Ground Coverage by Chris Sloan

PARIS – The third trading day at the 53rd Paris Air Show in Le Bourget has come to an end. Since Monday, there have been numerous surprises, unexpected orders, and a relatively tranquil air show in terms of massive sales.

The first day of the Paris Air show was dominated by Airbus with the launch of the A321XLR, the mixed order by ALC, and Virgin Atlantic’s A330-900 choice for its long-haul re-fleeting ambitions.

As Boeing continues to cope with the worldwide grounding of its 737 MAX and the delay of its 777-X program, its passenger airplanes division did not manage to sell a single aircraft during the first day of the show—something that’s very unusual for the world’s biggest airplane manufacturer, but completely expected.

Boeing’s new partner, Embraer, did manage to log a single order during the first trade show day.

Overall, day one was quite for what is often seen as the most heated sales battle in the commercial aviation arena.

Day two followed in a very busy, tense, and competitive fashion for both Airbus and Boeing.

Boeing secured confidence in its ill-fated 737 MAX program, thanks to the Letter of Intent signed by Willie Walsh’s International Airlines Group for 200 aircraft.

This massive order is a tremendous lifeline for Boeing. The North American planemaker is not only scoring a major sale for one of the world’s largest airline conglomerates but is also catching a new narrowbody customer. IAG currently operates one of the world’s largest all-Airbus narrowbody fleets.

Another order of interest came from Korean Air, formally booking 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The Seoul-Incheon-based carrier will be leasing 10, and purchasing 10 787-10 aircraft, as well as purchasing 10 787-9s.

And last but not least, the final order announcement for Boeing came from Air Lease Corporation, which signed on for an additional five 787-9 Dreamliners. That particular deal was valued at $1.5 billion list prices.

Airbus had around six announcements released on day two, including more sales for its new A321XLR with 39 units sold, bringing the overall count to 70 units in just two days.

Regretfully, for Airbus, not a single A350, the order was logged on days one and two. Even for Boeing, there were no orders secured for the new variant, the 777X.

Day 3: A321XLR Domination

Airbus started the day with an announcement by Qantas, who booked an order for a total of 36 A321XLR aircraft. The breakdown of this order consists of 26 conversions from A321neos, as well as a firm order for 10 additional planes.

More than likely, these aircraft may connect Australia with the Middle East or even more eastbound towards Hawaii and Asia.

IndiGo Partners then came in and stole the show with a Memorandum of Understanding for 50 A321XLR planes as well, 18 of which were conversions and 32 being new orders.

These planes will be distributed through the group’s ULCCs, namely Frontier, WizzAir, and JetSmart.

The scene quickly shifted to the A320neo for a brief moment when Accipiter Holdings purchased 20 planes, adding more units into the backlog for the successful program.

Later on, China Airlines announced the purchase of 25 A321neos.

Just when things were slowing down, yet another massive A321XLR order was announced at the Airbus chalet. US giant, American Airlines, came forward with an order for 50 planes, aiming to replace its aging Boeing 757 fleet with the up-gauged Airbus variant.

American Airlines will convert 30 A321neo slots into A321XLR, with an additional 20 planes as new firm orders.

With this order registered into Airbus’ backlog, American Airlines has 115 Airbus A321neos and A321XLRs on order—more than enough to replace the carrier’s 20-year-old Boeing 757s.

American Airlines will be able to operate the A321XLR from the U.S. East Coast into medium-sized European cities. A perfect example would be between the carrier’s hub in Chicago and Paris, or New York and Rome.

With this order, Boeing has officially lost a major customer in the USA, who historically operated the Boeing 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, 787, and 777. American Airlines expects to receive its first A321XLR by 2023.

For Airbus, as predicted by Airways, it has been a consistently strong show, with the A321XLR being the absolute protagonist after securing 206 orders.

With the single-aisle program doing very well, however, it does put into question why the A350 did not pick up any sales. The A330neo program, however, did secure numerous commitments.

Current A350 backlog looms at 615 units—only a fraction of the Airbus A320 family’s backlog, which soars at a whopping 5,795 orders.

At the same time, the launch of the A321XLR is going to make it slightly more difficult for Airbus to sell more widebody planes, as the XLR’s long-range capability will grasp an all-new market that smaller A330-200s owned.

Boeing Secures 777 Orders, But Not for the X

Boeing started Day Three with an order from the ASL Airlines Group, with a Memorandum of Understanding for 20 737-800 Converted Freighters.

The Converted Freighter backlog rises to a healthy 120 aircraft.

Moving along to Boeing’s best-selling wide-body, 12 Triple Sevens were sold. The biggest customer of the day was China Airlines who placed an order for six freighter variants.

Photo: Chris Sloan

Qatar Airways followed with an order for five 777 Freighters. Akbar Al Baker noted that this cargo aircraft is a vital lifeline to his country.

The final 777 order came from Turkmenistan Airlines with a Letter of Intent for one more 777-200 Long Range variant, valued at $342.9 million.

Once this aircraft is delivered, Turkmenistan will have four units of the variant.

Considering yesterday’s success with the 737 MAX, it was a relatively quiet day for Boeing.

Against all bets, the IAG deal from yesterday was the only order the 737 MAX program scored at the show. The 737 program has always been Boeing’s best-selling airliner at air shows. Airways predicted that the likelihood of seeing any sales for this particular program was very low. But IAG managed to wow the crowd at Le Bourget.

Embraer Acquires Success for E195-E2 Programme

Brazilian manufacturer, Embraer, managed to strike gold for its E195-E2 program. Europe’s largest Embraer operator, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, announced an order for 35 E195-E2s, of which 15 are firm orders and 20 purchase rights. Deliveries will start in 2021.

The $2.48 billion deal from KLM will deliver the last E2 jet by 2023, just in time for its current E1 fleet to reach the 10-12 years of age.

The E2 jets will complement the airline’s existing fleet of E-Jets, as confirmed by KLM earlier today unless the Amsterdam-Schiphol slot availability is drastically reduced.

That was the only order recorded today from Embraer, but it has had a strong campaign, selling 78 E-Jets overall.

The Start of Success for Mitsubishi?

Mitsubishi had a taste of sales today when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed for 15 of the SpaceJet M100 aircraft.

It is unclear who the customer is due to it being undisclosed, but sources are suggesting that it is a North American carrier who has placed this order.

What we do know is that this unknown carrier will start receiving the aircraft in 2024, but negotiations on pricing still need to be implemented.

This is a step in the right direction for Mitsubishi. Under the MRJ program, as it used to be called, there were significant production and flight testing issues.

Hisakazu Mizutani, the President of Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation stated he was happy with the airline signing this MoU, but also mentioned that there is supposedly demand for this aircraft.

“We have received strong interest in this product from many airlines. They recognize that this family of aircraft will provide them with the ability to give their passengers an excellent experience while also delivering unmatched performance, creating new profit potential.”

Only time will tell where Mizutani’s words will formulate into more orders down the road.

Either way, its a good start in the right direction for the manufacturer and as Farnborough 2020 rocks up in the next 12 months, Mitsubishi may be a company to look out for.

ATR’s Strong Start with the ATR42-600STOL

ATR Aircraft launched a Short Take-off & Landing variant of the ATR42-600 with three new customers, one of which is undisclosed.

The first order came from Elix Aviation who placed an order for 10 units of the type. This leasing specialist will be the launch customer of the type, with deliveries expected to take place between 2022 and 2024. Certification is expected by year-end.

The second order came from Air Tahiti for two units of the same type, with the same assumption for delivery dates.

After those orders were announced, ATR decided to call it quits and unveil all the orders it had acquired over the week. The 75 orders secured at list prices of $1.7 billion has given the company confidence in being “on track to achieve its order targets for 2019”.

With this new STOL variant being released, it will no doubt produce more sales down the line, especially after it has been certified by local and international authorities.


In all, it has been a steady Day Three in Paris. Airbus has rocked the boat with the A321XLR and its 206 sales.

As for Boeing, it’s been very hit and miss. While the 737 MAX order means good news for the program, there is still work to do with securing orders for the 777X.

Embraer has been having a good sales campaign and hopefully, in Day Four, it may be able to boost itself into triple figures.

Mitsubishi could have a very promising future, especially if the undisclosed customer is a US carrier.

Finally, ATR has had a solid sales campaign, being the heavy hitter in that regional seat segment. It can take the $1.7 billion worth of orders and head back to Toulouse with confidence.

It has been an interesting show, though nothing like we’ve witnessed in the past. As we approach the final day of trading tomorrow, the numbers will begin to add up and we can see who came out on top of the 53rd Paris Air Show.

Stay tuned to Airways for more.