One of our more popular blog postings tends to be our updates on either the quarterly or annual operational performance numbers for the two dominant commercial aerospace manufacturers, Airbus, and Boeing. The interest levels extend not only from supply chain participants in each of these manufacturers but across their global supply chain ecosystems.
Thus, this posting updates on the latest Q1-2017 operational data.
Overall, the operational numbers would indicate that Boeing had a relative excellent Q1 while Airbus experienced an unusual slower than expected start to 2017.
We begin with Airbus, which reported a total of 136 commercial aircraft deliveries in the March-ending quarter. That compares with 125 total deliveries in Q1-2016. The Q1-2017 breakout includes:
107 single aisle aircraft (A320ceo, A320neo, A321ceo)
In an operational review conducted in February 2015, Airbus made supply-chain wide plans to target a production rate of 50 A320’s per month by early 2017. Thus, among the closely-watched numbers are the deliveries of the A320ceo and A320neo (new engine option). At the close of Q1, the single aisle grouping has a rather significant 5547 of backlog orders from airlines with high expectations related to improved and more fuel-efficient performance. The Q1 report indicates that a total of 36 A320ceo and 26 A320neos were delivered in Q1. Our sense is that Airbus would have preferred these numbers to be reversed.
The new engine option (neo) features an airline choice of two available, new fuel efficient aircraft engines, either the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan (GTF) engines or the CFM International alliance of General Electric and Safran LEAP engines. The Pratt engine was added to production in Q3-2016 while the CFM International engine has been incorporated in the recently completed quarter.
During 2016, Supply Chain Matters highlighted some significant challenges related to delayed deliveries of the new Pratt GTF engine featured on the neo model, which both significantly impacted Q3-2016 and to a lesser extent, Q4-2016 deliveries to airline customers. The GTF became a rather visible broken-link in the A320 supply chain because of ongoing issues related to operational performance in high heat or humid climatic conditions such as that reflected in certain Asia or Middle East environments. Qatar Airways has been especially vocal regarding the performance of the GTF powered A320neo. Both Bloomberg and Aviation Week have recently reported that while the new Pratt GTF engines are meeting promised 15-20 percent fuel savings, combustion chamber and bearing distress glitches continue with engines operating in certain climates. Bloomberg reported that as of the end of February, as many as 42 GTF engines had to be taken off-wing prematurely, most in environments in India, which currently has the largest fleet of operational A320neo’s. Pratt has been responsive to operating airlines, but the new engine spares are likely coming from engines destined to support new production. Modifications to the combustor and additional upgrades are due by the end of the third quarter. For Airbus, the fallback is concentrating A320neo production on allocated Pratt CFM engines or the new CFM International engine which thus far is showing no signs of glitches.
Turning to new orders, Airbus reported a rather lackluster total of 6 net aircraft orders in Q1, after experiencing several cancellations during the quarter including 8 A320neo’s and 2 A380 jumbo aircraft. Total gross orders were 26 aircraft in the quarter. None the less, the traditional rule of thumb in commercial aerospace is to book more orders than actual deliveries. As we have noted in this year’s predictions, that period may be ending.
Boeing reported a total of 169 aircraft delivered in the quarter. Late last year, Boeing announced to its investors that is was going to scale-down deliveries in 2017. Boeing’s Q1-2016 deliveries were a total of 176 aircraft. The breakout for Q1-2017 included:
Boeing’s most critical delivery number also relates to its single-aisle 737. The more fuel efficient 737 MAX is still in the final stages of flight certification and is thus not reflected in Q1 deliveries. There are, from our lens, two positive notes from this latest quarterly report of deliveries. The first is the 32 reported deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner, an indication that prior production glitches and consequent shortfalls are likely resolved. The 787 is produced by two separate Boeing final assembly production facilities. The other is 777 family- with the newer more fuel-efficient and technically advanced 777X family announced to the market, Boeing has done a good job of filling production slots for the now legacy 777 model.
For new orders, Boeing reported a total of 198 net new orders in Q1, a rather stunning performance considering Airbus’s Q1 order performance. This number was far ahead of the 121 net orders logged in the first quarter of 2016. The breakdown included:
As our commercial aerospace readers are aware, net order performance can vary in any given quarter, with announcements tied to specific events such as major air shows or investor conferences. That stated, Airbus has several challenges to address in the coming months, both on the inbound orders flow and in addressing A320neo production glitches. Regarding the latter, we surmise that Airbus’s patience for added glitches or supply shortfalls may be on the edge.
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