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First Japan-Built Airliner in 50 Years Takes on Boeing and Airbus (bloomberg.com)
406 points by pseudolus 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments

> Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.’s new airliner is testing the skies just as rivals are moving to sell off their manufacturing operations for jets with up to 160 seats. Boeing Co. is set to buy 80 percent of the Embraer SA’s commercial operations in a joint venture, while Bombardier Inc. last year sold control of its C Series airliner project to Airbus SE and is exploring “strategic options” for its regional-jet operations.

This is completly misleading on the Bombardier's part, they're not looking to sell off anything. Boeing got bitter after losing to them a deal with Delta Airlines so they asked and got a ridiculous tariff in place on the canadian plane for sales in the USA. Instead of accepting the loss of that market / selling off, Bombardier doubled down on that path and they made the "Avions C-Series" joint venture with Airbus (ownership 50.01 % Airbus, 30.99 % Bombardier Inc., 19 % Québec gov), where Airbus got half+ ownership for a symbolic euro and Bombardier got access to the Alabama plant so their sales to US customers would not be affected by tariffs (also, access to Airbus network for maintenance, training, ...).

The plane is now sold as the Airbus A220, which coupled with the A320 Neo is a no small part of the threat that made Boeing take so many shortcuts on the 737 Max so it could have the training advantage.

A newcomer is always great for competition, and a revival of Japan's ability in that area is great, but claiming they come in a field that their competitors is leaving is simply untrue, the A220 is more alive and dangerous as competition than Bombardier could have ever dreamt to be "alone"; and Airbus is now free to concentrate on other areas and let Bombardier does what it does best, instead of having to field their own plane at that range.

The only losing party was Boeing, which from where I stand is Karma (not saying Bombardier was not getting subsidies, but saying any of Boeing/Airbus/Embraer/Bombardier/... complaining about subsidies to the others is ridiculous, especially the two big ones who have their hands in military contracts)

Note that Airbus has the option to buy the whole program from Bombardier Inc. and the Québec government. I'm trying to find out the exact terms. There is some speculation that Airbus doesn't want to push the CSeries/A220 too much until then, as it will only make the remaining 49.99% of the program more expensive.

EDIT: after some research digging through the related thread on airliners.net [1], this is what I found:

"After 7.5 years (which is pretty fast), Airbus has a call option for all of BBD's shares in the joint venture at the then current market value (and BBD has a put option similarly, which it would exercise if things didn't work out). So basically, Airbus can buy the whole shebang in 7.5 years."

Since the announce was made in October 2016, in 6 years Airbus can trigger its option to acquire Bombardier's shares. Not completely sure about Québec's shares though.

[1] https://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1376389&...

Boeing really shot themselves in the foot there, although as I understand it they asked for an 80% tariff and the US government instead imposed a 300% one. A reminder of the dangers of protectionism, perhaps, although admittedly the original 80% tariff might still have been enough to force Bombardier into the Airbus partnership.

Especially since Boeing had already spent good money to get the Embraer plane in their lineup, and their actions "gave" its biggest competitor to Airbus for free.

And in the other side of it, the deal will also majorly benefit Bombardier overall, obviously compared to no deal, but even long term compared with going on their own; Airbus is now pushing the plane hard like a normal part of their lineup, it doesn't compete with another Airbus plane since they didn't have one there yet (they were like Boeing except they snapped the Embraer one first). And the plane having access to the entire Airbus network is a big big plus (which is pretty much why it was instantly renamed A220, making it clear to customer it was a long term fully supported Airbus plane not a temporary off shot).

Even the Québec gov is happy since the deal protects all the jobs and manufacturing locations, only difference is final assembly done in Alabama, and only for US customers.

Also, Airbus was supposed to make their own and then compete directly with Bombardier too. Making two ennemies ally with each other is a really dumb move, and good luck taking it back once they both start reaping the benefits of that alliance.

Extreme protectionism can be dangerous for sure. But the Bombardier example and protectionism in aerospace isn't a negative example of protectionism. It actually shows that protectionism works. The US benefited by having bombardier planes being built in the US. More jobs, more work for american workers and more taxes for the government. It's a win-win situation. You could argue that Boeing lost out, but they really didn't either.

Bombardier, Airbus, Boeing and the entire aerospace industry in every country exists primarily due to protectionism. Without canadian government support and market protection, bombardier could not exist. Without EU protection, Airbus cannot exist. Boeing or other aerospace companies would have underbid bombardier and airbus out of existence because they produced their own planes.

It's why China and Japan also use significant protectionism to protect their aerospace industry. They, like the US and EU, all "encourage" their own national carriers to buy from national manufacturers.

As others have noted, aerospace industry is inherently dual function just like satellite/GPS industry. They, by their innate nature, serve both the civilian and military industries.

I know we are told "protectionism" is bad from a young age, but the modern industrial world ( starting with the US ) was created by protection. Almost every industry in every industrial nation owes it's rise to protectionism. If you have the time, you should read up on the history of US protectionism in the 1800s, which set the example that every major economy from china to germany to japan to south korea followed to become major economic players.

Without protectionism, we don't have Airbus, Bombardier, etc. Without protectionism, we also don't have Samsung, Toyota, Sony, Volkswagen, etc. Without protectionism, every industry in the US would have been bought up or controlled by the wealthier british industrialists.

The first act of Congress was an act of protectionism - a tariff.


> Extreme protectionism can be dangerous for sure. But the Bombardier example and protectionism in aerospace isn't a negative example of protectionism. It actually shows that protectionism works. The US benefited by having bombardier planes being built in the US. More jobs, more work for american workers and more taxes for the government. It's a win-win situation. You could argue that Boeing lost out, but they really didn't either.

No they didn't. No new plant, no new hires, no more planes built at that plant than before. They will displace planned production at that plant to make room for the specific planes requesting by US customers, and the plane originally meant to be built there will be made in another non US plant.

The ONLY thing that changes for the US is negative in that Boeing's competitors are now stronger and allied together against Boeing.

Lets say you are right. If protectionism was so bad for the US and so good for our competitors, then our competitors would be begging us to increase our protectionism. But they are doing the exact opposite.

If protectionism was so good for the competitor, Boeing and the US government wouldn't be attacking the EU and their subsidies and protectionism of Airbus.

If protectionism is so bad for Boeing, why have the Boeing execs lobbied the US government for more protectionism? If protectionism is so bad, why has bombardier lobbied canada and quebec for protectionism for decades? If protectionism is so bad, why has airbus lobbied for protectionism from the EU even before they became operational? Airbus was born with protectionism and subsidies that is the envy of the world.

I'm not entirely for or against protectionism, but the blanket ideology that protectionism is bad is historically incorrect. Ask Boeing, ask Airbus, ask Bombardier.

If Airbus starts demanding more tariffs, subsidies and protectionism for Boeing in the US, then I'll start to believe what you say. If Boeing demands that EU give Airbus even more subsidies and greater market protection it the EU, then I'll start to believe what you say.

>If protectionism was so bad for the US and so good for our competitors, then our competitors would be begging us to increase our protectionism. But they are doing the exact opposite.

Most people view trade in general as a mutually beneficial endeavor.

I too agree that trade can be a mutually beneficial endeavor. But it's not an either-or nor an absolute. Trade can be good, trade can be bad. Protectionism can be good, protectionism can be bad. History has shown that a certain amount of trade and a certain amount of protectionism is the formula for success and trade.

As I pointed out before, some of the top trading nations are the US, China, Japan, Germany and South Korea. All of them have significant amount of protectionist policies. All of them also have significant amount of trade.

It's a false dichotomoy to claim you can have trade or you can have protectionism. You can have both.

Your argument basically is:

War is good, b/c after the first strike everything is ok for the attacker.

You forget that there is always some kind of reaction. Protectionism always works in the short run. We'll see how protectionist US looks in 10y. Then you can argue depending on results it works.

The US car industry is advocating pretty vehemently against tariffs right now.

But besides, you’re not even mentioning the customers, who always loose out because their natural choice of product is artificially influenced.

I have a different take on winners and losers (from left to right):

Airbus > Mitsubishi > Boeing > Bombardier

Airbus - Gained a brand new aircraft for close to nothing, allowing it to sell at a discount that Boeing may not be able to do. Can wait to make key strategic sales for after they purchase Bombardier's 30.99% stake.

Mitsubishi - Learned what to do and not to do from the Bombardier saga. Also learned that there is a potential market for a third competitor.

Boeing - Staved off a potential third competitor which could dilute the profitability of the segment. Didn't want to make the same mistake when it didn't consider the Airbus could become the giant it is today decades ago. (As of today, lost 15% stock from its previous peak, although it may be due to a variety of other problems, including the China/US trade spat)

Bombardier - Was forced to sell off its new jet for close to nothing.

> Airbus got half+ ownership for a symbolic euro

And Airbus didn't even take on the huge debts the programme has accrued. They get none of the pain of the development and half the profit from sales. (Also I believe Airbus's network for sales was also considered significant by Bombardier; they may lose a fair bit of the profit from sales, but I think Bombardier were hoping Airbus's networks would increase sales sufficiently that it'd be a net gain for them.)

> Also I believe Airbus's network for sales was also considered significant by Bombardier

Absolutely, there is a reason why it got renamed to A220 instantly. In passenger planes Airbus/Boeing is like the "nobody got fired for buying IBM/Microsoft" of the IT world.

Also, their potential customers are much more likely to already have Airbus planes, so with that change you don't need another suppliers for parts and maintenance etc ... It's the same vendor.

Boeing does not make a plane small enough to compete with the A220, really.

The A220 competes with the ERJ-175/190 series. An A319 carries slightly more passengers than the largest A220, and the smallest 737NG carries 30-50 more passengers.

Boeing has never competed in the small regional jet market, and their recent attempt at a partnership with Embraer is their response to the A220.

Boeing produced the 717 until 2006, which would have directly competed with small regional jets

Yes, this is true, but the 717 was acquired from McDonnell Douglas as the MD-95, so it wasn't an organic design.

Their ending of production is another indication that they aren't interested in the market.

The value of the business roughly doubled after it "sold" half to Airbus. Financially they were no worse off and they guarantee the success of the business by hooking up with a proven partner. They get 7.5 years of the upside including all the investment by Airbus.

Sounds like a great deal to me.

This is not entirely true. Bombardier was having financial issues with the C Series and is in fact considering selling off the CRJ business. They're already spinning off the Dash 8 Q400.


This section on Wikipedia gives a succinct overview of the multiple financial issues Bombardier has faced with the C Series.


Yeah, I don't know enough about planes to say whether or not the C Series / A220 is good or competitive. That part seems almost secondary to the softer issues.

Bombardier put a lot of time and money into the development, and then way more money and way more time. And Quebec is clearly, lets say, highly interested in making sure that planes are built, and that some of them are made in Quebec.

> for a symbolic euro

The world of business sometimes reads like a novel.

That symbolic Euro is important because it makes the deal a purchase instead of a gift. Legally, the consequences are significant.

There are numerous situations when paying nothing for something is entirely reasonable, for example when you are getting nothing (or even worse) in return (eg: bailout), or when you are giving something else in return (eg: future cooperation, access to new technology, access to a new market, etc.)

In my experience, the business side of startups is just making stuff up. That is to say it feels that way. The world of business kind of is a giant ambling collaborative novel.

It’s a Bloomberg article which is fast becoming synonymous with inaccuracy or just being outright wrong. I usually skip them altogether but maybe it’s time we start flagging these articles. I’m of the opinion that most Bloomberg articles are a waste of time for HackerNews.

Interesting view - other than the issues the community had around that server hacking piece, what article has been outright wrong vs just having a heavy editorial slant (as most publications now do)?

This is just more anecdata, but I notice a small minority of Bloomberg articles, including the server hacking piece, where it seems that some competent journalists tried pretty hard to break a real story.

(edit for clarity- Clearly they got a lot in the server hacking piece wrong, but in the situation it seems like they were intentionally misled, and were really not expecting so many of their "sources" to be basically repeaters of the same falsehoods)

BUT, most of their articles seem like extremely low quality drivel. They fail to get basic facts or ideas about the situation correct, and/or they sound like someone shit out a 1-sentence long opinion and then expanded it into a page or 2. I haven't been flagging these and don't think most do, but maybe we should start.

They’ve always been low quality. I remember when they said something weird about the Indian Railway budget and I looked it up and they’d completely misinterpreted the stats (which were well apparent to a thinly sliced goat leg, let alone a trained journalist).

I can’t say about all articles—only the ones posted on HackerNews. The server hacking piece and the fallout was what prompted me to look with a slightly more discerning eye. Compared to much of the content that hits the front page, Bloomberg is generally low quality.

Bloomberg specifically tries to push stories that move the markets. That alone makes me take their articles with a grain of salt.

Aerospace is strategic industry where civilian and military procurements support each other, so this is much more than just business or competition.

Japan has made baby steps to have more sovereignty in it's foreign policy and it just makes sense that they are slowly increasing the relative independency of their strategic industries as well.

A little bit different with Japan as they were banned from making aircraft after WWII for years....

This is an example of the 'Slippery Slope' logical fallacy.

Description of gradual progression can't be slippery slope logical fallacy.

It's surprising. That's what the article is getting at, and that's the thing implicit in most of the comments. Not necessarily why they did it? But that they would do it at all.

Just seems a bit Quixotic. Especially for a country with much larger issues to worry about. If your country is dying, you'd think you would be rolling out high tech, or innovative solutions to that problem first.

What do you mean by dying. Are you referring to low birth rates or other factors?

Yeah. The fact that they are going to be at about 85 million in 2050, down from 125 today, is pretty alarming.

Well, I guess "alarm" isn't the right word, since everyone knows that it's happening already. But you would think there would be more concern about it?

I honestly think more countries should be encouraged to go this route. Do we really need more people on this planet? Shoudn't being more sustainable involve having fewer children, less consumption and having more productive work and more people in the automation industry?

The only way such a move would have the desired effect is if those countries also took up Japan's extremely restrictive migration policies. That is unlikely to happen in most lower-nativity (i.e. 'western' or 'westernised') countries.

> That is unlikely to happen in most lower-nativity (i.e. 'western' or 'westernised') countries.

That is already happening in most western nations.

Sweden shut down its immigration flood as one prominent example. It was a policy mistake that will not benefit their nation at all and they aggressively reversed course. Denmark has mostly followed Sweden in restricting its briefly loose immigration policies, because the results have been very poor.

Australia has implemented an extremely strict immigration system that locks almost everyone out unless you meet their merit requirements.

Canada has had a strict merit system in place for a long time. They have no plans to change that, because they know the damage it would do to their very nice welfare state.

Norway and Finland never relaxed their immigration policies in the first place.

Merkel's immigration flood exploded in her face with massive backlash politically. Germany was forced to turn back against that approach as it was politically untenable.

France has seen zero economic benefit from its loose immigration policies over the last two decades. When I say zero, I mean their immigrants have high unemployment and low education levels, the economy has not expanded at all, productivity is not expanding, GDP per capita has not expanded, and median wages have not expanded. They thought it would bolster their economy, it did the exact opposite, it's now a massive drag on each person in France that has to support the high immigrant unemployment rate.

Next will be the US, which will entirely turn against allowing mass low skill immigration. The US has dramatically expanded its welfare state over the last 30 and 50 years. The US now spends as much on its welfare state per capita as Canada. You can't combine increasingly shifting to a very expensive welfare state system with unfettered low skill immigration that can't pay its own way (and in fact does the opposite, it drowns the system). Bernie Sanders, to use one prominent example, understands how this combination has to work economically. It's why Finland only has 5 million people and isn't in a big hurry to get to 10 million (they could open the gates tomorrow and allow in millions of people; it's clear why they don't do it). You can have sustainable immigration in an expensive welfare state only if it pays for itself. All the best nations - highest standards of living - on earth follow this model for obvious reasons.

> Sweden shut down its immigration flood as one prominent example

Sweden had the third-highest migration count ever in 2018, with ~137.000 people migrating to the country. The second-highest was 2017 (~144.000), the highest 2016 (~163.000). Source: SCB (Statistiska Centralbyrån -> 'Central Bureau for Statistics') report [1]. No borders were closed, not for real. In 2018 Migrationsverket ('Migration authority', responsible for handling migration) expected over half a million people (~5% of the current population) to come to Sweden in the coming 5 years.

Half of the women giving birth in Sweden are now wholly or partly of foreign descent, 35% partly or wholly of non-western descent, this also according to a recent SCB report.

[1] https://www.scb.se/hitta-statistik/sverige-i-siffror/mannisk...

Depends a bit on what you're looking at. Here's a graph of the approved residencies for asylum seekers : https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vQwHObtLmiVV...

It shows a clear decline in recent years, though overall immigration may not be affected.

Do note that I was talking about 'migration', not about 'asylum seekers'. Also, when discussing migration (of any sort) to Sweden it is best to keep to verified sources - SCB being a prime example of such - as the discussion around this subject is so polarised that anything less than pristine data is suspect. Random spreadsheets don't count as verified data.

Australia's migration policies has "locked almost everyone out" for years (at least since the 1990s).

Net immigration numbers jump around year by year, but have been between 170K and 250K/year for over 10 years (with the exception of 2008/9 when they increased to 300K for one year)[1]

There's been no change in policy affecting these numbers.

There have been changes in the rules affecting asylum seekers arriving by boat. In terms of numbers these aren't really significant (during the most extreme years it was around 10,000).

Separately, Australia takes in ~13,000 refugees per year who do not arrive by boat.[2]

[1] https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/3412...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asylum_in_Australia#Mandatory_...


you brought facts to a talking-points fight

> Next will be the US, which will entirely turn against allowing mass low skill immigration.

Will it? The policy class shows no signs of this.

How exactly is not building up industries going to help out a country that has negative population growth? What do you want them to do, stop being productive industrially, and just make babies like various 3rd-world nations that have no industry and lots of starving people?

Japan having 85 million people in 2050 is no more alarming than France having 67 million today. Why would it matter whether Japan has 100, 80, 60, or 40 million people? They're at no risk of literally disappearing and 85 million is still a lot of people for that island to support.

Ideally you want your population to contract, while you increase per capita well-being through productivity gains. Each person gains, while the society eases up on the pressure it exerts via resource demands. There are few exceptions, perhaps countries like Estonia which are already tiny and still contracting (where a stable population might be preferable).

Adding people is one of the worst things most nations can be doing at this moment in history. Overall economic growth (almost always the argument used to push for expanding population at any cost) is not inherently valuable, it's the per capita growth that is the best measure. You want greater output per capita and to accomplish it using fewer resources.

Just ask France and the UK. They've added 10 million people to their collective population since 2006. They've produced zero per capita economic growth in all that time. Their citizens are wildly unhappy about what's going on as one would expect. The elites have done well, while most people have seen their wages and standards of living stagnate for decades. That path isn't going to sustain much longer given the current climate. It's going to require a refocusing on per capita well-being, instead of trying to grow the overall economy at any cost. Most developed nations, including the US, are in the same boat.

I'm all in favour of more competition, and of course I get that designs are led by engineering/efficiency concerns, but it still makes me a little sad that the days of visually distinctive aircraft designs are long gone. Old-style machines like Concorde and 747 and all their predecessors can be recognized from a great distance; I'd be hard-pressed to tell this apart from an E190 even if I taxied right past it on the tarmac.

This is about to get interesting again when hybrid/electric planes enable a complete rethink of how planes work and are designed. The first commercial electric planes are currently under development. Both Airbus and Boeing have some plans for about a decade from now on this front. Most of that (but not all) will be hybrid electric.

Current economics are based on the notion that fuel is expensive and therefore you try to fly huge planes with lots of people because it delivers better fuel economy. This completely dominates everything in the aviation industry currently from design, logistics, to operations. The economies are such that you only fly routes where you can fill all the seats and still pay for the fuel. With electric your energy cost is a much less significant. Your main cost shift to infrastructure, cost, maintenance, etc. of the plane. If electric cars are an indication, you can expect some reduced cost there as well.

So, suddenly, flying short hops with small air planes becomes cheap and feasible. So, why fly short hops with a few huge planes that cost tens of millions and burn tons of fuel when you can fly the same route with many smaller planes that you charge using solar/wind/etc. for a fraction of the cost? Changes the game completely. E.g. London-Amsterdam could be dozens/hundreds of 6-12 seater electrical planes instead of a handful of airbuses flying back and forth. Also, London City suddenly becomes more attractive because small electric planes are not so noisy.

Basically on board staff becomes the limiting factor, not fuel cost. Now add autonomous flying to the mix and you solve that as well.

Even assuming all that pans out, isn't there a huge bottleneck in airport capacity?

If air traffic scales down to flights 1/10 the size of today, 10 times as many takeoffs and landings are needed to move the same number of people.

I don't think we have any way to get 10x the airport capacity?

Not necessarily. Small planes need a lot less runway and can fly to way more airports that are off limits for noisy jets. Also wake turbulence is less of an issue so you need to wait less long between takeoffs and landings. And, you can build new airports closer to cities and fly to destinations that are currently not serviced at all.

> hundreds of 6-12 seater electrical planes

Problems with lots of small planes:

* They fly like a roller-coaster (4 seaters are crazy scary for many people).

* More crashes - bad "optics"

* Number of pilots required

They do have the potential to have more direct routes, and very short hops, with less security overheads. Maybe run more regularly, but not much of an advantage because most people want to travel at particular times of the day (same problem with buses).

> E.g. London-Amsterdam could be dozens/hundreds of 6-12 seater electrical planes

As long as they don't all need 2 pilots. I'd really like to see self-driving planes, must be easier than self-driving cars surely? (And, yes, I would fly in one)

Flying a plane is easy. Autopilots have been a thing for a long time. Landing a plane is a bit tricky but doable. The value of human pilots though is in the case of malfunctions. That's the main problem. A failing safe-driving car has always the option of stopping on the side, calling home and lighting the warning lights.

A plane has to find a way of landing safely first. I am not versed enough in aeronautics to even begin to understand how hard it is to reach human-level in mayday situations.

Under normal circumstances a plane can totally land itself at an airport equipped with ILS IIIC. If you’re landing in a corn field because your engine stopped spinning (generally a bad day) the situation is a bit different. This is why I think fully autonomous planes carrying humans won’t happen for a really long time. The stakes when shit goes sideways is really high and it takes skill and a bit of luck to recover from that. Computers don’t yet have that.

Many small business jets are single pilot operations. I think the FAA has 6 passengers as the upper limit for this currently (but I could be wrong). Of course rules can be changed when technology makes this possible. The main limitations for self flying planes are non technical and related to regulations and procedures designed for human operated planes. IMHO, much of that could be solved with today's technology even but it would require disruptive changes that don't quite make sense yet. Once technology catches up it will make more sense and these things will start changing.

>As long as they don't all need 2 pilots. I'd really like to see self-driving planes, must be easier than self-driving cars surely? (And, yes, I would fly in one)

The issue I think is that airplane autopilots rely significantly on sensors which occasionally fail. That means self-flying planes must be able to cope with sensor failures which generally means falling back to visual cues. Self-driving cars that rely just on cameras (rather than LIDAR) are a point of debate regarding their feasibility. Planes that would have to rely on just cameras likely have the same issues.

There is intermediate possibility, the pilot does not have to be on the plane. We already fly drones remotely.

>I'd really like to see self-driving planes, must be easier than self-driving cars surely? (And, yes, I would fly in one)

I wouldn't, if it was made by Boeing. Just look at how badly they fucked up something as simple as their MCAS system, making it only use input from a single sensor. That kind of incompetence isn't going to yield a safe plane that flies by itself.

But isn't the problem that a lot of airports (like Heathrow and Schipol) are operating at capacity? So the only way to get more capacity is to increase the size of each individual aircraft.

Sure, but they are designed for big heavy jets and the reason they are at capacity is because building long runways with noisy approaches is very controversial in densely populated areas.

There are many smaller airports in and around London that you can go to with a smaller plane and quite a few that are more convenient to get to from inside the city. If noise and pollution stop being concerns, many of those would be able to absorb the traffic and building more would be a lot less controversial.

The current generation of passenger jets have been optimized to the point of looking similar across makers and models. High bypass turbofans, wing and body design are all similar. For me, the quickest way to distinguish a Boeing and Airbus is nose taper and cockpit windows. Everything beyond that point are not unique enough.

It's like convergent evolution in nature - there are only a few possible 'best' solutions, so at some point everyone uses that one.

One example would be eyes in mammals and eyes in cephalopods: they are extremely similar safe for some details (the location of the blind spot is different, but it's there) even though both groups are hundreds of million of years apart!

There are other tell-tale signs, like wingtips, how the rear-end tapers out, number of wheels in the main landing gear, location of pitot tubes etc.

Wingtips alone will give away Airbus vs Boeing on all current in-production models.

If you can hear them, sound differentiates them pretty effectively too. Most Airbuses haven't been fixed yet.

Landing gear?

If it's deployed. Due to my partner flying for work I've seen most passenger planes from above while at the gate or in flight. Never paid attention to the landing gear except to note that it was down.

But for most people when they look at a plane it's either from the front or the back. Boeing planes have a sharp tapered nose. Airbus have rounder nose with a steep incline at the cockpit window. To me, one looks like a shark and the other a dolphin.

It get's complicated for the smaller, regional fleets. I know an ATR when I see it but I would have some difficulty differentiating an Embraer from a CRJ or 707.

707 was a quadjet, you mean 717? You can tell it apart by how the engines are mounted at an angle from the body (pointing slightly upwards).

That's because Concorde and 747 were built with emphasis on a specific feature, in the former case speed and the latter capacity (the same reason an A380 also looks distinctive --- it's huge.)

The 747, in particular, was intended as a freighter - a big, empty tube into which large things could be loaded, with a crew compartment up and out of the way. The passenger configuration was meant to be a stopgap measure while the SST was in development. Then it all went horribly wrong for Boeing, and they were stuck with an enormous success that accidentally changed the face of air travel. Oh, well.

Unless you'd rebuild all airports for higher wingspan aircraft (ie. same process that had to be done for A380 to land but on bigger scale) - it's not happening.

Maybe the other side of that right now is, higher safety given using known designs? I also was looking for something distinctive but there is also a comfort in familiarity, when it comes to air safety..

> the days of visually distinctive aircraft designs are long gone

SpaceX hopes to eventually provide business-class and other Earth2Earth service with its BFR/Starship/SuperHeavy, a two-stage (1st returns to launch site) stainless-steel rocket. The design is still in flux, and may or may not end up with enough wings to be somewhat "aircraft"-ish... rather than just a belly-flopping skydiving spacecraft with a bit of body lift and wing-like control surfaces. But it's certainly visually distinctive.

the same is happening with cars and phones. Physics, ergonomics and supply chains lead manufacturers converge towards similar designs. There is almost no way around it once things mature.

For example I was hoping that electric cars would lead to a reevaluation of the basic design of a car and we would see something new but instead electric cars look pretty much like cars with a gas engine.

>For example I was hoping that electric cars would lead to a reevaluation of the basic design of a car and we would see something new but instead electric cars look pretty much like cars with a gas engine.

What were you hoping for? There's only so much you can do with the basic design of a car. It needs to have crumple zones in the front and rear for safety (really old cars with radically different designs didn't have this, but they weren't safe in a crash), and a car that can't seat 4 generally won't sell, so you're not going to get anything that looks substantially different from today's cars.

The article says "Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd., also known as Comac, has a new regional jet in service," and then shows a picture of the Comac C919. To be clear, the regional jet that Comac has in service is the ARJ21, and the C919 is Comac's upcoming competitor to the 737 Max and A320 Neo.

I wonder if Boeing is going to sue Mitsubishi like they sued Bombardier.

Here's the bit I used to tease my Boeing employed friend about:

Mitsubishi Heavy built the wings for the 787. Boeing, in a rare moment of stupidity, outsourced the manufacturing of the wings (the internal policy has historically been "The wings are the plane" so outsource anything BUT the wings and we are cool).

So about the time the first 787 prototype rolls off the lines, Mitsubishi announces their Regional Jet.

He was calm about this every time I brought him an article about them making progress. It's a Bombardier class plane, it doesn't really compete with Boeing. And they need a lot of commuter jets in SE Asia so they'll sell a lot of them, sure, but it's gonna be a while before they build a plane three times as big.

And as it turns out, it took them a very long time just to build their first plane. Now, I don't believe the Japanese "school of business" is fond of people bungling a project and having no idea how to avoid all the problems the next time, so we could get surprised by a much faster turnaround on the next one. But they're still way behind schedule.

> Here's the bit I used to tease my Boeing employed friend about:

Is it really "Boeing" anymore or more MD?

One hypothesis around the 787 problems I heard was that post-acquisition, all the MD people ended up in important positions (reverse take-over a la Apple and NeXT)

So when the Dreamliner program came a long it was developed under MD's more business-y thinking (outsource risk) instead of Boeing's engineering thinking (learn in-house). Then they had to put together a ten thousand piece jigsaw from hundreds of suppliers with varying tolerances.

> MD's more business-y thinking (outsource risk)

MD was/is a defense contractor first and foremost and the most important thing about defense aerospace is spreading the grift over as many congressional districts as possible. This makes total sense when your clients are 100% political. It makes zero sense otherwise.

Notice SpaceX can build big rockets on the cheap and keep a schedule? Yeah because they do everything in one place unlike NaSA and it's contractors that have to spread everything all over.

> Notice SpaceX can [..] keep a schedule?

They cannot. Your statement is actually kinda funny, since "elon time" is its own meme and ULA uses "Schedule Certainty" as one of the main talking points to distinguish themselves from SpaceX (see [0] as an example of the ULA CEO doing exactly that on the SpaceX subreddit)

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/aqbnza/spacex_prote...

> They cannot.

You mean compared to NaSA and it's aerospace contractors? Cause that's what matters.

You are not wrong. They even changed the Boeing logo to sneak the MD logo in (and now it looks stupid).

I believe it was also said after the fact that the process for the 787 was a huge mistake and they'd never build a plane like that again.

Silver lining I suppose.

I doubt Boeing want to antagonise the japanese, whose airlines recently and for the first time since ever did some Airbus orders. It could backfire pretty hard. Also, it didn't exactly work out with Bombardier ...

Especially after the 737-MAX disaster.

Interesting I think to note that a co-owner of the division of Mitsubishi making this plane is Mitsui Corporation. Mitsui Co. Is a general trading company which includes a large airplane leasing division. This project is a cool example of the connection and group centric behavior of Japanese corporations.

Mitsubishi and mitsui are among the big four zaibatsu (zaibatsu) of Japan. Can't agree it's cool consiering their history in modern Japan.

The move by Trans States Holdings and Skywest Inc to order this aircraft, specifically the MRJ90 variant, is interesting. Currently, in the US, the three major carriers United, Delta, and American are in contract negotiations with their pilots. A hot button topic during these negotiations is always scope. Scope sections basically define what flying must be done in house and what flying and how much flying can be outsourced. As it is currently, I’m not aware that any of the 3 major carriers, who contract this type of regional flying with TSA, SKW, etc. have permissive enough scope clauses to contract out flying to these companies on this aircraft. If I remember correctly even the updated ERJ175 took some negotiating to get the unions on board as it was outside of the weight limits set by some carriers’ scope clauses. The standard cutoff as of today for regional flying is 76 seats, this is why the CRJ-900 and ERJ175 have exactly 76 seats and the ERJ190 is flown by American Airlines proper rather than a contractor. Given many airline pilots feel their career has been hampered by two decades of regional jet fee for departure arrangements I see little hope for scope being relieved for regional airlines to fly bigger and bigger aircraft.

Of course, the move to secure order places may simply be a strategic move to trade those spots on the order book for more flying should one of the legacy airlines choose to order the MRJ for themselves. It’s interesting how the chess pieces move and fun to watch!

TLDR; Don’t expect to see this aircraft flying under the colors of any of the legacy airlines in the US until you see them ordered by the legacy airlines themselves.

The MRJ90 is only slightly bigger than the E175-E2 (92 pax in a 1-class configuration vs. 88 pax in the E175), so it wouldn't be crazy for the regional airlines to get some equipped in a lower-density configuration with 76 seats.

The E175-E2 is actually the aircraft I was speaking about being over the weight limits under current scope clauses [1]

Without the scope issue being solved these aircraft are dead in the water when it comes to the US. Obviously the US market isn’t the only market but it is certainly the largest and without it a manufacturer cannot expect to be a real threat to Boeing or Airbus.


Such a difficult game to get into, convincing legacy airlines who have entrenched and certified workforces and expensive engineering supply chains, the business case of adding another manufacturers equipment is almost insurmountable. Even making a great aircraft isn't enough let alone accounting for what airbus and boeing can respond with if you pose a threat.

Well, if cars are any indication, maybe it'll be more reliable than the American built planes.

Mercifully, though, modern airliners aren’t made by 1970s-era General Motors.

No, that's for small aircraft and their postwar era engine designs. To give you an idea of how slow development is in small aircraft engines, AVGas (Gasoline for airplanes) is still leaded.

That’s more because of how old the fleet is. Modern engines with fuel injection, electronic ignition, turbos, and (optional) constant speed props don’t really care as long as their ECU has a map for it.

New planes also get 50-year old design engines due nobody wanting to pony up $ for certification of new ones...

And significantly more fuel efficient?

Aircraft manufacturers don't tend to make Jet Engines. The MRJ uses a Pratt & Whitney engine, for example [0]. Pratt & Whitney is a US company.

The engine isn't the only bit that affects fuel efficiency, but it is a big part.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsubishi_Regional_Jet

Manufacturers are actively prohibited from this activity by US antitrust law. The “United” in “United Airlines” was a reference to the joining of Boeing and Pratt&Whitney.

Although aircraft are designed for specific engines, it’s up to the customer to execute a separate purchase agreement for them.

So mitsubishi finally will deliver the plane or not? I can't find this information in the news, and the delivery of this very plane has been delayed several times.

The MRJ is too heavy to be flown by any US airline per contracts with the pilots. I don't see how we will ever see this plane in the US.

To elaborate… the pilots' union doesn't want the airlines shifting jobs to lower paying affiliate airlines, so their contracts restrict the sorts of planes which can be used with the affiliates.

Covered in wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scope_clause

I noticed that they referred to trams state airlines as trams world later in the same paragraph ... I miss TWAs almost art deco travel posters.

Someone please for the love of god make a minimalist news website without cookies and all the other annoying distractions! :|

But would you be willing to pay for it?

Part of the reason news websites have to resort to all of the advertising and trackers is because everyone expects to get their news for free now.

Which would be a great defense, except that they typically keep all that stuff even when you do subscribe.

Block all javascript, including first party. The article text is all still there and the website is made 'minimalist' by force.

http://lite.cnn.io and http://text.npr.org are nice, but neither has an article about this, unfortunately.

It's not too bad with uBlock Origin. Are you running a browser with a good adblocker?

Brave Browser


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