PARIS — As morning rose on day four of the 2015 Paris Air Show, perhaps the biggest news is that there was really very little big news to be had at this year’s event. The order books for Boeing and Airbus are a bit thicker, but without any of the real excitement of recent shows. In a final tally of “A vs B”, Jon Ostrower and Robert Wall of the Wall Street Journal reported that Airbus beat cross-ocean rival Boeing with $57 billion of sales agreements for 421 planes versus Boeing’s total of 331 jets valued at $50.2 billion. Air Show sales (alternating between Farnborough and Paris each year) have declined markedly over the last 2 years as many have speculated on a “new airplane order bubble” popping.
The smaller air framers, — ATR, Embraer and Comac — all signed orders as well. And many of the “big number” orders announced during the show have been options or letters of intent, not firm orders; only 532 of the 1100+ are firm. Smaller orders were significant because of what they represent, but for the air framers this show will likely be seen as a bit of a dud, even with the last-minute announcement on the morning of June 18 from Airbus of a large order of A321neo aircraft placed with WizzAir.
So, who are the winners and losers thus far?
This segment was the busiest at the show, with new products, new customers and a gaping hole of nothing all making news.
On the new products front, the Dornier328 is making a comeback, with the Turkish government the main supporter of the effort. Perhaps most surprising there is that the company aims to resurrect the 628 project, a design which will seat 60-70 passengers when complete. This type was previously tried by Dornier and proved to be a somewhat spectacular failure. Initial construction work will happen in Germany, with the permanent factory eventually established in Turkey, an approach which presents many challenges.
ATR signed a number of customers during the show and launched a new, high-density version of the popular ATR-72. Cebu Pacific will eventually be flying 16 of the 78-seat version. Braathens Regional, Bahamasair, Japan Air Commuter, Binter Canarias and Air New Zealand also placed orders for ATR frames.
Embraer’s 50 orders is relatively small, but it does represent all of the orders in the regional jet market announced in the show, because…
Bombardier came into the show with high hopes for its CSeries aircraft, frequently reminding the aviation world that this was the first time in 30 years a new single-aisle plane has debuted at Le Bourget. Alas, the biggest news the company could muster is that Swiss agreed to convert 10 of its 30 on order to the –300 type. The CSeries project continues to face an uphill battle toward profitability and success for the company.
Several orders of A320neo and 737 MAX family aircraft were announced during the show, including 100 737 MAX to AerCap, the largest single buy of the event until being edged out by the June 18 WizzAir order.
Arguably the biggest news in this category came around the A321neoLR and the lack of any new orders. Some had predicted JetBlue as a possible customer, for example, but that did not materialize. Air Astana was announced as the first known operator of the type, using aircraft ordered from leasing company Air Lease, the first to sign for the type.
The Air Astana move is significant in that it will replace the carrier’s 757-200s and is the first of what Airbus hopes is many such conversions, especially as yet another show passed with Boeing offering no replacement option to customers who use the 752 for longer trips.
The Volga-Dnepr Letter of Intent for 20 Boeing 747-8F was the biggest plane garnering an order during the show; many were quick to point out that this could keep the 747 line running an additional 15 months at the current production pace. That the deliveries would be spaced over seven years if the order is confirmed seems to make that a bit challenging to figure out, though. Ditto that it is an LoI, not a firm order.
Two other widebody orders are notable because they represent launch customers for product lines. Saudia is taking 20 of the high-density, lighter weight A330-300 regional configuration and will be the launch customer for that type. Qatar Airways, never to be one who walks away empty-handed at a show, added 10 Boeing 777X-8s to its order book, also set to be the launch customer.
Boeing did finally manage to unload the “Terrible Teens” 787s from its backlog, signing Ethiopian as a customer for the last six of the older, heavier version of the type. Finally, Garuda International has a LoI for 30 of the A350 family, part of a shopping spree the carrier embarked upon during the first day of the show, though only really showing intent, nothing remotely firm.
No further word on a re-engined A380, though Airbus was out in force, once again sharing his vision of the power that aircraft provides to connect cities and people. There were light rumblings again of a double-stretch A350-11 series, but nothing especially solid to work with there.