Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Final thoughts on the 2013 Paris Air Show: year of the regional airliner

Posted by John Keller

THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 25 June 2013. The 2013 Paris Air Show is in the books, and as the dust settles we can conclude not only that commercial aviation is in healthy shape worldwide, but also that regional aircraft service is a growing concern.

Medium- and long-haul jet sales were healthy at Paris with global giants Airbus and Boeing with a combined 908 single-aisle and widebody passenger jets sold with a combined $136 billion, according to company figures.

Airbus sales included 371 sales of the single-aisle A320 family of passenger jetliners, as well as 69 sales of the future A350 XWB widebody passenger jet, and 20 orders for the A380 super jumbo jet, according to Airbus figures. Boeing, meanwhile, announced sales of 102 787-10 Dreamliner widebody jets, as well as a variety of the company's 737, 777, and 740 aircraft.

Regional passenger jet and turboprop sales, were not far behind their larger cousins. Regional aircraft makers Embraer of Brazil, ATR of France, and Bombardier of Canada sold a collective 583 regional airliners at Paris, indicating a growing need for regional air service worldwide.

Among the regional aircraft makers Embraer shone at Paris with 381 sales announced for the company's recently announced E2 series of aircraft, which includes the E175-E2 that seats as many as 88 passengers, the E-190-E2 that seats as many as 106, and the E195-E2, which seats as many as 132 passengers.

The Paris Air Show was the best in the history of the Franco-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR, company officials say, with sales announced for 173 planes. The company's biggest sale at Paris was to Nordic Aviation Capital for 91 twin-engine ATR 72-600s.

Bombardier announced sales of 73 aircraft at Paris, which included 29 orders for the company's CRJ1000 NextGen regional jet and Q400 NextGen regional turboprops.

So we didn't see record total aircraft sales at Paris this year, but we did see regional passenger aircraft sales somewhat keeping pace with the medium- and long-haul regional planes, which is out of the ordinary.

Rarely do the regional aircraft makers come close to Boeing and Airbus in sales at the major global air shows, and perhaps this makes results of the 2013 Paris Air Show the year of the regional aircraft.

For complete coverage of the 2013 Paris Air Show log on to the Avionics Intelligence Paris Air Show Report at www.avionics-intelligence.com/paris-air-show.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

They count planes differently, don't they?

Posted by John Keller

THE PARIS AIR SHOW BLOG, 20 June 2013. I've been covering the aerospace and defense industry for a long time, yet still there are plenty of things that utterly mystify me. The way the major aerospace manufacturers count airplane sales is one of them.

I've spent a good chunk of time this week doing my best to track aircraft sales announced at the Paris Air Show from the big players like Airbus and Boeing, from the up-and-coming companies like Embraer, to the niche players like Bombardier and ATR, and even from the helicopter makers like AgustaWestland, Sikorsky, and Eurocopter.

Despite my best efforts, however, some of the numbers just don't agree with published reports.

Here's an example: by my count Airbus announced deals for 536 passenger jetliners this week at Paris. A company announcement, however, says Airbus only made deals for 466. I counted announcements for 275 aircraft sales from Boeing this week, yet a Boeing announcement says the company made deals for 442.

I can't figure out where these numbers come from, but then again, I've been covering the Pentagon's annual budget (or trying to) for decades now, and some of those numbers I couldn't explain if my life depended on it.

I think it's much the same with airplane sales.

Here's my methodology for counting aircraft sales this week at the Paris Air Show. I simply combed the company Websites for public announcements of aircraft sales. Although this may sound straightforward, it's really not.

Companies use different terms for different transactions. There are firm orders, memoranda of understanding, commitments, conversions, and other descriptions of firm, pending, or wishful orders.

I looked through the public announcements, totaled up all the numbers no matter what the transaction being described, and came up with my numbers.

For the four business days just concluded at the Paris Air Show, I have 536 aircraft sales for Airbus, 381 for Embraer, 275 for Boeing, 115 for ATR, 72 for Bombardier, 54 for AgustaWestland, 17 for Sikorsky, and 10 for Eurocopter, which gives us a rough count of 1,460 total sales for the week.

These numbers could be close, or they could be off. I can make no promises for how my numbers jive with the industry. As for Boeing, company officials say the Seattle-based jet maker inked deals for 442 aircraft worth about $66.4 billion during the Paris Air Show. This is a lot more than my total of 275. Airbus, meanwhile, claims to have made deals for 466 airplanes at the show. This is far fewer than my count of 536.

I haven't seen any official totals from the show yet, but let's face it, the official numbers most likely will be different from mine.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Who ever would have guessed that Embraer would be such a dominant player at Paris Air Show?

Posted by John Keller

THE PARIS AIR SHOW BLOG, 18 June 2013. The two big European air shows -- Paris in odd-numbered years and Farnborough in even-numbered years -- typically revolve around an annual shootout between American and European aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus to see which company can announce more aircraft sales at these shows than the other.

Airbus usually wins the Paris Air Show, and Boeing usually wins Farnborough. It's a yearly exercise in staged anticipation with results that almost always are predictable.

This year, however, there might be a surprise or two. As of close of business today Paris time, we're half way through the four-day business component of the 2013 Paris Air Show. Guess which aircraft manufacturer is leading announced sales at the show?

Airbus? That would be a good guess, but no. Boeing? That would be the next logical try, but c'mon, it's Paris. Boeing rarely if ever wins the airplane sales announcement sweepstakes on the Continent of Europe.

Some other European airplane maker? Nope. Another North American aircraft company? Guess again.

The aerospace company with a narrow lead in aircraft sales announcements so far at Paris this year is South American aircraft designer Embraer. With two days down at Paris and two days to go, Embraer of São José Dos Campos, Brazil, has announced 381 aircraft sales, which is ahead of second-place Airbus by 70 planes. As of Tuesday Airbus had announced sales of 311 aircraft.

So we're at halftime; there's plenty of time left for Airbus to take the lead before business meetings wrap up at Paris on Thursday evening, but who ever would have thought a year ago that Embraer would be such a dominant force at one of the world's most visible air shows?

To put it in perspective, at Farnborough last year Embraer sold 13 planes, equal that of ATR Aircraft in Blagnac, France. At Farnborough last year Boeing announced 427 aircraft sales, while Airbus announced 123.

Embraer's dominant position at Paris this year underscores the global importance of small- and medium-sized regional passenger jets. Embraer specializes in relatively small, short-haul passenger planes, and this year announced a redesigned version of the company's E-Jets regional passenger jet family, named the E2.

The Embraer E-Jets E2 aircraft family comprises three new commercial airplanes -- the E175-E2 that seats as many as 88 passengers, the E-190-E2 that seats as many as 106, and the E195-E2, which seats as many as 132 passengers. These aircraft are designed for low fuel consumption, low fuel emissions, and quiet operations.

The E2 is driving sales this year for Embraer. On Monday the company announced 365 sales of this aircraft, and the largest order came from U.S. regional carrier SkyWest Airlines.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

4th Gen Intel Core processor may be biggest thing in the last three years for embedded computing

Posted by John Keller

THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 11 June 2013. Few recent events in the military embedded computing industry have hit with the impact of the 2010 introduction of the Intel Core microprocessor architecture, which offered on-chip floating-point processing capability.

Still, the introduction last week of the 4th generation Intel Core microprocessor could be a close second. While Intel's introduction three years ago gave aerospace and defense systems designers one of the things they wanted most -- floating point processing -- last week's fourth-generation introduction offers designers something they also dearly love -- a reduction in size, weight, and power consumption (SWAP).

While floating-point three years ago offered the military important capabilities for digital signal processing, the fourth-generation Intel Core's introduction last week puts SWAP front and center of future aerospace and defense embedded computing.

Essentially the latest-generation Intel Core processor offers military systems designers a triple-punch of floating-point processing, ultra-high-performance conventional processing, and the latest in high-performance embedded parallel processing, which some in the industry call HPEPP.

In addition to advanced floating-point processing, the fourth-generation Intel Core processing has an on-chip general-purpose graphics processing unit (GPGPU) that military designers use as a high-performance embedded massively parallel processing engine.

Extensive floating-point and parallel processing features offer aerospace and defense systems integrators unprecedented capability for digital signal processing in demanding applications like radar processing, signals intelligence, electronic warfare, and networked sonar signal processing.

Still, the benefits of the chip don't end there. The fourth-generation Intel core microprocessor is built with 22-nanometer processing capability, which means the chip packs huge capability into a relatively small package that reduces power consumption over previous generations.

Big processing, small size, and low power consumption will offer capability never seen before for future generations of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), tiny land robots, and soldier-worn sensors, networking, and signal processing.

Just how big a deal the fourth-generation Intel Core microprocessor will be remains to be seen, but those in the embedded computing industry are more excited about this announcement than they've been in quite a while.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

If it's June, it must be briefing season for aerospace and defense industry

Posted by John Keller

THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 4 June 2013. The calendar has turned to June, so it must be briefing season for the aerospace and defense industry -- at least that's how it feels.

There are more government briefings to industry scheduled for the next month or two than I've seen in a long time. These briefings are government agencies telling industry what they'd like to do, not necessarily what they're going to do.

That said, one of the first briefings is coming up on 13 June when the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) briefs industry on the Janus program to develop advanced facial-recognition technology able to identify people not only using incomplete, erroneous, and ambiguous data, but also that accounts for aging, pose, illumination, and expression.

Janus, if you're wondering, isn't a government acronym, but refers to the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, which usually is depicted with two faces to look to the future and to the past. Janus briefings will be at a secure facility in Washington.

On 25 June is a briefing by the Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. on munitions fuze technology research efforts for near-term transition, as well as on research programs in the mid- and far-terms.

That same day, 25 June, the Army will brief industry on upcoming requirements to support the Network Integration Evaluation 14.2 (NIE 14.2) scheduled for May 2014.The industry briefing will be at Aberdeen Proving Ground Md., north of Baltimore. Briefings will outline NIE participation opportunities in network-centric warfare and overview the NIE 14.2 sources-sought notice that will be released in early June to solicit industry participation in NIE 14.2.

The next day, on 26 June, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will sponsor an online webinar to tell industry about the department's research and development strategy for airport security. Presenting are officials of the DHS Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) on the aviation security portion of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) research strategy.

DHS is back in the briefing business on 25 and 26 July when officials gather industry experts to discuss trace explosives detection for facilities and airport security, as well as for mass-transit security. Those briefings will be at the William J. Cohen Building, 330 C Street SW, in Washington.