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Paris Air Show 2015

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GE Aviation CEO David Joyce: "We have a huge, huge, huge execution challenge ahead of us."

Greetings from the Paris Air Show! As Day Two wraps up, a few themes have emerged…

Bombardier fights back: A sleeker, energized Bombardier debuted its new management team, a revamped marketing strategy and, most important of all, displayed and flew the CSeries aircraft. No new sales for the CSeries have been announced, but Bombardier is showing that it is ready to fight hard for its foray into the narrowbody airliner market, which—following multiple delays—is now expected to enter revenue service with Swiss International Air Lines in mid-2016 following the CS100’s certification late this year. You can check out a few pictures here I took aboard the Swiss CS100 on display at the show.

Execution, execution, execution: With order books buldging, aircraft and engine manufacturers are preparing for a rather daunting production ramp up. The word “execution” has been heard repeatedly at Le Bourget.  

“For us, this show is about execution,” GE Aviation president and CEO David Joyce said. “There’s just a tremendous amount of execution ahead to meet our commitments … From an industrialization point of view, this industry is going through a very unique era … [GE Aviation has] added over a 1.5 million square feet of manufacturing space … We have a huge, huge, huge execution challenge ahead of us. I can’t overstate that this is a time for industrialization for us.”

Pratt & Whitney president Paul Adams noted that Pratt expects its annual production of large engines to jump from 800 this year to 1,800 in 2020—two-thirds of which will be in the geared turbofan (GTF) family.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner told reporters, “We have increased our production over the last five years by 60%. Since 2012, we have done nine rate increases and we are at the highest rate ever on three of our programs. Some people have asked me what I think our theme of the show is and I think it’s executing while bringing on a tremendous amount of new programs.”

Data, data, data: The airline industry is in the early stages of an information revolution. New aircraft are, in effect, massive flying databases containing reams of information—much of which can now be downloaded and tracked in real-time while the aircraft is in flight—on everything from fuel burn performance to maintenance needs to which credit cards passengers are using to buy which inflight entertainment services.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes SVP and GM-airplane development Scott Fancher said, “Today, more than ever before, data is available from the aircraft. We also have a wider range of technology to take that data off the aircraft and mine the data. We need to better understand how to use the data. We need to understand what data we need to look at.”

Thales sales director Paul Lawrie told me that airlines are just “scraping the surface” of tracking and analyzing data to improve performance in multiple areas.

Middle market speculation: As Rolls-Royce president-aerospace Tony Wood said, there are “a lot of conversations around the chalets” here about what is alternately called a “757 replacement” and a “middle market” aircraft—a future 210-250-seat Boeing aircraft that sits between the 737 and 787. Boeing is “looking at this market segment very closely” and “talking to airlines about this,” Conner said. The engine manufacturers—GE, Pratt and Rolls—are talking with Boeing about the aircraft. Pratt and GE both said the engine powering the aircraft would be in the 40,000-50,000 lb. thrust range.

But it’s important to note that all of this talk is very, very speculative. Driven by the fact that there are no new aircraft programs close to being launched, the larger, longer-range next-generation 757 (or middle market aircraft) is fun for journalists and others at the air show to gab about, but we’re talking about an aircraft that won’t likely enter service until a decade from now—or longer. “It’s not a decision for today,” Wood said. “2025-2030 is the earliest this aircraft will be [in service] if it ever comes along.”

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