Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tax Season Has Hit The 777X

Boeing's long term dabbling on the chalk board and note pad for the 777X program ended awhile back. New computers were installed in the various technology pits within Boeing's world footprint. All this during a time when productivity of the 777 expanded, a surge line for the 787 was completed and Charleston rolled out and delivered a flyable 787.  Even though all this was going on, the 777X remained at bay, somewhere in a cement and glass encased buildings where cars are parked nearby, and don't move for long periods of time.  The Tax dragging down the 777X is listed below:

  • Resources for R&D are limited,
  • Cost reductions from production efficiency needed from the 787 project, and other projects.  
  • Project maturation not yet acquired for rolling technology forward to the 777X in design and configuration completion.
  • Cash flow management lean, because of 787-9,-10 infusions.
  • Enough people available that prevents show stoppers like the 787 program had for X long years.
These are just a few resources that taxes Boeing's Juggernaut of expanding its family line of aircraft.  Already multiples Gulf customers and others have expressed a serious interest in the 777X.  

Boeing is not concerned with customers at this point, but knows exactly what it needs to do before proceeding. An announcement can be made anytime in the next three years.  Even very soon, as in Paris 2013, if necessary. That maybe the key moment to blow up the party balloons around the Boeing Paris Pavilion.  If it does not happen then, its not because of lack of potential customers, because they do have a 777 backlog in play and interested customers as mentioned above.  The important thing, is similar to any major operation, you make a list and check it twice.  Ever since, I was child, the adults had a saying, "before you do that, get your ducks in a row". 

Boeing's ducks are not yet in a row or on a time table, when getting things right is more important.  It's not so much if Boeing can't execute the 777X, but its more of when it will be ready to execute the 777X.  Its like planning an invasion, where Boeing is marshaling all hands on deck, within a definite time period. No mention yet, of suppliers involvements, or potential partners on the project. Other than the usual suspects.  When the X announcement is made, the die has already been cast.  This is not a 777 make-over, it is a "777 game changer". Does Boeing have secret intelligence, that suggest the Airbus, A-350 family will not beat the 777-300, or does it have have a strategic move up its sleeve? Mystery surrounds the slow down, of both the 787-10 and 777X.  One can only surmise it is a pacing maneuver that makes sure a continuous flow of what is proposed or promised delivers at the right time and without setbacks.  A coiled spring is better than a limp rope.  It took awhile for Boeing to wind up the 787 project rope.

Boeing 777 wikipedia photo

Aspire Aviation Article   Boeing Develops 777X To Challenge Airbus A-350     

"Under the Chicago-based airframer’s latest schedule on the 777X development in December, the concept development of the 777-8X and -9X has been successfully accomplished at the end of 2011, with a firm configuration of the aircraft due in the second quarter of 2012, followed by the securing of an authority-to-offer (ATO) from Boeing’s board of directors in the third-quarter, Aspire Aviation‘s multiple sources at Boeing revealed."

"The GE9X engine will have a 10% lower engine specific fuel consumption (SFC) than the GE90-115B1 engine and will incorporate the twin annular pre-mixing swirler II (TAPS II) instead of the dual annular combustor (DAC), composite variable-bleed valve ducts at the exit of the booster stage. The GE9X will have the same fan diameter of 325 cm (128 inches) as the GE90-115B1 engine and delivers a thrust of 99,500 lbs (443 kN), compared to the GE90-115B’s 115,300 lbs (512 kN) of thrust.
“I’m spending over US$50 million on technology development on it in 2012. We’ll be ready,” GE Aviation chief executive David Joyce told Bloomberg, adding the new engine powering the 777-9X will be 6%-8% more fuel efficient than the GE90-115B1 engine.
The GE90-115B1 engine burns 0.25 pounds of fuel per pound of thrust delivered per hour (lb/lbt/hr) whereas the GEnx-2B engine on the 747-8 burns 0.274 lb/lbt/hr. It is noteworthy, however, that a direct comparison between the GEnx-2B and GE90-115B1′s fuel burn figures is skewed as the engine fan efficiency improves as the fan size increases. As the GE90-115B1 has a fan diameter of 135 inches, including the engine nacelle, whereas the GEnx-2B engine has a diameter of only 105 inches and the -1B engine has a diameter of only 111 inches,Aspire Aviation‘s sources say a 10% reduction in engine specific fuel consumption (SFC) of the GE-9X versus the GE90-115B1 engine is achievable."
  • "Meanwhile, the 777X will feature a 787-styled composite/super-critical wing that is going to have a considerably better lift-to-drag (L/D) ratio and is significantly lighter than the wings of the 777-300ER, with a wingspan of as large as 71.1 metres (233.4 feet)."
  • The larger wing of the 777X will make it an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Code F aircraft instead of the Code E category that the 777-300ER and -200LR are in today as well as a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airplane Design Group (ADG) Group VI aircraft whereas the 777-300ER and -200LR are Group V aircraft. The ICAO Code E and FAA ADG Group V categories include airplanes whose wingspan is between 52 m (170.6 ft) to 65 m (213.3 ft) whereas the Code F and ADG Group VI categories include airplanes with a 65 m (213.3 ft) to 80 m (262.5 ft) wingspan.
  • Moreover, the same sources say Alcoa’s 3rd-generation lightweight aluminium lithium (Al-Li) is a “viable option” for the 777X, which will feature a 10% weight saving and a 6% reduction in skin friction drag, while cautioning the decision in the choice of the material for the 777X’s fuselage will not be made anytime soon.
  • Indeed, a 777X featuring an advanced aluminium-lithium fuselage with a composite wing makes sense in significantly trimming weight, thereby further improving the fuel burn performance of the aircraft. In addition, advanced aluminium-lithium (Al-Li) is a well understood technology that requires little to no modification in the production process and will not complicate the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification for the 777X. Put it simply, advanced aluminium-lithium technology is what Aspire Aviation‘s sources characterise as a “low-hanging fruit” that could be incorporated into the design and the production of the 777X very easily, while providing a considerable weight saving."

Aspire Aviation,    By Daniel Tsang
Since this Aspire article on February 9, 2012. Boeing has not been sitting still. However, what is really happening is the owners of  777-300 are getting anxious about the roll out of the A-350-9. This is a real poker hand being played by both companies.  Either the 777X invasion is not ready, or they are waiting for Airbus to commit to a winter campaign of the A-350, before Boeing has a great spring in Paris.
You can see at this point, either this is a Boeing bluff or an Airbus full house in play. I'm willing to speculate that Boeing is shooting the moon, as in the game of "Hearts", and is not sloughing off the Queen of Spades onto Airbus.