in gold?

Airbus announced last January that it had raised the list prices of its commercial aircraft by an average of 5.8%. It had not updated its prices since 2008. You may see the current prices here: Airbus list prices

Boeing also discloses in its website the range of list prices of its aircraft. Those prices haven’t been increased in the last two years.  

Few years ago, I saw for the first time a comparison of prices of aircraft per kilogram. It was prepared by a teacher I had at EOI Business School in Seville, Felipe Moran, who later has become a co-worker. With this post I will start a series of comparisons, the first one being precisely that one: an update on price per kilogram of aircraft. 

We already saw where to get the prices from. The other input we are going to use is the weight of the aircraft, what is called: Operating Empty Weight (OEW). You may find this information in various places, I recommend you to pay a visit to Boeing’s “Airplane Characteristics for Airport Planning”, where you will find very detailed data of all its commercial aircraft.  (While gathering this info I also came across the following section dedicated to fun facts of the legendary Jumbo 747).  

Combining these inputs we can build the following table. 

Price per kg of commercial aircraft.

Some facts may counter intuition: 

  • There doesn’t seem to be a clear discrimination between older and newer aircraft (A380 and some 787 models rank among cheapest, while A350-900 and 787-9 are among the most expensive).
  • Smaller Airbuses rank among the most expensive aircraft in a per kg basis despite the suggested price war that was reported by the specialized press in the recent years.

With the exceptions of A350-900 and 787-9 there seems to be a very slight trend in bigger aircraft being cheaper in this per kg basis. One may argue that once the frame of a certain size is built, building a bigger one might not cost that much

Now, let’s talk about the Military Transport business. Do we think those aircraft are more or less expensive? On one hand, those aircraft are not carrying systems such as the in-flight entertainment and, on the other, the scale of the market is smaller (with few exceptions such as the C-130) and they do carry diverse military systems, protections, etc. What is the trend weighting more in the balance? 

Military transport aircraft price per kg.

As you can see, military transport aircraft are on average 25% more expensive on a per kg basis. There is much more technology in them than people tends to think… they are clearly not just flying trucks. 

As you may have noted I have not included any sources for the prices of these aircraft, since they are rarely disclosed. I have used prices reported by the press and US budgets. 

Let’s stretch the argument a bit more… What is the trend for fighter aircraft? This time scales are bigger than in military transport. Does this make them cheaper? See the table. 

Fighter aircraft price per kg.

Not even close. Fighters are around 3.2 and 4 times more expensive than military transport and commercial aircraft, respectively, on a per kg basis.  

We can see in the following graphic all these aircraft together and maybe spot those trends. 

Aircraft prices per kg.

Now that we have an idea of how much aircraft cost per kg (1,700$ commercial aircraft, 2,100$ military transport aircraft and 6,700$ fighter aircraft)… is this expensive? Expensive compare to what? 

Let’s relate these prices to something closer to us. 

Cars: 

  • The best-selling car in Spain in 2009, was the Renault Megane (with 52,156 cars sold). It costs about 17,700 € (or 24 k$) and weighs 1,150 kg, this yields: 21 $/kg, clearly cheaper, about 80 times cheaper than commercial aircraft on a per kg basis. 
  • More up-scale cars such as the Mercedes Class E 350 CDI (56,000€ and 1,825 kg) or the Audi Q7 4.2 TDI (85,000€ and 2,605 kg) are more expensive per kg, 41$/kg and 44 $/kg, respectively. This is 40 times cheaper than commercial aircraft.

It may be worthy to note that in the cars we see the completely opposite trend than that we saw in airplanes: the bigger the car the more expensive on a per kg basis. 

Let’s compare this yet again with some other unrelated luxury item: Jamón Ibérico Puro de Bellota de Jabugo 5J. Today it was on offer in El Corte Ingles website for only 449€, a piece of about 7 kg, yielding: 87 $/kg. This is twice more expensive than buying a Mercedes (this may be the reason why it was an offer from Sanchez Romero supermarkets) but still 20 times cheaper than a commercial airliner. 

To end this post, let’s answer the question posed in the title of the post: 

The kilogram of gold is in the order of 35,400$, clearly more expensive than any aircraft. 

After all, nowadays, we may find no aircraft worth its weight in gold.

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