TWA and the A318 and 717

From:         jmweber@goodnet.com (James Matthew Weber)
Date:         Thu, 31 Dec 1998 00:05:38 GMT
Organization: Shore.Net/Eco Software, Inc; (info@shore.net)
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I keep thinking about this, and it still makes no sense to me.  A
previous post to this newsgroup suggested that the aircraft fulfil
different missions. While that may be possible, it doesn't deal with
the fact that it is basically nonsense.

Both aircraft have similar passenger capacity. The A318 certainly has
longer legs, but according to the Avweek article on the 717  in the
October 12 issue, you can order the 717 with a higher MGTOW and higher
performance BR715 engines, which takes the range out to 1700nm. My
guess is the range on the A318 is still a lot longer, but that begs
the question. I cannot think of many situations where a range in
excess of 1700nm does TWA or any other regional much good.  What are
you going to do, equip it for ETOPS and fly the pond? The weight
penalty for the higher weight/longer range version of the 717 is less
than 1000 pounds. I have to believe that buying that variant of the
aircraft would have been less costly than the training and sparing for
an all new aircraft ype, and as far as TWA is concerned, the A318 is
an all new airplane. 

While the A318 will almost certainly weigh a good deal more, it isn't
clear that is operating costs will be materially different. The
published SFC figures for the Br715 are not impressive (The 21,000
pounds thrust variant of the CFM56 used on the A319 does a lot
better!). If the PW6000 cannot produce an SFC competitive with the
best of the CFM56's, then P&W should probably forget about building
it. 

The only stand out difference that may be meaningful  is probably in
freight lift. This has always been a problem for the D9/MD80 family,
and the basic diameter of the aircraft drives this issue. This was
quoted as a major reason that both SAS and Alaska Airlines bought
737's.  

I also have to wonder about buying two airplanes with all new engines.
That guarantees high training and sparing up costs, as well as
problems with dispatch reliability. Given TWA's already poor on time
performance, this doesn't seem like a very intelligent move.

On the other hand, given TWA's difficulties in making money or a
reasonable return on investment even when times are good (as in now),
I am not sure TWA will be around when it comes time to deliver the
A318's anyway. My own suspicion is another Bankruptcy may be in TWA's
future if there is another downdraft in the industry in next couple of
years. This time they may take the opportunity to cancel the
outstanding Airbus Contracts. This decision looks to me more like an
attempt to avoid the cancellation penalties from the old A330 contract
than anything else. 

While it is possible that TWA plans to sell the aircraft, anyone who
expects to turn a profit doing this is probably smoking something. It
does happen now, and then, but it takes unusual circumstances. Given
how well these aircraft are selling at the moment, TWA would be
competing with Boeing and Airbus to sell, and under those
circumstances, there is probably no price TWA could afford to charge
that both Airbus and Boeing would not be willing to undercut. I
suspect that there will be no shortage of good delivery positions
available.

I have another post in the works that provides some insight into why
neither aircraft is selling very well, and probably never will.

my thoughts anyway.