Advertisements

The Problem With Suing Boeing For Its 737 MAX: Consequences

Airlines and leasing companies were trying to promote competition amongst aircraft manufacturers before the sector further consolidated with Airbus buying Bombardier’s C Series and Boeing proposing a majority stake in Embraer’s commercial division. That firmly leaves the aircraft pipeline, excluding the long-term emergence of China and Russia, to an Airbus-Boeing duopoly.

It is a calculated risk for a 737 MAX buyer to sue Boeing. No matter how right the purchaser is found to be, it risks infuriating Boeing in a best case scenario. Worse is the lawsuit against Boeing from Dublin-based lessor Timaero Ireland Ltd., a subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned VEB Leasing JSC.

Timaero claimed to the federal court in Chicago this month that Boeing in this 737 MAX crisis was motivated by greed, knowingly committed fraud, has “rendered the aircraft worthless,” and “the public has lost complete confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX.”

Besides seeking $185 million in damages for its order book of 22 MAXs, Timaero asks for unspecified compensation for lost profit, and for punitive damages to be calculated at three times the amount of compensatory damages.

Timaero also wants its contract with Boeing cancelled. Airbus, knowing it is the only alternative, might not have to price so aggressively. Loss of negotiating leverage on future aircraft orders is not the sole downside for 737 MAX buyers considering legal action against Boeing. They worry about the Boeing aircraft they already operate and which will need the airframer’s support for years and potentially decades to come.

Some concerns: Boeing support not covered under contract may not eventuate, or be given at a high price. This covers not just engineering work but also other areas including regulatory, legal and if the aircraft changes owner. Previously contracted support may be provided at the minimal level of service while taking the maximum length of time permitted.

The sector is paying more attention to aftermarket support with a flurry of activity, including Boeing in 2017 establishing its own aftermarket division, Boeing Global Services, which aims to grow revenue from $14.6 billion to $50 billion within a decade. Boeing Global Services CEO Stan Deal was made CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes in October, replacing Kevin McAllister.

Airlines ranging in size from Southwest to Icelandair have reached compensation agreements with Boeing. There are reports numerous airlines and lessors are unhappy with Boeing offering minimal compensation, preferring to give a discount on future orders rather than upfront cash, and that Boeing is discouraging lawsuits with the quip that only lawyers win. Turkey’s Demirören said Turkish Airlines was preparing a lawsuit.

Timaero makes statements Boeing has already agreed with or which could be fair. But there are also sweeping views Boeing may find contentious. Rather than the lawsuit be a formula for more MAX buyers suing Boeing, Timaero may be an outlier due to its unique commercial situation.

There is a view lessors over-ordered aircraft at the peak of the recent cycle and were eager to reduce their backlog prior to the MAX crisis. Timaero has further challenges. Parent owner VEB in 2014 placed an order for 20 MAXs, which it planned to lease to Transaero, the Russian airline that went out business in 2015. That left VEB exposed to the 20 MAXs and an order for 20 Airbus A320neos that VEB also planned to lease to Transaero. VEB increased its MAX order to 22 in 2016 by converting two 737 NGs to MAXs. Russian media say VEB made pre-delivery payments, at least 10% of contract price, on all 42 aircraft.

Timaero has received only two MAXs, at least one of which is leased to Eastar Jet in Korea via VEB. Eastar has encountered financial problems from the MAX grounding as well as the wider changes in the Korean market as a result of a downturn in travel to Japan and weaker consumer sentiment from the strengthening Korean won. Rival Jeju Air agreed in December to buy 51% of Eastar.

Timaero may be willing and able to cancel its MAX order, recoup pre-delivery payments and perhaps other costs. But other lessors as well as airlines need to receive the best outcome while continuing to have competition between Airbus and Boeing.

Follow me on Twitter.

I have been covering airlines and aerospace in Asia-Pacific for 10 years. I am particularly interested in aeropolitics, cross-border investments, partnerships, transformations, new revenue growth and start-ups. I am originally from New York City, graduated from the University of Melbourne, and now live in Hong Kong.

Source: The Problem With Suing Boeing For Its 737 MAX: Consequences

707K subscribers
Last week the Aircraft manufacturer Boeing’s apologised for two deadly crashes involving its 737 MAX model. This week a group of Indonesians whose relatives were killed in the first crash is going to be suing Boeing for compensation. An Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 crashed shortly after take-off on March 10, killing all 157 people on board. The same Boeing model was involved in a Lion Air plane crash in Indonesia in October that killed 189 people. To give us a sense of what these developments mean for the planemaker we are now joined by aviation expert from Fraymedia Desmond Latham. For more news, visit: sabcnews.com

 

Advertisements

Boeing To Halt 737 Output In January In Move That Will Strain Its Supply Chain

Since the grounding of the 737 MAX following the second of two deadly crashes in March, Boeing has sought to keep the production line moving and to minimize disruptions to the intricate web of smaller companies it relies on to supply roughly 80% of the components that make up its best-selling plane. However, with the Chicago-based company’s hopes dashed of winning approval by year-end for the 737 MAX to return to service, it has decided to halt assembly of the plane in January.

That could have far-reaching consequences for Boeing’s suppliers depending on the duration of the production freeze. The company didn’t address how long it could last.

“This decision is driven by a number of factors, including the extension of certification into 2020, the uncertainty about the timing and conditions of return to service and global training approvals, and the importance of ensuring that we can prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft,” the plane maker said in a statement Monday evening.

No layoffs are planned. The company said that the 12,000 workers at its Renton, Washington, factory will continue 737-related work or will be temporarily reassigned to other factories in the Puget Sound area.

Layoffs or furloughs could be forthcoming, however, at some suppliers. Among those that could face the greatest stresses are its aerostructures suppliers, chiefly Spirit AeroSystems, which makes the fuselage for the 737 MAX, analysts say.

The airframe is the largest portion of a plane, but building it is one-off work, with none of the highly profitable maintenance and repair sales that suppliers of other components enjoy. And smaller aerostructures suppliers have been left financially stressed as they tooled up to prepare to raise production of the 737 MAX while Boeing stretched out payment terms to 90 to 120 days, says Kevin Michaels, a consultant with Aerodynamic Advisory.

If it’s more than a one-month production pause, “Boeing and Spirit would need to be prepared to intervene to make sure small, vulnerable suppliers are there on the other side of this,” he says.

Boeing has been burning through $5.5 billion a quarter as it has built roughly 400 737 MAX aircraft it can’t deliver because of the worldwide grounding of the plane, and its balance sheet can no longer sustain that rate of spending, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analyst Ronald Epstein said in a research note earlier Monday.

No deliveries means precious little revenue for Boeing: It typically only collects 1% to 5% of the purchase price of a plane as a down payment, with the final 50% due on delivery and the balance coming in payments as the delivery date approaches.

The darkening skies for airlines also were likely a factor in Boeing’s decision to halt output. Airlines placed thousands of orders for new airplanes while passenger numbers were expanding briskly this decade, peaking at 7.6% growth in 2017. This year passenger growth has slowed sharply, to a rate of 3.4% in October, and airlines aren’t likely to go out of their way to help Boeing expedite delivery of new planes next year for fear of adding unnecessary capacity, says Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace consultant with Teal Group.

Boeing had been planning to ramp up 737 production this year from 52 planes a month to 57. Instead, in April it reduced output to 42 a month, but it had Spirit continue to build 52 fuselages a month in what may have been a concession to the more sensitive condition of aerostructures suppliers. With no aftermarket revenue, they require certainty and consistency in delivery schedules to make the business work, says Michaels. “It’s a ballet that’s choreographed,” he says.

Spirit is working with Boeing to determine what the freeze means for the company and what steps it will take to mitigate the impact, a spokesperson told Forbes. In its second-quarter earnings call, Spirit CEO Tom Gentile said the company had game-planned pausing or reducing output in the event that Boeing halted 737 production.

Spirit furloughed thousands of employees one day a week for 10 weeks over the summer to cut costs.

Another public aerostructures supplier that stands to be squeezed is Ducommun, which makes spoilers, engine inlet bulkheads and exhaust fairings for the 737 MAX using titanium that it orders 12 months in advance. The 737 accounted for roughly 16% of Ducommun’s revenue in 2018.

Boeing didn’t respond to questions on what steps it would take to support suppliers through the freeze.

If suppliers halt production, Boeing will need to pay some to keep capacity in place, says Aboulafia.

The decision to halt production rather than slow the rate promises to make it more difficult for Boeing and its suppliers to raise output when it’s over. “Think of it as a standing start versus a running start,” says Aboulafia. A complete halt “puts enormous pressure on their supply chain and makes it hard to get back to 42 a month, let alone 52 or 57.”

Layoffs would further complicate the picture given the strong job market.

General Electric and Safran, which produce the MAX’s LEAP-1B engines through their joint venture CFM International, could be forced to adjust production rates. Engine component makers could most likely handle a short production pause, but it remains the most stressed part of the supply chain, Michaels said, amid teething problems for the LEAP and Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan. GE and Safran might need to help out some that are dependent on the LEAP, he says.

Interiors suppliers stand to be hurt a little more than other sectors by a production halt, he says, due to the lower share of aftermarket work in their revenues, he says. Collins, Recaro, Safran and Hexcel are among the interiors suppliers on the MAX.

Boeing warned in its October earnings report that it might halt or slow production if it were unable to win approval this year from safety regulators for revisions to the 737 MAX flight controls and related training changes.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told the House transportation committee last week that he would not clear the plane to fly until 2020, and summoned Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg to a meeting in Washington to address concerns that the company was attempting to publicly pressure the agency to move more quickly.

Dickson has stated repeatedly that he has no timeline for when the 737 MAX will return to service. Boeing made no mention of a date in its statement Monday. Bank of America analyst Epstein is forecasting March 1, but warns it could slip to April or May given uncertainties on Boeing’s progress toward meeting certification requirements and regulators’ deliberate approach.

Boeing shares fell 4.3% to close at $327.00; Spirit dropped 1.6% to $78.88.

Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

I help direct our coverage of autos, energy and manufacturing, and write about aerospace and defense. Send tips to jbogaisky[at]forbes.com

Source: Boeing To Halt 737 Output In January In Move That Will Strain Its Supply Chain

473K subscribers
Dec.16 — Boeing Co. is reportedly weighing temporarily halting production of the 737 Max as regulatory clearance for the grounded jet’s return looks increasingly likely to move beyond January 2020. Bloomberg’s Benedict Kammel reports on “Bloomberg Surveillance.”

 

How Airlines Are Defending Dormant 737 MAX Jets From The Ravages Of Corrosion, Insects And Time

Boeing 737 MAX planes have been stuck on the ground now for five months. With the likelihood rising that they won’t return to service before the winter, some airlines may soon have to deal with the danger that the planes could literally become stuck to the ground.

Tires of planes that are parked for long periods of time can freeze to the tarmac during subzero weather, warns a Boeing maintenance manual for the previous generation of 737 aircraft. It advises maintenance workers to place sand or a coarse fiber mat under the tires and covers over the wheels and brake assemblies to protect them from the corrosive effects of rain and snow.

With the end of summer drawing closer, Air Canada is considering moving its 24 737 MAX planes south to the gentler climes of a desert storage yard, a spokesperson told Forbes. WestJet says it’s content to keep its 13 planes in Canada, spooling up the engines every week and taking them for a spin on the apron around their hangars.

Airlines have had 387 MAX planes sitting quietly at airports and storage facilities around the world since March, when the second of two horrific crashes led aviation authorities worldwide to ground Boeing’s best-selling plane. Boeing is storing roughly another 200 that it has assembled but can’t deliver.

Planes are built to move. Making sure these aren’t damaged from their prolonged grounding has become the mission of a small army of maintenance staff. The longer the planes’ wings are clipped, the more needs to be done. Among the main tools, as prescribed by the 737 manual: copious amounts of yellow 3M vinyl tape No. 471 to seal off gaps and sensors, and an array of lubricants.

Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of the 737 MAX, is storing its fleet of 34 planes in the dry heat of the high Mojave desert at an airfield in Victorville, California. Once a week, maintenance workers power up the Leap-1B engines, which their maker, CFM International, a partnership between General Electric and Safran, recommend should be idled for 15 to 20 minutes to vaporize any moisture that may have collected in the oil and fuel systems and to cover engine parts with a new coat of oil to prevent corrosion. Southwest technicians also boot up the flight computers and auxiliary power units weekly.

The doors of planes stored in the desert are generally opened during summer days so the cabins aren’t damaged by the heat, says David Querio, president of Ascent Aviation Services, which operates at Pinal Airpark in Arizona, one of the largest aircraft storage yards in the world.

Birds sometimes nest on a plane, and, rarely, an animal will take advantage of an open door to take up residence inside. “They’re removed the same day if they’re stupid enough to do that,” says Querio.

As the timeline for the 737 MAX’s return has receded further over the past few weeks, some airlines could decide to put their planes into a state of deeper storage, with the engines preserved and batteries and other sensitive parts removed, says Tim Zemanovic, president of the Minnesota aircraft disassembly firm Fillmore Aviation. Because it requires fewer regular maintenance tasks, this type of storage generally runs half the cost of active storage, at roughly $1,000 a month per plane, he says, but it means it would take more time to ready the planes to fly again when aviation regulators sign off on Boeing’s fixes for the 737 MAX.

In long-term storage, the engines, the single most valuable part on an airliner, are “pickled”: The oil is drained and replaced with an oil mixed with a corrosion prevention solution, and desiccant bags—larger versions of the moisture-removing silica packets put in consumer goods—are placed in the inlets, with gauges that monitor humidity levels. Then the ends are covered to keep out the elements, animals and insects, says Zemanovic, who used to run a storage and maintenance facility at Pinal Airpark.

When planes are dormant for more than two months, Boeing’s 737 maintenance manual calls for gaps in the fuselage to be sealed with vinyl tape and screens placed over drain holes. A protective coating is sprayed onto unpainted metal surfaces. The cabins go dark, with the window shades closed and cockpit windshields covered with aluminum foil tape or other reflective material. Cotton covers are put over the seats and runners protect the carpets.

Planes at a storage yard typically get visited at least once a day to make sure the exterior coverings are intact, says Querio.

The 737 manual lays out a schedule of maintenance procedures to be done at regular intervals that’s heavy on lubrication of myriad parts.

Every week the plane should be scanned for corrosion; every two weeks, electrical systems powered up for two hours. Every 30 days the plane should be moved a third of a wheel’s turn, to prevent the tires from getting flat spots; carpets and seats checked for mildew; and water drained from the sumps of fuel tanks to prevent growth of bacteria or fungi, which can have the consistency of mayonnaise and plug fuel filters.

Every 90 days, the flaps, rudder and other control services need to be exercised.

If the grounding extends to a year, the landing gear may need to be flexed, says Zemanovic, with the plane propped up on giant jacks placed under the wings and the nose. Boeing and Airbus recommend that some models should be restored to operating condition after a year before being shut down again, says Querio.

Boeing expects aviation regulators to sign off on its fixes for the 737 MAX and a revised training regime early in the fourth quarter, but given previous delays and new technical issues that have arisen over the past few months, some industry watchers think the plane’s return to service could slip further. Southwest Airlines has taken the 737 MAX off its flight schedule till January 5; Air Canada has scrubbed the plane through January 8.

A Southwest spokesman said that once the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration declares the model airworthy, the airline expects it will take 120 hours of work on each plane to get them ready to fly again, and 30 to 60 days for the airline’s whole fleet.

One giant task: cleaning the planes. Dust can collect inside planes stored in the desert if the doors are vented, requiring a thorough vacuuming, says Zemanovic, and if the storage facility doesn’t have a concrete wash pad with drains to properly dispose of large amounts of soapy water, workers may have no choice but to wipe down the plane by hand, a laborious process that he says could require a “couple hundred” man hours. Two necessities for the job: 27-foot high work platforms and a mammoth supply of cleaning wipes.

Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

I help direct our coverage of autos, energy and manufacturing, and write about aerospace and defense. Send tips to jbogaisky[at]forbes.com

 

Source: How Airlines Are Defending Dormant 737 MAX Jets From The Ravages Of Corrosion, Insects And Time

How a 50-year-old design came back to haunt Boeing with its troubled 737 Max jet

A set of stairs may have never caused so much trouble in an aircraft.

First introduced in West Germany as a short-hop commuter jet in the early Cold War, the Boeing 737-100 had folding metal stairs attached to the fuselage that passengers climbed to board before airports had jetways. Ground crews hand-lifted heavy luggage into the cargo holds in those days, long before motorized belt loaders were widely available.

That low-to-the-ground design was a plus in 1968, but it has proved to be a constraint that engineers modernizing the 737 have had to work around ever since. The compromises required to push forward a more fuel-efficient version of the plane — with larger engines and altered aerodynamics — led to the complex flight control software system that is now under investigation in two fatal crashes over the last five months.

Boeing’s problems deepened Thursday, when the company announced it was stopping delivery of the aircraft after the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision Wednesday to ground the aircraft.

Paid ContentWhat Is This?
IoT Security Strategies Every Small Business Owner Should KnowSmart systems are poised to dominate the retail space by 2021 – meaning certain precautions have become necessary.

See MoreBy Dell Technologies  Dell Technologies

“We continue to build 737 Max airplanes, while assessing how the situation, including potential capacity constraints, will impact our production system,” the Chicago company said in a statement.

The crisis comes after 50 years of remarkable success in making the 737 a profitable workhorse. Today, the aerospace giant has a massive backlog of more than 4,700 orders for the jetliner and its sales account for nearly a third of Boeing’s profit.

But the decision to continue modernizing the jet, rather than starting at some point with a clean design, resulted in engineering challenges that created unforeseen risks.

(Lorena Elebee / Los Angeles Times)

“Boeing has to sit down and ask itself how long they can keep updating this airplane,” said Douglas Moss, an instructor at USC’s Viterbi Aviation Safety and Security Program, a former United Airlines captain, an attorney and a former Air Force test pilot. “We are getting to the point where legacy features are such a drag on the airplane that we have to go to a clean-sheet airplane.”

Few, if any, complex products designed in the 1960s are still manufactured today. The IBM 360 mainframe computer was put out to pasture decades ago. The Apollo spacecraft is revered history. The Buick Electra 225 is long gone. And Western Electric dial telephones are seen only in classic movies.

Today’s 737 is a substantially different system from the original. Boeing strengthened its wings, developed new assembly technologies and put in modern cockpit electronics. The changes allowed the 737 to outlive both the Boeing 757 and 767, which were developed decades later and then retired.

Over the years, the FAA has implemented new and tougher design requirements, but a derivative gets many of the designs grandfathered in, Moss said.

“It is cheaper and easier to do a derivative than a new aircraft,” said Robert Ditchey, an engineer, aviation safety consultant and founder of America West Airlines, which purchased some of the early 737 models. “It is easier to certificate it.”

But some aspects of the legacy 737 design are vintage headaches, such as the ground clearance designed to allow a staircase that’s now obsolete. “They wanted it close to the ground for boarding,” Ditchey said.

Andrew Skow, founder of Tiger Century Aircraft, which develops cockpit safety systems, and a former Northrop Grumman chief engineer, said Boeing has had a good record modernizing the 737. But he said, “They may have pushed it too far.”

Forensics experts comb through the dirt for debris at the crash site of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max aircraft.
Forensics experts comb through the dirt for debris at the crash site of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max aircraft. (Tony Karumba / AFP / Getty Images)

To handle a longer fuselage and more passengers, Boeing added larger, more powerful engines, but that required it to reposition them to maintain ground clearance. As a result, the 737 can pitch up under certain circumstances. Software, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, was added to counteract that tendency.

It was that software that is believed to have been involved in a Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October.

The software erroneously thought the aircraft was at risk of losing lift and stalling — because of a malfunctioning sensor — and ordered the stabilizer at the rear to put it into a series of sharp dives that ultimately caused the plane to crash into the Java Sea.

What happened on the Ethiopian Airlines flight is less clear, but tracking data show that it also encountered sharp changes in its vertical velocity and at one point in its climb after takeoff lost 400 feet of altitude. The FAA grounded the jetliner Wednesday, saying that new satellite data showed the Ethiopian Airlines flight dynamics were “very close” to those of the Lion Air jet.

Ethiopia sent “black box” recording devices recovered from the crashed jet to France for analysis, after refusing to hand them over to U.S. authorities. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board still plans to send investigators to France to help its Bureau of Inquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety.

Airline crashes seldom are caused by a single factor, and the two 737 accidents may yet involve poor maintenance, pilot errors and inadequate training. But it appears increasingly likely that Boeing’s software system and the company’s lack of recommendations for pilot training on it may have played an important role in the crashes.

The entire need for the software system is fundamental to the jet’s history.

The bottom of the 737’s engines are a minimum of 17 inches above the runway. By comparison, the Boeing 757 has a minimum clearance of 29 inches, according to Boeing specification books. The newer 787 Dreamliner has 28 inches or 29 inches, depending on the engine.

The 737 originally was equipped with the Pratt & Whitney JT-8 series jets, which had an inner fan diameter of 49.2 inches. “They looked like cigars, long and skinny,” Moss said.

By comparison, the LEAP-1b engines on the Max 8 have a diameter of 69 inches, nearly 20 inches more than the original. There wouldn’t be enough clearance without some kind of modification.

In the 737-300, which came after the original planes sold in West Germany, Boeing came up with an unusual fix: It created a flat bottom on the nacelle (the shroud around the fan), creating what pilots came to call the “hamster pouch.”

“They made it work,” said Ditchey, whose America West was one of the original customers of the 737-300.

But the LEAP engines required an even bigger change. Boeing redesigned the pylons, the structure that holds the engine to the wing, extending them farther forward and higher up. It gave the needed 17 inches of clearance. The company also put in a higher nose landing gear.

The change, however, affected the plane’s aerodynamics. Boeing discovered the new position of the engines increased the lift of the aircraft, creating a tendency for the nose to pitch up.

(Shaffer Grubb, Lorena Elebee / Los Angeles Times)

The solution was MCAS, which ordered the stabilizer to push down the nose if the “angle of attack” — or angle that air flows over the wings — got too high. The MCAS depends on data from two sensors. But on the Lion Air flight, the MCAS relied on a sensor that was erroneously reporting a high angle of attack when the plane was nowhere near a stall.

The pilots tried to counteract the nose-down movements by pulling back on the yoke. But even pulling with all their might they could not counteract the forces, according to data in a preliminary accident investigation report.

Skow criticized Boeing’s MCAS system, saying it acted only on the basis of angle of attack. The Lion Air jet was traveling so fast that when MCAS ordered the stabilizer to pitch the nose down it was a violent reaction. The software should have factored in air speed, he said, which would have better calibrated the pilots’ reaction.

Skow’s firm has developed a cockpit display system, known as Q-Alfa, which he says would have identified the failure of the angle of attack sensor and allowed the crew to abort the takeoff. “We believe we could have prevented the accident,” he said.

If the results of the investigation do not undermine the fundamental design of the aircraft, then the 737 Max’s future may not be in peril, aviation experts said. It may turn out all that’s needed is a software fix or additional pilot training.

The 737 has survived other crises. In a 1988 accident on a flight between Honolulu and Hilo, the entire top of the plane came off in an explosive decompression. A flight attendant was sucked out and 65 passengers and crew were injured. It was blamed on faulty lap joints in the aluminum skin of the fuselage, which Boeing reengineered.

“The 737 is the most successful commercial jet ever produced,” said John Cox, an air safety expert and veteran pilot, adding that commonality among its models helps airlines with pilot training. “It is nearing the end of its production life. The technology will eventually drive Boeing to a replacement.”

Source: How a 50-year-old design came back to haunt Boeing with its troubled 737 Max jet

%d bloggers like this:
Skip to toolbar