LONDON — The 2014 Farnborough air show doesn’t open until tomorrow, but given the action so far in the otherwise sleepy London suburb you would have thought it was already underway.
Boeing held its media day at the show to discuss the status of its 777, 777X, and 787 Dreamliner programs. Unsurprisingly, it was positive. Also unsurprisingly, it isn’t too worried about its rival Airbus, whose A330neo jet is widely expected to launch this week. Behind all the rhetoric and posturing it has to be at least a little worried. An A330neo would provide a pretty serious competitor to the 787-9 and -10, though mostly by virtue of Airbus’ ability to undercut on pricing, not performance.
Notably left out of the briefing was the 747, a program that is widely considered to be in its twilight despite a substantial remake into the -8 type only a few years back. Boeing executives still appear confident that it will pull through eventually, but the question of when (and thus for us, whether) appears elusive.
In a surprisingly timed move Boeing announced it would be launching a high density 737 MAX 8, basically geared straight at European budget carrier Ryanair. The jet will expand its capacity to 200 people. The company had been considering such a move for some time, but the announcement prior to the show seemed early.
American announced a CFM International order for its A320neo order, a deal worth $2.6 billion. More importantly, the company began testing its Leap 1B engine, thereby leaping in front of its sibling, the Leap 1A. The Leap 1B will be powering the 737 MAX exclusively, while the 1A, the A320neo. CFM is likely prioritizing the MAX program thanks to its greater potential for profits, particularly as it trails in performance on the neo to the other offering from Pratt & Whitney. Our sources at Airbus tell us the 1A, which has entered testing, could be behind three months behind the current promised schedule. Will that delay Airbus’ plan to start testing the engine on a real neo in Q2 of 2015? It could.
Bombardier, for its part, did not even wait until Sunday to get into the action. As our regular readers know the Canadian transportation firm fired the first salvo of the show last night when it announced a substantial Cseries order, the first in some time. UK leasing company Falko did the deal for 24 CS100s, expected to be signed for tomorrow. Technically this is a letter of intent (LOI) order, meaning it is not firm. This isn’t too concerning as LOIs usually convert to firm orders down the road.
Aside from that, it was a quiet day. Workers finished placing final touches on company chalets while remaining jets set to be a part of the show trickled in through the day.
The show officially opens tomorrow, and we can already guarantee it will be an extremely active day. Airbus, ATR, Boeing, and Bombardier are all expected to make announcements beginning around 1000 local time and continuing on well into the late afternoon. We haven’t confirmed, but we’re expecting orders from all four.
Make sure to stay tuned right here at Airways for the latest developments. For the most up to date information we can provide follow us on Twitter (@airwaysmagazine) and on our Facebook page.