• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

EXPLAINER: Why airlines wait long for new planes

Global air freight

Three months ago, Air Peace, a private Nigerian airline established four years ago, announced that it had signed a deal with US-based airplane manufacturer, Boeing, for the purchase of 10 new aircraft. However, the new airplanes are yet to be delivered, raising concerns about the veracity of the claim.

But this is by no means an isolated occurrence. Another private airline who placed an order with Boeing for the acquisition of 200 Max 737 airplanes some years ago took delivery only months ago, an airline official with knowledge of the negotiations told BusinessDay.
Aviation experts say manufacturers building new planes always take longer than they thought. This is largely due to unforeseen issues during research and development, and how quickly it can get materials for all the parts it needs. For most orders, the planes are built from scratch.
All over the world, airlines have placed 500 orders for new Max 737 airplanes with Boeing. New orders join a waiting list and deliveries are made on first come, first served basis. Boeing follows a rigorous process as an international organisation to deliver a certain number of aircraft over a period of time.

There is also the matter of costs. One of the Boeing 737 MAX costs an average of $113 million. This will amount to $1.130 billion for the 10 aircraft ordered by Air Peace. Also, one Boeing 737 MAX employs about 500 people and 10 of these aircraft will employ over 5,000 people.
However, fresh concerns are been raised as to whether the recent Lion Air Crash that occurred few weeks back involving the same Boeing 737 MAX, would delay the delivery of Air Peace’s order, especially after Indonesia’s Lion Air is threatening to cancel its aircraft orders from Boeing after a statement from the plane maker suggested that the carrier was to blame for the recent crash that killed 189 people.
Questions surrounding the crash of a two-month-old 737 Max have hovered over the Chicago-based manufacturer and weighed on its shares. The stock has declined 4.7 percent since the October 29 accident. US pilot unions have questioned why flight crews weren’t alerted to new anti-stall software installed on Boeing’s newest models of the 737, a single-aisle workhorse that is the company’s biggest source of profit.

Chris Iwarah, corporate communications manager of Air Peace, corroborated this view, saying the new aircraft were not off-the-shelf items, which means that new aircraft are not built and kept in the store, rather they are built on order.
Iwarah explained that the only time an operator can get an airplane in few months is when they buy a second-hand plane but once it is a new plane, operators have a long process to go through. Not a single airplane in the world that is brand new is delivered within a short period of time.
Since Air Peace signed the deal with Boeing, the company said it has had several meetings with Boeing in Nigeria. During these meetings, the airline said it explained to them how they want the new aircraft to look and Boeing has also made their own suggestions.