ATW Editor's Blog

Paris Air Show: Delivery, not new orders the theme

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The two largest international air shows, Farnborough and Paris, always boil down to one question: which of the two biggest commercial OEMs ends the week with the fattest order book? Le Bourget 2015 was no different, but there was a distinctly mellow feel to this show as Airbus and Boeing’s record backlogs inevitably started to pinch the front end.

There comes a point when airliner orders must dovetail with the production capacities of the manufacturers. So the theme at last week’s show was execution, with Airbus and Boeing both spelling out their confidence in being able to deliver all-time high production ramp-ups, especially in the frenzied narrowbody market.

Nevertheless, there was still some orderbook strutting on the last show trade day. Airbus claimed victory over rival Boeing with orders and commitments totaling 421 aircraft, but Boeing’s 331 commercial airplane sales included a far larger number of higher value widebodies (see ATW Paris orders roundup table).

The large majority of the Airbus deals were for A320 family aircraft, a mix of ceos and neos that comprised 103 firm orders and 263 commitments. The order total also included one ACJ319neo, an executive version of the neo.

But on the widebody side, there were no A380 order announcements and only one firm A350 XWB order.

And while Saudi Arabian was announced as launch customer for the new A330-300 Regional, there were no new orders or commitments for the re-engined A330neo that was launched in July at the Farnborough Air Show.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes clocked orders and commitments for 331 aircraft at a list value of $50.2 billion, including a deal for 21 737NGs to an undisclosed customer. Boeing’s Paris total included 36 787s, 10 777Xs, 2 777-300ERs, nine 777Fs and 20 747-8Fs as well as 253 narrowbodies, a mix of 737NGs and 737 MAXs.

Interestingly, the rival OEMs ended the week at a draw on all-new firm orders to identified customers announced, with 124 aircraft each.

Airbus president and CEO Fabrice Bregier told the press that the company had had “a very successful Paris Air Show” and that the number of orders and commitments was “higher than I personally expected.”

He said the show confirmed that the market trends were “extremely positive” and that Airbus would meet or over-achieve its goals for 2015. “We are leading this show again in terms of order and commitments,” he said.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes VP, marketing, Randy Tinseth was similarly bullish about how the air show had worked for Boeing and what it meant for the overall market, although he admitted that this Paris was not about the kind of “eye popping numbers” that have been the theme of recent air shows.

Still, it had still been a productive week. “Any time you look at a show where you have more than 300 orders and commitments, then that’s a very good show,” he said. Tinseth said the 777 was outselling the A350-1000 “by about five to one at this point” and that Boeing’s widebody backlog “speaks to our product line and speaks to the fact that we have the better strategy.”

Tinseth added, “We are out in front of our competition and we have no plans to relinquish our number one position.”

Summing up what he felt the theme of this show had been – with both Airbus and Boeing sitting on record backlogs – Tinseth said, “This show is about how you deliver those airplanes and how you do that on time and on budget. That’s critical. It’s about performance right now.”

Boeing, which long ago had to freeze airliner production after its supply chain and production ramp ups got out of synch, knows the risks and has learned the lessons. The company is in a much better position today, with additional production facilities – including its South Carolina factory – that give flexibility.

Airbus, too, has a new A320-family final assembly line facility opening in Mobile, Alabama later this year and Bregier is known for keeping a sharp eye on production processes.

I suspect the focus of the next major airshows – Dubai this year, Singapore and Farnborough in 2016 – will continue to be far more on delivering large numbers of airliners rather than on large-check signing ceremonies.

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