Tag Archives: A380

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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Airbus, the biggest factory of France

Last Sunday, March 27th, the French TV channel M6 played, within its programme 66 minutes, the documentary “Airbus, la plus grande usine de France” (Airbus, the biggest factory of France). It can be watched in the website of the programme here (it lasts about 47′, in French).

A380The documentary opened with amazing scenes of the transportation of A380 components by road to Toulouse, it then covered different scenes of life at Airbus in Toulouse: the A380 final assembly line, the preparation and execution of flight tests (with again the A380 as flight test bed to test the Trent XWB 97k engine), inspections by the airlines of the finished product at the delivery centre, the factory and the Airbus lycée at Saint Eloi for apprentices, the cabin mock-up centre, last-minute negotiations and payment process at Airbus headquarters in Blagnac (“le quartier chic”)… It provides a good view of the life in Toulouse around aviation, including details down to traffic jams, lunch at the canteen, checks at the security gates, etc.

It was good to see the documentary with the family as it let us show where we wander around along the year.

In this post, apart from sharing the documentary I wanted to reflect on its title, “Airbus, the biggest factory of France“.

Airbus Group (1) employs over 130,000 workers world-wide. Over half of those work for Airbus, the division which builds commercial airliners such as the A380. This was the subject of the documentary. Airbus employs about 30,000 workers in France, over 15,000 in the Toulouse area (2).

To put this into perspective I will refer to and wanted to share the following sources:

MapThe reports and listings published by the French business weekly magazine “L’Usine nouvelle“. You can see here the latest listing of the top 100 factories in France. Be sure of it, Airbus Toulouse is the biggest one, followed by Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand and PSA-Peugeot Citroën in Montbéliard (Airbus Helicopters in Marignane comes 5th).

Even better, they published a handy map downloadable here [PDF, 5.5 MB] with those top 100 factories. If you want to study geography of France, you’d better start with this map.

 

An old post I wrote about the “Impact of Airbus in Toulouse employment” making some numbers using the concepts of direct, indirect and induced employment to gauge the impact of Airbus in a mid-size city like Toulouse.

(1) Formerly EADS, which encompasses Airbus commercial airplanes, Airbus Defence and Space (including military transport aircraft (e.g. A400M), fighters (Eurofighter) and former Astrium) and Airbus Helicopters (former Eurocopter).

(2) Between Airbus Operations and Airbus SAS (the headquarters or “le quartier chic” as labelled in the documentary).

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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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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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A380: “one-off items” versus “accounting block”

Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia recently published an opinion article at Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, Airbus Twin-Aisles—Big Needs, Limited Means, in which he discussed strategic product portfolio options for Airbus. He was particularly critical to the A380. Let me bring a couple of passages from the article:

Historically, Airbus has spent more than Boeing on development as a percent of sales than. But during the past 15 years, the bulk of this heavy spending was squandered on the A380. Today, development spending is set to fall in line with the company’s new direction. Last year, it fell below 6% for the first time since the company was established (see graph). Given the requirements of funding the A350XWB and A320neo, Airbus isn’t likely to have the resources to fund both an A330neo and A380neo and a new large twin, too. Tough choices will need to be made. […]

In short, Airbus will be paying the price for the A380 for many years to come.

From these 2 paragraphs, the first assertions are factual: Airbus spends more on research and development than Boeing Commercial Airplanes and during the last years most of that spending was dedicated to the A380. In my opinion the last sentence overstates the issue of the current burden of A380 over the company’s future. If the A380 did not derail EADS during 2006-2010 it will not do so in the coming years. As numbers show and top management has indicated at investors events the A380 programme is expected “to emerge from the red by 2015“.

A380 MSN4 (credit: A. Doumenjou).

Today the A380 is a recurring cost issue, not more. The situation would be entirely different had Airbus (or rather EADS, now Airbus Group) applied the same accounting system that Boeing does (since the merger with McDonnell Douglas). EADS has passed in the profit and loss accounts in the previous years several one-off items related to the A380 valued in billions of euros (refer to yearly financial reports). What is left are R&D (mainly D) expenses to bring down unitary recurring costs and producing enough numbers of aircraft so that learning curve effects can be benefited from.

On the other hand, Boeing accounting system spreads the capital expenditures and research and development costs along what they refer to as an accounting block, which for example for the 787 now takes 1,300 airplanes to amortize those costs (previously were 1,100, see here a post on the 787 break even).

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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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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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