Reflections on first quarter

Boeing’s strong first quarter results can be pinned to a lot of areas on the commercial side, including a 14 percent increase in deliveries compared to the first quarter of 2014. We also captured $9.8 billion of net orders during the first quarter. Our backlog stands at more than 5,700 airplanes valued at $435 billion—the equivalent of eight years worth of production.

Among the key milestones of the quarter, we delivered the first 787-9 built at Boeing South Carolina. We also opened our propulsion systems facility at North Charleston and started up the automated wing panel assembly, better known as PAL, at the 737 factory in Renton.


The first 787-9 delivered from Boeing South Carolina.

As of today, we’ve delivered 36 787s this year. 264 Dreamliners have been delivered in total, flying more than 44 million passengers across the globe.

The 737 MAX has now racked up 2,715 total orders from 57 customers.

And our production bridge from the 777 to the new 777X also continues on pace. So far this year, we have 25 orders and commitments for the 777-300ER and 777 Freighter. The 777 line is essentially sold out for 2016. It is approximately half sold out in 2017 and has a healthy number of slots already sold firm in 2018.


The 777X.

We have a lot to be proud of, but a lot more to do as we go through the year. Check out the video below that captures more of our first quarter achievements.

Squeeze play

There was certainly a lot of groaning and grumbling going on last week after Airbus unveiled new seat configurations.

Perhaps the biggest groan came with its plans for an 11-abreast A380. As you can see from the photos linked here, anyone who gets stuck with a window seat is in for a very long and uncomfortable trip with your legs crossed.

But while most people focused on the tight squeeze that would come with this seating configuration, something else got my attention.


The 11-abreast A380.

Almost every airline that operates the A380 is having trouble filling it. In fact, most A380’s are flying at well below their intended capacity. The A380 is just too big to fill and too expensive to operate.

So why would Airbus think adding even more seats to the airplane would be a good idea?

Sure, Airbus can hope to sell a few more A380s by promising lower seat mile costs with this configuration. But that only works if all the seats are filled.

Gone are the days when Airbus touted the A380 as a luxury palace in the sky where passengers could roam in spacious lounges. Desperate times— desperate measures.

Purple plane

United Airlines is taking to the skies to celebrate 10 years of supporting the March of Dimes. The airline took delivery of a new Next-Generation 737-900ER painted in a special purple livery to mark the milestone.


United’s newest 737-900ER marks its 10 year anniversary of supporting the March of Dimes. All photos by Jim Anderson.

The March of Dimes’ mission is to provide families across the United States with care and valuable information on pregnancy and having healthy babies. United invited customers and partners who’ve donated to the organization to fly from Seattle to Chicago on the delivery flight. Those donors raised more than $780,000 for the March of Dimes.

Boeing also announced a donation for $250,000 to the March of Dimes.


“Our ‘purple plane’ is more than just a fun and unique paint job - it’s a symbol of the long-standing partnership between our customers and employees and the March of Dimes,” said John Rainey, United’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and the 2015 March for Babies National Chairman. “We know that so many people who fly with us have been touched by the issue of premature birth, and we hope that as customers spot this plane flying around the country, we can bring continued awareness and support to this very important issue.”

Among those on the delivery flight included 12-year old Elijah Jackson, the 2015 March of Dimes National Ambassador, who survived being born nearly four months premature. His mother Elise is a long-time United Airlines employee.


“Just like our partners at United, Boeing supports organizations that positively impact the communities where our employees live and work,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner. “We’re proud to see this special livery on a Boeing 737 and know it will spread the mission of the March of Dimes to the millions of travelers who will see it at airports across the country.”

Congratulations to United on this new airplane and for your support of the March of Dimes. We’re proud to be a part of this special delivery.

Making history with the MAX

Usually, when presidents are involved with history, they’re the ones making it. But last week, two presidents — Panama President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez and U.S. President Barack Obama - served as witnesses to history when Boeing and Copa Airlines announced an order for 61 of our new 737 MAXs. At $6.6 billion in value at list price, the deal is the largest commercial transaction between a Panamanian and a US-based company ever.


History being made in Panama City.


The 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 in Copa livery.

The presidents were together in Panama City along with 33 other heads of state from throughout the Western Hemisphere for the seventh Summit of the Americas. While they were there, they took time to stand witness as Copa Holdings Chairman Stanley Motta, Copa Airlines CEO Pedro Heilbron, Boeing Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney and GE Aviation President and CEO David Joyce signed documents recognizing the agreement.


The signing documents.

Copa has long been a great partner for Boeing— and a great customer for the 737. The world’s best-selling single-aisle jet is the cornerstone of Copa’s fleet today, and plays a key role in the Panamanian carrier’s business model, connecting people from throughout the hemisphere through Tocumen Airport - an airport Copa calls “The Hub of the Americas.”


With the MAX order, Copa will build on the Next-Generation 737’s reliability and passenger-pleasing features, while taking advantage of a great leap ahead in fuel efficiency and environmental performance. Copa already flies some of the longest 737 routes in the world. The 737 MAX will give Copa even more range, which will create more opportunities to connect more people from more places throughout the Americas. And on the routes that Copa flies, these 61 airplanes will save 103 million kilograms of fuel per year while emitting 324,000 metric tons less CO2. At the same time, they will be up to 40 percent quieter.


Congratulations to everybody at Copa for this landmark order.

Isn't it ironic?

This one is a real head scratcher and very ironic. You may have read that Airbus is promoting new seating configurations for its widebody airplanes to give airlines more “choice.”

Apparently abandoning their heavily promoted push for an industry standard 18-inch economy seat width, Airbus is now talking about the A330 at 9-abreast and the A350 at 10-abreast. The last time I checked, Airbus cross sections hadn’t changed. So the only “choice” the competition is offering is the opportunity to squeeze passengers into the industry’s smallest seats.

Airbus has tried to gain market acceptance for 9-abreast A330’s several times over the years, and each time it has been soundly rejected by airlines with scheduled service. Tourist and charter operators have moved away from this configuration simply because it’s uncomfortable.

The proposed seats and aisles are too narrow. There’s limited head and shoulder clearance at the window seat due to the cross section at the sidewall. In other words, Airbus penalizes the window passenger twice on a 9-abreast A330. They may have done the impossible—making the middle seat more preferable than the window! The A350 at 10-abreast would be even worse — with even smaller seats, aisles and armrests for all.

Contrast that with the 777. Its wider fuselage allows for more seats in each row while still providing a good passenger experience. Airline acceptance of the 777 at 10-abreast has continued to grow over the years, now accounting for over 50 percent of recent 777 deliveries. And the 777 continues to win passenger preference awards year after year.

While we can all dream of an airplane that offers 1-abreast seating, the reality is that airlines need to the flexibility to optimize their configurations. And Boeing offers just that, with our focus on designs that make economic sense to airlines while providing a passenger-preferred experience.


More posts