Search Follow us
30 May 2017

China to attempt entry into the widebody market

China & Russia collaborate on rival to the A330 & Boeing 787

On May 22, United Aircraft Corp (UAC) of Russia and Comac from China launched a full scale development project for a commercial widebody aircraft, with the aim of entry into service in 2027. This represents China’s first foray into the widebody market. It is particularly notable because this time China has chosen to collaborate with the Russians, unlike on the C919 narrowbody which it is developing autonomously (albeit with Western technologies). The Russians have more commercial aerospace experience, which when combined by the financial backing of the Chinese government makes a potentially powerful cocktail.

18 May 2017

Global Xpress has lift off

4th and final satellite launched

Inmarsat’s high profile but somewhat beleaguered Global Express (GX) programme is now almost fully operational. The fourth and final satellite, I-5 F4, was successfully sent into orbit on 15 May. This is significant for the Aerospace and Defence industry because the Global Xpress network provides new bandwidth capacity for secure mobile communications from ships, aircraft and vehicles.

Andy Chambers
27 April 2017

Is stability returning to aerospace in Dorset?

Cobham and Meggitt Q1 FY17

Meggitt and Cobham both provided in line trading statements this morning, although the current position of both companies is somewhat diverged.

13 April 2017

Airbus CEO says “he is not close to retirement”

Succession planning is proof that Airbus is a changed company

In a Reuters interview after the Airbus AGM yesterday CEO Tom Enders said he has no intention of retiring when his current term ends in 2019 and that “it is up to the board and shareholders to decide” if they want him to stay. Mr Enders’ comments yesterday are the first insight to what is likely to be fascinating succession planning at Airbus. It is interesting for two reasons; firstly the company’s history of the management team being chosen by the French and German governments and secondly what the future holds for Fabrice Bregier who currently runs Airbus Commercial Aircraft and has recently been appointed Chief Operating Officer of the newly integrated Airbus SE.

5 April 2017

The evolution of in-flight entertainment

Will the new restrictions on electronic devices change IFE trends?

Recently I have been reading with interest about how avionic manufacturers are rethinking in-flight entertainment (IFE) given that almost every passenger now has their own electronic device, pre-loaded with their choice of films, television programmes and music. In a culture of ‘on demand’ entertainment, a small screen with poor sound quality, showing a fuzzy version of a relatively recent film understandably lacks the allure it used to hold. There is one school of thought that personal devices could soon remove the need for dedicated IFE systems altogether and I can see the logic in that. Well at least I could until the ban on electronic devices on certain routes from the Middle East was introduced. This unexpected change to the status quo has caused consternation amongst travellers with children and business passengers alike, and will no doubt have the avionics industry reassessing about what future IFE systems should look like.

23 March 2017

Comac C919 aircraft to fly next month, three years late

Challenges remain though to establish a Chinese aerospace manufacturing industry

The first Chinese narrowbody aircraft, the Comac C919 looks set to make its first flight next month. This is a significant milestone which will attract the attention of the aerospace industry across the globe and the event will no doubt be lauded by the Chinese government. However, this maiden flight will be nearly three years late. When the programme was launched in 2008 the target for first flight was June 2014, with the first delivery due in 2016.

9 March 2017

Is it a car or is it a plane?

Airbus looks to appoint car expert to its board

It seems my prophecy that 2017 could be the year of the flying car may not have been as implausible as it initially seemed. Last week Airbus proposed Lord Drayson, a self-confessed “car-nut” as an independent non-executive director.

1 March 2017

Boeing comes to Sheffield

The US aerospace giant is spreading its wings into Europe

Last week, Boeing announced it would be opening its first ever manufacturing facility in Europe. Where will it be I hear you ask? Sheffield. I imagine that isn’t what you were expecting. I certainly wasn’t. The decision is significant for two reasons; what it says about Boeing’s relationship with Europe, and what it says about UK industrial capability.

23 February 2017

All eyes on the Geared Turbofan

2017 is a make or break year for Pratt & Whitney’s beleaguered engine programme

The Geared Turbofan (GTF) engine is proof that innovating in aerospace is never an easy task. When Airbus and Boeing first introduced the concept of their new re-engined narrowbodies (A320neo and 737MAX) they were quick to reassure airlines and investors that this was a simple development proposition - a design modification rather than a clean sheet aircraft. I remember noting at the time that Airbus and Boeing were cleverly transferring the majority of engineering risk to the engine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and it has proved to be ever thus.

17 February 2017

Court room dramas

Embraer & Brazil vs. Bombardier & Canada – round 2

Embraer and the Brazilian Government vs. Bombardier and the Canadian Government looks set to be the next aerospace courtroom drama. This follows hot on the heels of the aerospace giants Airbus and Boeing slogging it out in the courts over government’s providing financial support for new aircraft programmes, known commonly as ‘Launchaid’ (see Andy’s December blog). 2017 will see the aerospace minnow’s take to the stand in a replay of their previous drama, as Embraer has again complained to the World Trade Organisation about Canada’s support of Bombardier.

26 January 2017

Uber in the sky

Could flight sharing apps rejuvenate the ailing bizjet market?

I recently read an interview with Embraer’s CEO where he discussed the ‘Uberization of business jets’. As an uber devotee, I started to investigate what this actually means and discovered that we may be on the brink of a structural change in the bizjet industry.

19 January 2017

2017…the year of the rooster, Trump and flying cars

What does the year have in store for Aerospace & Defence stocks?

The Aerospace & Defence sector has two distinct sides to it, with civil aerospace and defence often proffering very different investment narratives. Historically, terrorism and political instability have tended to cause the two sides of the sector to diverge, with defence valuations surging and civil valuations falling. This happened most notably after 9/11 in 2001. At the end of 2016 though, a year defined by terror attacks and political turmoil, the situation was quite different. Defence stocks were the stand out performers during last year, driven initially by the fact global defence spending is now growing, having been in decline from 2011 – 2015, and more latterly by Donald Trump’s US election victory. However, civil stocks have also performed well. Although there have been a high number of terror attacks during 2016, improved airport security measures have forced terrorists to seek new targets and so aerospace stocks have been largely unaffected, and in fact have continued to benefit from the structural growth of passengers numbers which continues to drive output growth. So what does 2017 have in store for aerospace and defence?

18 January 2017

SFO shows its metal with £497m fine for Rolls-Royce

Black cloud over engine manufacturer should now start to lift

The Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) five year investigation of Rolls-Royce has finally come to a conclusion, with a verdict that shows the SFO is getting tough on corruption, but one which should hopefully allow the dark cloud over Rolls-Royce to start lifting.

12 January 2017

Airbus does it again

Record breaking 2016 for Airbus as it exceeds delivery target

At yesterday’s annual New Year press conference, Fabrice Bregier (Airbus Commercial CEO) triumphantly announced that Airbus delivered 688 aircraft last year, exceeding its target of 670. 

14 December 2016

Airbus is cutting it fine

Record breaking December needed to meet guidance

I highlighted last month that Airbus had its work cut out to meet its 2016 delivery target of 670 aircraft, needing to deliver 154 in two months. Well the latest statistics show 61 aircraft were delivered in November, leaving 94 to be delivered in December. I previously said that “I am not generally predisposed to bet against Airbus when it comes to them achieving delivery targets” and I think I still feel the same as their track record is strong, but it feels as though the risk is increasing of Airbus not meeting FY16 guidance.

Andy Chambers
6 December 2016

Who’s the daddy?

Airbus, Boeing, the WTO or the lawyers

As the latest round of chest beating by Boeing and Airbus dies away until the next round of appeals, I really start to wonder why the finger pointing and name calling persists. It seems to me that only one group of people are directly benefiting from the “discussion”, and I do not mean Joe public.

18 November 2016

One man’s gift is another man’s bribe

How has the 2010 Bribery Act impacted Aerospace & Defence?

The recent BBC Panorama entitled ‘How Rolls-Royce bribed its way around the world” prompted me to revisit the 2010 Bribery Act. Crucially I wanted to understand whether Rolls-Royce’s business activities prior to the Act becoming law in July 2011 could be looked at retrospectively? And what punishments does the SFO have in its arsenal? In answering these questions, it is interesting to look at how the Aerospace & Defence industry is adapting in order to operate within the law. 

9 November 2016

Busy festive season at Airbus

154 aircraft due for delivery in 2 months

In my blog ‘August deliveries at Airbus’ I noted that during September and October we would be looking for demonstrable progress towards the 2016 annual delivery target of more than 670, given that at the end of August only 400 aircraft had been delivered.

3 November 2016

China shows its air power

Stealth fighters take to the skies at Zhuhai air show

On Tuesday, China showcased its long awaited J-20 stealth fighter jet for the first time in public at the Zhuhai air show. Yet again an impeccably timed show of force with the US Presidential Election next week. The first test flight of the aircraft in 2011 coincided with the then US Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ visit to Beijing. With other new military aircraft expected to be unveiled throughout the week we look at the changing shape of China’s military arsenal, and question how does Chinese defence spending affect Western budgets.

Andy Chambers
1 November 2016

It pays to be civil in the long run

Backlog execution should enable improved investor returns

By the end of September, Boeing and Airbus had surpassed an aggregate of 1,000 aircraft deliveries as previously announced product introductions and rate increases continue to drive up demand across the aerospace supply chain. By the year end the two companies are expected to deliver an aggregate of around 1425 aircraft, slightly higher than in 2015.

11 October 2016

Heathrow vs. Gatwick?

The airport expansion debate rages on

Are we finally about to get an answer to the Heathrow vs. Gatwick airport expansion question? MPs are scheduled to debate the question of UK airport capacity next Tuesday (18 October) as the Prime Minister has indicated a desire to finally make a decision on an issue the Conservative Government has thus far managed to sweep under the carpet. Interestingly, the debate will be set against the backdrop of new research which shows that it is the road traffic in and around the airport that is the main contributor to emissions, not the aircraft themselves.

6 October 2016

Are airlines weathering the impact of Brexit and terrorism?

Passenger traffic growth analysis

In my 27 July blog ‘The Summer of Hate’ I espoused that summer 2016 could be a defining moment for the aerospace industry. I questioned whether the new wave of terrorism on mainland Europe would lower our propensity to travel by air and therefore encourage more people to holiday closer to home. The IATA passenger data is now in for July so what does it show?

17 September 2016

The debate about the A380 rages on

Singapore Airlines will not extend lease on first A380

The A380 programme has taken another blow with the news that Singapore Airlines (SIA) – the aircraft’s first buyer and currently its second largest customer - will not renew the lease for its first A380. My 19 July blog ‘The end of the road for the A380’ highlighted that the future of the aircraft looks uncertain, with one of the issues being the unknown shape of the market for second hand A380s. The end of this first lease marks a new chapter for the aircraft and so far the outlook does not look that positive. 

13 September 2016

August deliveries at Airbus

Slow progress on A320neo

In my blog on 4 September I said I would be watching Airbus’ August delivery numbers with interest. Well they were released last week and despite Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier saying that staff on the A320neo programme have been working overtime to catch up on deliveries, not much progress appears to have been made so far.

8 September 2016

Safran and Zodiac - do opposites attract?

A look at two very different French Aerospace companies

Safran and Zodiac are both French, both exposed to the structural growth of the civil aerospace industry, and both have world class products. But it is there the similarities end. Over the past five years, Safran has proved itself to be a well-run company with strong project execution. Zodiac’s management and execution has been found sorely wanting as it struggles to keep pace with the production ramp ups at Airbus and Boeing. Last week saw Zodiac’s ninth profit warning in two years, but interestingly over the past couple of months there has been a resurgence in market rumours that Safran is potentially interested in acquiring the company. Why are the two companies such a different investment proposition, and do they really have a future together?

4 September 2016

Busy summer at Airbus

Record breaking number of deliveries in August

In last week’s blog I highlighted that Boeing and Lockheed Martin had been busy over the traditionally quiet month of August. A recent Reuters interview with Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier suggest that engineers in Toulouse have also been unusually industrious this summer. Airbus has not yet published official orders and deliveries data for August, but Bregier said “I can already tell you is that it will be the best month of August in Airbus’s history, in terms of the numbers of planes delivered”.

2 September 2016

New tanker and fighter jet ready for take off

F-35 declared combat ready and KC-46 ready to enter production

August may traditionally be the month of days spent by the beach and long summer evenings, but it seems life has been somewhat busier at Lockheed Martin and Boeing in August 2016. Last month saw the companies achieve major milestones for the F-35A and KC-46 tanker respectively.  The F-35A has now reached Initial Operating Capability (IOC) and the KC-46 has been approved to enter production. These are significant achievements because the products have both had eventful development phases and both aircraft should be important drivers of profitability going forward, at not only the prime manufacturers but for suppliers as well, notably BAE Systems with its significant programme share.

31 August 2016

Boeing struggling to meet 2016 orders target

Is the 777 going the way of the A330?

Aviation Week last week published data that suggest Boeing will struggle to meet its widebody order target in 2016. It appears the American aircraft manufacture is suffering from the same phenomenon as its European rival Airbus where sales of the legacy A330 dropped sharply once the newer and more fuel efficient A330neo was an option. Boeing has only booked 8 orders for the classic 777 in 2016, due in part to the re-engined 777X which is due to enter service in December 2019. So what is happening and is this cause for concern?

23 August 2016

What does the future hold for NATO?

Trump and Corbyn refuse to support Article 5

9/11 was the first time that NATO’s article five – an attack on one member state is an attack all – had been invoked. It sent a powerful message about the strength of the alliance. Every member of NATO, no matter how small, provided assistance to the United States during the campaign in Afghanistan.  Fifteen years on and the alliance is arguably in its weakest position since its formation in 1949. Politicians in six major member nations have questioned the point of NATO and only five of the twenty-eight states spent the guideline 2% of GDP on defence. Could this be ‘make or break’ for NATO? And if so what could this mean for the defence industry?

22 August 2016

A New Year’s resolution for Cobham?

CEO and CFO to move on from the struggling Aerospace & Defence company

Three years ago I, and many others, expected Cobham to be given a fresh lease of life by its new CEO Bob Murphy and CFO Simon Nicholls who joined the company in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Mr Murphy was the first American to take the helm of a business whose largest customer is the US Department of Defence (DoD), and Mr Nicholls was the highly respected CFO of Senior, where he had a reputation for cost cutting and attention to detail. Whilst Cobham has made some progress under their stewardship, the past three years have also been turbulent for the company. Here we stand in 2016; a year which has seen the company profit warn, require a £500m rights issue and the CFO resign. To cap it off, it was announced last Wednesday that Mr Murphy is to leave the company in order to ‘pursue other opportunities’, ending months of speculation over whether he would remain as CEO. So what has gone wrong and what does this change in management mean for the company?

16 August 2016

The rise of the activists

A look at the impact of activist investors on the Aerospace and Defence sector

Last week it emerged that the activist investor, Elliott Capital Advisors, now holds a 5% stake in Meggitt. This makes Meggitt the third European Aerospace & Defence company to have such an investor on its shareholder register and it led me to ponder what is driving these activists? Why the interest in Aerospace and Defence? And what are they trying to achieve?

11 August 2016

Geared Turbofan engine too hot to handle?

Teething problems for Pratt & Whitney's new narrowbody engine

Pratt & Whitney’s struggles to deliver correctly functioning Geared Turbofan engines for Airbus A320neo aircraft is a reminder that aircraft development is always fraught with risks. Airbus clearly signposted in January that 2016 neo deliveries would be back loaded into the second half of the year. It is targeting 56 aircraft this year but as of the end of July has only delivered 11, so it has its work cut out in Toulouse. Where has it gone wrong?

Andy Chambers
4 August 2016

Have you heard of GKN?

Making things work for more than a quarter of a millennium

Watching a BBC documentary of a behind the scenes look at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic games reminded me of how the industrial revolution was a centre piece of the performance, creating the illusion of the Olympic rings being forged from steel. Had it happened back in the latter part of the 18th century as new processes changed Britain for ever, those rings may well have been forged in iron by one of the UK’s greatest global brands. GKN’s forebears have been making things happen for over 250 years and the company Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds was formed via merger in 1902. The company is one of our leading global manufacturers, and yet it is hardly a household name.

28 July 2016

What do amazon drones and BMX bikes have in common?

How civilian technologies are leading the defence industry

What do Amazon drones and BMX bikes have in common? The answer – the use of cutting edge ‘sense and avoidance’ technology, developed by the civil aerospace industry. Traditionally in the A&D sector, pioneering technologies were developed by the defence industry (funded at least in part by Government customers) and then used in the civil aerospace industry. However, as Governments looks to rein their spending, companies are developing new technologies for civil applications, which will then in time be used in the military sphere. The use of ‘sense and avoid’ technology by Amazon to step up its drone tests, and by British BMX cyclists in preparation for next week’s Olympics are timely examples of this.

27 July 2016

The summer of hate

The impact of terrorism on the Aerospace & Defence sector

An article in the press today described the summer of 2016 as the “summer of hate”.  The relentless pace of the attacks has invoked terror into the minds of ordinary people and politicians have been forced to make frequent declarations of their determination to protect their citizens.  It therefore seems logical to me that the summer of 2016 will be one which shapes the near term future for Aerospace and Defence companies.

19 July 2016

The end of the road for the A380?

A look at why the business case for the A380 has gone wrong

Airbus launched the A3XX aircraft (which would become the A380) in 1997 based on winning 650 orders over the next twenty years. It claimed to be in consultation with 20 leading airlines about their requirements for a new double-decker aircraft. Nineteen years on, the A380 has won just 319 orders from 18 airlines. So where has it all gone so wrong for what is Airbus’ flagship aircraft? In addition, with the announcement last week at the Farnborough Air Show that the production rate has been cut to twelve per year, what does the future hold for the programme?

Andy Chambers
15 July 2016

The rain fell mainly on the planes

Farnborough Airshow 2016 rant, sorry round up

When considering my view on the Farnborough International Airshow 2016 it is tempting to focus on the chaos of the first couple of days at the show. Monday’s washout was spectacular, and when we were eventually cleared from the site at around 5.30pm there was hardly anybody left. Even the ice cream van had gone home!

8 July 2016

Civil wars abating

Farnborough Airshow Preview 2016

Next Monday sees the start of the week long Farnborough Airshow which typically heralds a flurry of news in the sector. We expect the main talking points to be:

- A lack of headline grabbing aircraft orders

- Will Airbus and / or Boeing commit to a new aircraft?

- Airbus’ production issues to come under scrutiny

- F-35B to be the highlight of the flying display

- A focus on innovation

- Will Farnborough survive in a post Brexit UK

5 July 2016

Can aerospace & defence weather Brexit

Impact of lower GDP growth on the aerospace & defence industry

I am a firm believer that GDP growth is the most important driver behind the health of the aerospace & defence sector. A strong economy increases people’s propensity to travel, and defence budgets are set as a percentage of GDP. I acknowledge that the two sides of the sector are both affected by a number of other factors (the oil price, new technologies, geopolitical tensions, etc) and both industries are global. However, the Treasury’s projection that in two years’ time UK GDP will be 3.6% lower than if we had remained in the EU forces me to pause for thought as to the possible impact of Brexit on the sector over the long term.