The significance of symbolic moments should not be exaggerated, but Paris '95 serves as well as any event to mark the start of the resurgence of the airliner marketplace. Historically, the logic of that may be questionable, but the physical presence of the two leading manufacturers' flagship aircraft gives this show a resonance beyond any other of recent times. For the vast majority of attendees, it will be the first time they set eyes on one of the aircraft and, for virtually all, it will certainly be the first time they see the rivals together.
The presence of the Boeing 777 will make this show the first major event for more than a decade to feature Boeing and Airbus Industrie aircraft together. The type will actually enter service - with United Airlines - just three days before the show begins. The aircraft at the show will be the fourth off the line - a Pratt & Whitney-powered version in United Airlines' colours. Boeing has chosen not to fly it in the display, but it will be in the static park, together with an Airbus A330, and probably an A340. For the engine manufacturers, the event is also a first - alongside the P&W-powered 777 will be an A330, in Airbus' in-house colours, powered by Rolls Royce's Trent 700s. Both aircraft can be powered by either of those two manufacturers, or by General Electric, which may well be represented on the A340 through its CFM International joint venture with Snecma.
However magnificent the aircraft, business realities will rapidly intrude, and there seems every prospect of a re-run of the acidic verbal exchanges which characterised the 1994 Farnborough air show. Boeing has secured the expected commitments of those airlines, which were intimately involved in the 777's development and, as the market hardens, all future business will be won from a standing start. Not surprisingly, the strains are starting to show.
Airbus' exuberant, not to say aggressive, propagandising of the past year shows no signs of easing up. At Farnborough, it was Boeing Commercial Aircraft (BCAG) president Ron Woodard who accused Airbus of false claims. Some Airbus officials believe, however, that recent Boeing statements have overstepped the acceptable mark, and they are ready to tackle the issue head-on. The sterile arguments over historic market share are still prone to erupt, but, more importantly, aircraft performance claims are also in dispute.
Woodard will again head the BCAG delegation, although Boeing is at pains to say that it does not seek the same kind of confrontation. It says: "We are going to go to the air show and focus on our products, and how they deliver more value than any other products. Things happen at air shows, but that is background noise compared with the message of the value of the products."
Despite the undoubted tension, there remains the contrasting issue of what would be the historic first collaboration between Boeing and the Airbus member companies - the Very Large Commercial Transport. The feasibility study into such co-operation does not end until July, but all the participants will be under enormous pressure at Paris to indicate the likely findings. The higher echelons of Airbus still consider collaboration to be inconceivable. That, however, leaves Boeing with the possibly viable alternative of building a 747 derivative, while Airbus faces the awe-inspiring challenge of creating the A3XX from scratch. Boeing says that it will be happy to talk about the current state of the talks, but does not plan any major announcement.
The fiercest battle between the two concerns Boeing's new 737 family and the smallest Airbus narrow-bodies. None of those aircraft will be at Paris - the Boeing models have not left the drawing board and Airbus prefers to wait until it has an A319 to show. The technical and pricing questions surrounding those aircraft are incendiary, however and are bound to generate debate.
The third player in both the 300-seat and small narrow-body classes is McDonnell Douglas (MDC), which is exhibiting but, as for many years now, without a civil aircraft. The flat market makes rational analysis of the MD-11 and MD-90's recent sales records flawed at best, but MDC's failure so far to secure key MD-95 orders in Europe is less ignorable. Once again, MDC's first show-challenge will be to regain the initiative amid continuing industry doubts over its future in the civil market.
Ever since the now-distant early days of glasnost, Russia has provided a substantial airliner display. Ilyushin yet again will be flying the P&W PW2000-powered Il-96M, which has, however, still done no significant hard business. Its struggle has been understandable enough in the disastrous market of the past four years, but its Western investors - primarily P&W and Rockwell Collins - could be excused some impatience. Tupolev's Bravia joint venture with R-R and Flemings, which has yet to sell an aircraft, is not this time bringing its RB.211-535-powered Tu-204. Two examples of the basic Tupolev aircraft will be present, however - a Tu-204C freighter and the shrunk Tu-204-300, both in the static park, alongside an example of Tupolev's ageing Tu-154 design. Yakovlev will have a Yak-42-100 in the static park, but the more ambitious derivatives of its long-standing tri-jet line still have a doubtful future.
Despite their high-profile air show-presence, the market-record of the newer CIS-originated aircraft has so far been dismal. In the possible absence of any new sales, both the Western and Eastern proponents of such machines face a challenging Paris in explaining their case. The seemingly endless line-up of proposed future models from the design bureaux now provokes only a deepening scepticism among outside observers. Even some of the more promising real-life projects will not be present. Antonov, of Ukraine, reeling from financial troubles, and the loss of the An-77 prototype, has no aircraft; Beriev is not returning; nor is the Il-114 turboprop commuter, which seemed to have reasonable commercial prospects, coming. There is, however, the possibility of more positive news from CFMI and Ilyushin on the planned re-engineing of the Il-86.
In 1993, the Paris show was awash in commuter-aircraft manufacturers, or would-be manufacturers. In retrospect, that event may have crystallised the absurdity of the over-capacity, which was evolving. The line-up and orientation of companies and aircraft in that class will be different this time. Hand in hand with that change, comes a similar realignment of potential engine suppliers.
This will be the first show since the Aerospatiale/Alenia consortium ATR and British Aerospace's Avro and Jetstream divisions announced the planned formation of a joint venture company. Initially, the grouping will be primarily a marketing organisation, but its true significance is the integration of the companies' product lines. The parties are still going through the required regulatory hoops, and so will exhibit separately again at Paris: many implications are already clear, however.
The new line-up is reflected in the aircraft on show, and in the evolution of the future products. Jetstream will bring just a Jetstream 41 which will stay in the static park, but in the colours of SA Airlink of South Africa, representing one of the manufacturer's major coups in 1994. The Advanced Turboprop-derived Jetstream 61, which it has been exhibiting elsewhere was the first victim of the merger plan and will not be on display. The Jetstream 51 and 71 projects first proposed at the last Paris show have also largely faded in favour of ATR's planned offering in that class. That aircraft is the ATR 82 - now certain to be turboprop-powered, and sitting neatly above the Jetstream and ATR 42 and 72 families. At this show, ATR will have a hefty presence with a Bangkok Air ATR 72 and an Air Dolomiti ATR 42-500 in the static park, plus the prototypes of the 42-500 and 72-210 in the air.
Responsibility for the jet element of the new organisation rests, for now at least, firmly with Avro. Together with Jetstream and the sister military business, it will form part of BAe's traditionally large show presence. Unusually, however, it will have only one aircraft present - and that only in the static park. Avro's re-integration into BAe's corporate Paris exhibit, compared to its more independent approach last time, itself tells a story. The stand-alone status was driven by the hope of announcing the planned Taiwan Aerospace tie-up at the show - now merely a piece of corporate history.
That said, the static aircraft represents itself a more than usually significant piece of business. It will be the seventh RJ85 delivered in the colours of Lufthansa - the first major flag carrier to sign for the type. Avro is likely to have further developments to announce at the show as well. The RJ Avroliner series' performance is being tweaked, and it has a couple of repeat orders imminent. Furthermore, either Avro or its prime rival, Daimler-Benz Aerospace subsidiary Fokker, could be the beneficiary of a much more important piece of news.
The Belgian flag carrier Sabena is nearing a decision on a major regional-jet purchase, and could finish its process in time for Paris. The settling of this contract will come close behind Fokker's victory at Alitalia. Fokker has yet to deliver any of the Fokker 70s against that order: it will, however, take to the show one of two of the type acquired by Mesa Airlines, but which will serve in the colours of America West. The aircraft, will be joined in the static park by an, Air UK Fokker 50. Once again, the manufacturer will be pushing corporate and military variants of its basic airliners, but it says, "Our main message is to show that despite the years of recession, Fokker aircraft have done remarkably well, in terms of market share, although the numbers are much lower of course than everyone was used to in the 1980s."
Fokker's parent Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) is, of course, present with its Dornier 328-110 in the flying display. The -110 features additional range, weight and payload compared with the basic model. After a difficult start, the programme for the 328 series is looking healthier today, with a solid, but undramatic, 76 firm orders. It has made important in-roads in the USA and, two months ago, won an intriguing order in India from Vif Airways. The aircraft at the show, however, will be the test 328-110 in DASA's own colours. In its role as an Airbus consortium-member, DASA is also likely to be pressed on the possibilities of future products for final assembly at Hamburg, particularly since Airbus has shied away from the so-called A322. Additionally, DASA's view of the Very Large Aircraft project is of considerable interest, since it has appeared to be closer to Boeing on the issue than have the other European partners.
Although the core European regional-aircraft manufacturers have mostly gone through the first stage of consolidation, plenty of other companies remain. Their fortunes are mixed, as the show will highlight. Although Spain's CASA will exhibit, it will not have an aircraft and, more significantly, it will not have a future aircraft to discuss. The CASA 3000 was put on hold earlier this year, and now the company's future appears certain to lie in partnership with somebody else - possibly still with BAe and ATR.
Sweden's Saab, with a vastly more robust product-line, has a less pressing need for collaboration, but there is little doubt that its future will involve a partnership. It has been tentatively linked with Raytheon and, although that suggestion is unconfirmed by either party, Saab insiders accept that a US link is the most probable way forward. Raytheon's statement two weeks ago that it is looking at a 50-seat regional jet would, if anything, lend credence to the concept of a relationship with Saab and its 50-seat turboprop-powered Saab 2000.
The latter aircraft may just make the show, but the earmarked example, the first for Regional Airlines, of France, has been held up by a cross-industry Swedish overtime ban. Regional will be the third model 2000 operator, joining Crossair and Deutsche BA in Europe. Saab is, however, looking firmly to the USA for future business. At the show it is likely to confirm that General Motors (GM) is taking three of the type as corporate shuttles and it will be hopeful that American Eagle will harden some of its 50 options in the near future.
The GM deal highlights one of the rationalisations in the regional-aircraft engine business. Allison won its way on to the Saab 2000 with its then-GMA2100 as a GM subsidiary. Now it finds itself still powering the aircraft, but owned by R-R. At the same time, its rival Lycoming has been absorbed into the AlliedSignal Empire.
The rumours about Saab and the aftermath of company president Roy Norris' remarks about 50-seaters will doubtless keep Raytheon Aircraft busy, but it will also be showing its successful Beech 1900D in the static park. Shortly before the show, Raytheon was still working on exactly which airline's aircraft would be displayed. It has an impressive sales story, however, and no shortage of carriers from which to choose.
Canada's Bombardier is also in relatively buoyant mood considering its tough market. It will be represented in the static park by a Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) in the colours of France's Brit Air and a de Havilland Dash 8-300. The latter may be one of 13, now mostly delivered, for South African Express. If that happens, then the aircraft's presence next to the SA Airlink J41 will be an eloquent commentary on the revitalisation of South Africa. The much bigger news from Bombardier, however, is almost certain to be the launch of the stretched Dash 8-400 with its, even newer, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150 turboprops. A revelation of early orders is also likely. Close behind that will be the question of customer interest in the, proposed, stretched CRJ - the CRJ-X. Bombardier has not been linked to any type of merger talks to date, even when Dash 8 orders virtually ground to a halt. Since then business has picked up, especially for the CRJ, and the company notes only that, while it is "very entrepreneurial", it has already gone through one phase of consolidation by merging de Havilland and Canadair.
Missing from the aircraft display this year, but with plenty to talk about, is Embraer Aircraft of Brazil. The company is making its first appearance at a major show since its privatisation last December. It is on the brink of flying its EMB-145 50-seat regional jet. The burning question is whether Embraer can stick to its aggressive pricing promise on the aircraft. If it can, then its long list of conditional customers indicates that it will certainly present a challenge Bombardier's CRJ - and, indeed, to turboprop-powered aircraft in that class.
Source: Flight International