Richard Aboulafia: June 2018 Letter

Dear Fellow Critical Mass Critics,

Regards from Nova Scotia, a green, eco-friendly paradise offering tasty lobsters, quirky wine, and lovely hiking. Incongruously, it once thrived as an industrial center. Nova Scotia factories built cars, machine tools, and ships. The province was even served by an extensive railroad network, moving raw materials and bringing industrial products to market.

It’s all gone now, of course, leaving behind scallop fisheries and artisanal cheesemakers. The railways are now delightful multi-use trails. Countless similar industrial hubs and rail networks were victims of… [More]

Richard Aboulafia: May 2018 Letter

Dear Fellow Horizontal Flight Admirers,

Death Spirals have threatened defense programs for decades. Death Spirals happen when a program’s unit cost rises, resulting in lawmakers punishing the program by cutting procurement numbers. Reduced numbers further raise unit costs, resulting in further procurement cuts, resulting in…programs like the B-2, with production of 21 very expensive planes.

The Unsustainable Life Spiral (ULS) is a less well-known but equally malicious beast. Here’s how it works. Someone offers a … [More]

Richard Aboulafia: April 2018 Letter

Dear Fellow Aircraft Enthusiasts,

Being the 737 is a thankless job. That’s my conclusion looking back on April. And since aircraft, like corporations in some people’s worldview, are people, my friend, the 737 might need some cheering up.

First, this year’s Collier Trophy Committee (on which I had the pleasure of serving) selected Cirrus’s Vision SF50 as… [More]

Richard Aboulafia: March 2018 Letter

Dear Fellow Aero Trade Worriers,

Artificial intelligence. Election-manipulating trollbots. Dumb, bird-themed emojis. It’s just a matter of time before something computerized starts a war. And now, we’re part of the way there: a trade database is on the verge of starting a trade war. This month, the Trump Administration announced tariffs on 1,333 items imported by the US from China. US Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer said the list was algorithmically generated and taken from the US International Trade Commission (ITC) Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Since China won’t confine its retaliation to US algorithms, the aerospace business may be in danger…. [More]

Richard Aboulafia: January 2018 Letter

Dear Fellow 2017 Skin-of-Teeth Survivors,

I’m way late with this year-end letter, but before the 365-day atrocity that was 2017 fades from our collective memory, I’d like to briefly summarize what just happened, from our industry’s perspective. Here’s my list of Highs, Lows, and Neithers. Highs first (strangely, for me, there were more highs than lows):… [More]