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View Diary: Airbus vs Boeing (118 comments)

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  •  I think you miss the all important fact (6+ / 0-)
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    Powell, wader, Troubadour, KenBee, patbahn, Simplify

    that the customer drives the product in aviation. MK made the point before I chimed in. Operational costs drive the modern airline and the number one cost is fuel. Anything that drives down fuel usage while not greatly increasing aircraft acquisition cost will be a strong seller. Thus, incremental improvements are all that are possible given the lack revolutionary technological solutions to the extreme environment of high speed and high altitude flight. Both of those are the realm of the military and research.

    The one exception to that was Concorde. It was a magnificent aircraft. It was, as has often been said, proof that British Aerospace and the French (predecessors to Airbus) could make an airplane that would lose money at a 100% load factor.

    The incremental improvements haven't been inconsequential. The 707 (KC-135 actually) that I first flew weighed less than 300,000# but used about 18,000# of fuel per hour with a cruise mach of .84 or so (.91 max IIRC). The 747-400 weighed up to 878,000# but only used 23,000#/hour at a normal range cruise of .855-.86. That's the difference of 1950's and 1980's technology in engines, structures, and aerodynamics. Not insignificant in my mind.

    The next generation, A330, topped out at 513,000# but used an average of 12,000#/hour. Any cruise faster than .82 mach and fuel consumption skyrockets. The point is that we are hitting the point of greatly diminishing returns that can only be overcome by revolutionary technology advances. I'm not really aware of anything on the horizon that is also commercially viable in an airline industry.

    Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

    by VTCC73 on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 05:26:42 PM PST

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    •  Yes, but it's also true that (1+ / 0-)
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      manufacturers can move the marketplace beyond where it currently is if they're willing to move forward on their own initiative and risk.  Only building things that customers already know they want is a recipe for stagnation, and that's exactly what the industry has got.  Concorde was an example of moving forward before the engineering was ready to make it economical - I've heard plenty of professional opinion that with today's technology, a supersonic aircraft could be economical, not to mention quiet enough to have unrestricted air routes.  

      But the manufacturers don't know that for absolute certain, and the airlines won't commit to such a thing in advance the way they would with an incremental change, so it just doesn't happen.  That's ridiculous, and has led to the sorry state of the industry today - the emphasis on squeezing every last penny out of everything instead of expanding the envelope of capability so you don't have to.

      Ask me if I'm afraid. I say, "Of course not. I'm a fool, and fools never die."

      by Troubadour on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 07:50:36 PM PST

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      •  Given the cut throat competition (2+ / 0-)
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        KenBee, Powell

        in the airline industry and the razor thin margins in a highly cyclical nature of the business I fully understand a business being reluctant to take huge chances on moderate risk technology much less bleeding edge gear. Airline execs are not a bunch of geniuses but they know to have near certainty before buying. You may remember Boeing's attempt to launch a high flying speedy airliner before they engaged retrograde mode and popped out what became the 787. The reason was uncertain economics. Even the 787 too risky for Delta's Richard Anderson. Northwest was the North American launch customer for the 787. Anderson bailed on the order during the first big 787 delay pushing back deliveries to 2020. By then it should be a mature system that will be rid of the economic uncertainties that exist today. Pretty smart move. Or blind luck. But that is how a good airline exec should think.

        Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

        by VTCC73 on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 08:28:38 PM PST

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        •  The reason it's cutthroat is because (1+ / 0-)
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          there's no other basis on which to compete but price, which is because consumers don't have any other options.  When you introduce major differences in capability, the market becomes heterogeneous and it's not as easy to squeeze every penny.

          While something like the Concorde didn't have a good value proposition - over $4,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars per ticket for a mere 2.5 factor of increase in speed - a different dollar-per-additional-mph ratio would have different economic results.  For instance, if you could afford to fly 1st class at 560 mph, wouldn't you be willing to fly coach at the same price for twice the speed?  A lot of people would, and the airlines know that.  They just don't care because it's still not an absolute certainty.  That whole industry is degenerate and incapable of positive change.

          Ask me if I'm afraid. I say, "Of course not. I'm a fool, and fools never die."

          by Troubadour on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 09:15:29 PM PST

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        •  Blended Wing-Body (1+ / 0-)
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          Boeing should've done the Blended Wing-Body instead of the Sonic Cruiser. A BWB could have saved ~20% fuel burn for minimal new technology required. Heck, they've done a lot of the development work already.

          Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

          by Simplify on Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 11:55:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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