The Farnborough Air Show largely exceeded expectations, with Airbus and Boeing announcing more orders than anticipated. As always, there were a number of orders announced that had been previously booked but unidentified. Still, the Big Two OEMs came away with more orders than anticipated and the mood of these OEMs was particularly upbeat.
Embraer turned in the biggest surprise with a large number of firm orders, options and commitments. The E-Jets are great airplanes but they have somewhat fallen into the no-man’s land of 70-110 seats and it faces new competition from the Mitsubishi MRJ (70-90 seats), the Sukhoi Superjet (100 seats) and the Bombardier CS100 (110-125 seats). The MRJ continues to disappoint, finally firming the launch order from ANA, but still without a firm contract from Trans States Airlines.
Bombardier had the greatest anticipation from aerospace analysts and writers, and BBD failed to produce a CSeries order, or two, the stock got hammered and so did BBD’s image. We weren’t surprised by BBD’s lack of CSeries orders; in fact, this column suggested this would be the case a full week before the air show. The anticipated Chinese order for the CSeries was always captive to the excruciatingly slow way of doing business in China and the possibility that this would be held for the Zuhai Air Show later this year.
As for the expected order from Qatar for the CSeries, well, U-Turn Al (Akbar Al-Baker, Qatar’s CEO) has his nickname for good reason. He likes to negotiate in the press and turns about at the drop of a hat. The most notorious was the Boeing announcement in 2008 at Farnborough that Qatar had ordered 777s, only to retract the announcement shortly thereafter. We’re not sure which is worse: failing to announce an expected order, or taking the announcement back: either way, Qatar has a habit of embarrassing everyone.
Nor was it any surprise that Airbus did not announce a launch of the re-engine program. At one point early this year, super-salesman John Leahy wanted to do so but by the Airbus Innovation Days in May, he and program EVP Tom Williams had backed off.
Still, Airbus’ intentions are clear. Leahy said the business case has been made and now it’s a matter of freeing up resources (ie, engineers) from the A380 and A400M programs. A decision will be made by the end of this quarter.
Boeing, meanwhile, remains unconvinced about the re-engine program and seems to be heading toward an entirely new airplane by 2019-20 if it does anything–and doing nothing is not an option, says BCA CEO Jim Albaugh.
The Irkut MS-21, the 150-210 seat competitor to the A320 and 737 families, picked up a firm contract for a previously announced order and the Superjet did well. The COMAC C919 people didn’t announce orders, but then we didn’t expect any–these will likely be saved for China’s own Zuhai Air Show in November, when perhaps 100 from China’s Big Three airlines may be forthcoming.
Airbus’ Leahy declared the global recession is over. Never short of hyperbole, Leahy nonetheless isn’t alone. Boeing, while not quite being as declarative, is equally upbeat.
Airbus upped its order projection for the year to more than 400, and while Boeing wasn’t as precise, it has said its order book will still be less than the book-to-bill (orders-to-deliveries) this year. Boeing projects around 460 deliveries, more-or-less.
Clearly, the worst is over.