There were no mega deals or aircraft launches, but anyone who thought this year’s Farnborough would pass with a whimper was mistaken. Swelling backlogs and a straining supply chain appear to be doing little to deter demand for Airbus and Boeing single-aisle types, even though many customers will not get their hands on purchases until well into the 2020s.
It was a good year for sub-150-seat aircraft, with Embraer unveiling deals for up to 300 of its E1 and E2 large regional jets, as it waits to consummate the marriage of its commercial business with Boeing.
Meanwhile, the erstwhile Bombardier CSeries, appearing for the first time as the Airbus A220, saw an immediate boost to its prospects with a 60-aircraft commitment from David Neeleman’s planned US start-up. It followed a tentative deal on the eve of the show for 60 A220-300s from Neeleman’s former airline JetBlue.
The agreements came as a welcome boost for two moribund product families. Despite losing the JetBlue business, Embraer’s John Slattery claimed a string of announcements on the second day of the show were about the Brazilian airframer “reaffirming its leadership in the space for up to 150 seats”.
At the same time, it would be churlish of a post-John Leahy-era Airbus to suggest the A220’s success at Farnborough was down to the deal-closing skills of its sales staff. However, there is no doubt Toulouse’s takeover of the programme has given potential customers belief they are buying a product that – as well as being packed with innovative technologies – will be properly supported in the aftermarket, and around for the long term.
And despite concerns that a Trump-initiated trade war could have the same effect on global trade as the US president’s favoured ketchup-laden cheeseburgers have on the arteries, those whose business it is to move goods around the world seem undeterred. A DHL Express order for 14 Boeing 777 Freighters was among several commitments for cargo transports.
This year’s show notched up deal announcements of all kinds for almost 1,500 commercial aircraft, the highest level since Paris 2013. Once the options, confirmations and other ifs, buts, and maybes are extracted, the “real” new orders total was down on last year’s Paris air show. But the continued strong activity is still a sign of an industry enjoying a period of stability.
There will be turbulence at some point. For now, the skies are clear, the seatbelt signs are off, and we are cruising at a comfortable altitude.
Source: Flight International