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If you're one of the four billion people who flew last year
chances are you flew on either an Airbus or Boeing aircraft.
The Airbus-Boeing duopoly dominates the already under competitive
aircraft manufacturing industry by producing more than 99% of
its large airplane orders globally. It's become one of the most
efficient duopolies ever in the history of manufacturing
Are smaller competitors finally giving them a run for their
money? Or are they just getting scooped up? Will China step into
the market and make waves? What about the future of flying? Will
Supersonic planes challenge Airbus and Boeing's dominance?
Before we answer those questions let's start with how we got to
a place where just two companies own the air
Boeing has always been a big player in the aviation field for
over 100 years. The Boeing Company was created in 1916. William
Boeing founded the Aero Products Company and developed a single
engine seaplane and the business was renamed the Boeing Company
and sold its planes to the Navy during the First World War
Boeing continued to sell its aircraft during the 1920s and 1930s
to the U.S. military. During this time Boeing also expanded into
airmail services.
In 1919 Eddie Hubbard and I took a
flight up to Vancouver B.C. This was the first ever
international mail ever carried by planes into the United
The Boeing Airplane and Transportation Corporation was formed and
it covered both the manufacturing and airline operations but the
Air Mail Act of 1934 split aircraft manufacturers from air
transport. So the conglomerate of the day was dissolved in the
company went back to being called "Boeing." With the development
of turbo jets, the Boeing 707 was introduced to the public in
1958 on Pan American's trans Atlantic route and the public loved
it With smoother rides and a shorter flight time Boeing paved
the way for the future of commercial flight. Boeing may
encapsulate Americana via the golden age of flying but the much
younger Airbus had a rough road to success. It started as a
group effort in Europe to take on American manufacturers.
In 1967 Germany, France, and Britain came to the agreement that a
cooperation of aviation field would promote technology and
economic growth in Europe. They drew up plans for a short haul
European Airbus that would accommodate the public's desire to
fly more for less. Plans were made to construct the A300. In
October of 1972 the A300 completed its first flight. But Airbus
leaders had an uphill battle ahead of them convincing the world
they created the most innovative aircraft. By 1984 Airbus
received 411 orders and had 282 aircraft in active service. The
persistence paid off the long run because in 2018 Airbus
delivered 800 planes. 11% growth from the year before. And
Boeing's business is thriving as well. In 2018 the company set
the record for the most airplane deliveries with 806 commercial
jets, 5.6% growth from 2017. And the stocks have reflected the
company's dominance. Both Airbus and Boeing stocks have
significantly outperformed the S&P 500 over the last 10 years.
How can you tell these planes apart? Boeing and Airbus have
subtle differences. For instance the cockpit of a Boeing 737 has
a yoke control whereas an Airbus A320 does not. That's just one
of the many ways these companies diverge in their manufacturing.
Most are only felt by the crew and travelers with a keen eye.
How do airlines decide which company to buy from? Think of it
like going to a car dealership and choosing between a Chevy and
a Ford. Both are supposed to get you to your destination but
which one has a better deal? And what does the existing fleet
look like? For example, Spirit and Frontier operate only
Airbus, while Southwest is an all Boeing fleet. It's hard for
low cost operations like these to switch. The legacy airlines
usually have a mix of both.
So what does it take for companies like Airbus and Boeing to
control the airline industry? Well, building these airplanes
isn't cheap. To be a real competitor aviation companies must
have the money to spend.
The barriers to entry in this business are huge in terms of
capital requirements, in terms of technology experience,
customer support, customer finance, all of these things.
A single plane can run up millions of dollars in construction
fees. Boeing is currently working on a new series of airplanes
called the 777X. A single 777-9 has a list price of
$388.7 million dollars. That's because there are hundreds of
thousands of components to an airplane. A Boeing 747 alone is
made up of six million parts. But materials aren't the only
thing that costs aviation companies big. Safety comes with a
hefty price tag.
It's definitely a well-regulated industry. I don't think there's
any question about that. I actually view much, not
all, but I view much of that
regulation has a historical partnership that has actually served
the industry quite well. If you consider that the airlines today
aviation globally carries three billion passengers a
year and most years kill fewer than 500 of them. Some years
none. That's a pretty extraordinary record. And reaching that
level of safety requires a great expense And these massive
companies have plenty of money
And at least for Boeing a lot of it comes from the government. It
was the second largest government contractor in 2017 behind only
Lockheed Martin bringing in more than 23 billion dollars. It
also spends big to keep its close relationship with Washington.
The company spent more on lobbying than any other company in the
United States other than General Electric from 1998 to 2018
according to Open Secrets 270 million dollars. The acting
Secretary of Defense at the beginning of 2019 is a former Boeing
executive that led the 787 Dreamliner program. And the acting
administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration or the FAA
used to work for an airline manufacturing industry group
Responding to a question about its lobbying power. Boeing told
CNBC this "as the nation's largest exporter and a leading
producer of both commercial and defense aerospace
products, there are a number of significant policy issues at the
federal state and local levels with the potential to impact our
business our diverse workforce and our supply chain. Our team is
focused on telling Boeing"s story and supporting policies that
advance the aviation industry and U.S. manufacturing in the
communities where we live and work." The company's entrenched
position has a real world impact. When Delta ordered planes from
the Canadian company Bombardier in 2016, the company fought hard
arguing the smaller competitor could only sell them at such a
low price to the Canadian subsidies. The Trump administration
originally sided with Boeing putting tariffs on the planes but
Boeing ended up losing the battle when the U.S. International
Trade Commission ruled in Bombardier's is favor at the beginning
of 2018. The battle showed how hard it has become for smaller
companies to break into the market. Which brings us exactly to
that where is the competition?
Airbus and Boeing may command domestic and international airspace
but for regional flights the Canadian company Bombardier and the
Brazilian company Embraer control the market or at least they
used to. The overhead for the aviation manufacturing business
can be crushing and regional aircraft manufacturers like
Bombardier a couldn't shoulder the costs. Bombardier of
Canada had the
The best hope of getting in they simply ran out of cash. And this
year their jetliner was basically absorbed by Airbus.
Now the Airbus A220 rather than the Bombardier C-Series. In 2017
Airbus announced it would acquire a majority stake in
Bombardier's C-Series. Airbus rebranded the series as a new a
220 and sold 120 former C-Series jets to U.S. airline companies
in 2018. Airbus will begin building the aircraft later this
month. And let's not forget about Brazilian aircraft company
Embraer the other regional jet manufacturer. Boeing just bought
80% of Embraer commercial aviation business for a whopping $4.2
billion dollars. The Brazilian government approved the deal in
January and both companies announced that they expect to get all
the remaining approvals before 2020. The reality was that these
smaller companies weren't really competing anyway.
In 2016 regional aircraft deliveries were less than 7% of the
airplane market by value. Other countries like Russia and China
have also been trying to become prominent players in the
aircraft manufacturing industry. But so far both countries have
been unable to make a dent in the private sector.
They could flip a switch and they'd be great at it. The
frustrating thing about China is that the only possible thing
they could do wrong is exactly what they're doing. They've got
the biggest market in the world. They've got limited talent on
limited resources. They should be great in this. But the
strategy they're pursuing is basically digging a giant hole.
They're running it as a government operation and very simply
government owned industries to not do a good job beating
commercial market needs. Next thing they're doing is rather than
saying to their engineers, "hey you can go shopping for the best
components and technology around the globe..." They're saying
you have to buy stuff made in China and that means only stuff
that involves Western companies coming to China and surrendering
their intellectual property.
Boeing and Airbus aren't shying away from potential competition.
Boeing highlighted its partnership with COMAC on a completion of
a facility in Zhoushan. The company also told us, "China's
commercial aviation sector represents a major customer an
important partner in a potent competitor. China is on track to
become the largest commercial airplane market in the world over
the next few years. Getting the right balance between
collaborating and competing requires work in constant
evaluation." When we asked Airbus about Chinese competition
they told CNBC this "the Boeing Airbus to Oxley isn't likely to
last forever. In general we see China as the next major
competitor though in some 10 to 20 years from now. The Chinese
market is large enough for more than two competitors in every
market we welcome competition. Airbus was born competition,
thrives in it, and believes it is good for the development of
our industry.
So what's next for the aviation industry? Will it be the return
of supersonic travel? The aptly named Colorado-based company
Boom Supersonic announced it has received millions in funding
from investors. Boom is looking to make supersonic travel
mainstream. Marketing their aircraft is being able to get
passengers to and from their destinations two times faster than
business class flights today. Commercial supersonic travel isn't
new. In 1976 the first Concorde flights took off from London and
just outside Paris. But the Concorde days were short lived.
Noise pollution, mounting expenses, combined with a fatal air
crash caused the Concorde to be retired in 2003. But there are
many barriers sitting in the way of creating supersonic
commercial travel. The first being
it's illegal. They would have to demonstrate that these are
usable over land. At present it's not legal to operate
supersonically over landmasses at least in the U.S. NASA been
testing so called "quiet boom" aircraft
in fact they're testing them right now in the Gulf of
Mexico, the people of Galveston Texas are the dummies I guess to
see whether they notice the booms. It remains to be seen whether
those theoretical designs can be put into practice.
But the big question is can supersonic travel be economically
Will they be willing to pay five times as much for the aircraft
and their operating costs in order to go twice as fast because
the fuel bill basically piles up. We're now flying slower than
we did in 1970s and 80s
but on the other hand there's this economic reason for that.
It's not just civilian companies developing supersonic travel.
Lockheed Martin announced plans to build supersonic aircraft
that could change commercial travel. Lockheed Martin is
partnering with NASA to develop the X59 QueSST. This aircraft is
designed to have a cruising altitude of 55,000 feet and a
terminal speed of 940 miles per hour. And forget that super
alarming sonic boom. According to the Lockheed Martin Skunkworks
team the plane would create a sound no louder than the slamming
of a car door. But the development is still in its beta stages.
As for Boeing and Airbus both companies told us supersonic and
hypersonic travel is on their radars and that they are committed
to pursuing multiple innovative technologies moving forward.
The future of the aviation manufacturing business remains
But one thing is clear the multi-billion dollar industry will
continue to grow as millions of more people around the world
enter the middle class. The International Air Transport
Association expects the number of air travelers to double to 8.2
billion by 2037 and Airbus and Boeing are poised to take a
vantage of those soaring trends.


Why Airbus And Boeing Dominate The Sky

178 タグ追加 保存
Benson Wu 2019 年 7 月 23 日 に公開
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