It wasn’t a banner year for the Farnborough air show in terms of orders, by any means. But that’s probably to be expected. After all, how many new orders can Airbus claim for a product — the A320neo family — that does not enter service until 2016 and is practically sold out with more than 1,430 firm orders in the backlog already? Boeing also insists it has no intention of participating in an admittedly media-contrived “orders race” during show-week. There are also the macro-economic issues, which include a perpetual European debt crisis, anemic US economic growth and a worrisome slowdown in China.
Not that there weren’t some at least eyebrow-raising announcements during the show. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the largest US regional carrier, SkyWest Inc., announcing an agreement in principle to buy 100 Mitsubishi MRJs. Of course, an agreement in principle and £3.50 buys you only an exploitatively-priced paper cup of coffee at the Farnborough concessions. But the announcement still represents a major threat to Bombardier and Embraer, who have both aggressively pursued the SkyWest regional jet order for more than a year. Mitsubishi still has to convert that agreement into a firm order.
Likewise, Airbus still has a long way to go satisfy certain customers about its decision-making on the A350-1000 configuration, but announcing a firm order by Cathay Pacific for 10 new A350-1000s, plus another 16 converted from a previous order for A350-900s, relieves some of the pressure and may cause some sleepless nights in Seattle over the airframer’s newly-adopted, patient approach to reaching a launch decision on the 777X.
Boeing continued its assault on the A320neo’s commanding backlog lead over the 737 Max, but the single-aisle scoreboard still reads: Sidesticks 1,438, Centresticks 649. Perhaps more surprising was the relative silence on the 747-8. Boeing has talked up its performance with more than 20 aircraft in service, but that still hasn’t translated into backlog results. Whatever the airframer’s marketing philosophy regarding air show announcements, Farnborough was an opportunity to show the world the 747-8 had raised its game with a new order, but it was an opportunity missed.
|Mitsubishi Regional Jet|
|MRJ70 or MRJ90||100|
|Aircraft Industries (LET)|