Is the cat out of Airbus’ order bag?

Has a sharp-eyed observer blown the gaff on Airbus’ 2007 order total, three days before the airframer’s surprise-party in Toulouse? It’s tempting to think so.

Buried on another aviation gossip site, a post refers to someone seen loitering in the car park at Miami Springs’ Airbus Training Centre with a large banner (the sort you’d probably splash out on if you wanted to engage in some transatlantic nose-thumbing) emblazoned with the number 1,427.

This figure would be consistent with EADS chief Louis Gallois’ hint that the final total would be very close to Boeing’s 1,413 – but would nevertheless push its US rival into second place.

Let’s indulge for a moment. Transferred A350s (plus the loss of A380F and old A340-600 orders) have resulted in an unusually high number of cancellations, and Airbus would surely face howls of derision if it dared to claim victory on the basis of gross orders and double-counting.

So let’s talk net. Subtracting the cancellations from Airbus’ end-November total gives a net figure of roughly 1,100. Which means Airbus would have had to land orders for some 330 aircraft in December to reach 1,427 net. My colleague Max Kingsley-Jones has already shown that it’s possible.

But there’s another part to the Florida banner sighting which is equally intriguing:

…the number ‘53%’ in a green starburst next to the words ‘Widebody Market’…

This is where the speculation goes into overdrive. If it refers, for example, to net widebody orders then a 53% share would give Airbus some 639 against Boeing’s 567 – although that would require Airbus to have recorded around 250 widebodies in December, and wouldn’t leave room for much more than 80 narrowbodies. And if it’s talking about revenue share then the numbers are anybody’s guess.

Airbus is due to declare its score on 16 January, the day before the alleged banner is due to be hoisted. Anyone out there still holding their breath?

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