It was supposed to be the “industrialisation” air show at Le Bourget this year.
For the first time since 2009, neither Airbus or Boeing came to Paris with a new product launch either imminent or scheduled for the show. Meanwhile, sold-out backlogs and lower fuel prices should have constrained the usual flurry of order announcements. The message everywhere was on the challenge of actually producing all of the aircraft and new models launched and ordered over the past five years.
But if that was the script, there was a lot of improvising going on.
The pace and number of order announcements came more slowly, but still built steadily over the week.
Other surprises came in more subtle ways – such as an absence of activity. Bombardier gained a wealth of deservedly good publicity with the debut of the CS100 and the graceful flying display of the CS300, but failed to attract any new orders.
A completely revamped commercial aircraft executive and sales team have had only weeks on the job to prepare, but they need to move quickly. Bombardier needs to sell 57 aircraft within the next six months to meet its 300-order goal at entry into service.
By the end of the week, it became clear that Boeing’s pursuit of a middle of the market concept within about a decade is no smokescreen, despite barbed comments from Toulouse. Whether Boeing’s new product development team develop a robust business case is still open to question, but something must be done to respond to Airbus’s potentially dominating A321neo LR and A330-800neo.
In that sense, the air show served Boeing’s interests quite well. After both flooding suppliers with work and squeezing on price, it may need their financial and technical support if a new product is launched.
Engine companies undoubtedly would have the hardest decision to make. The crop of new derivatives in development by Airbus and Boeing mostly preserve the original airframe, with new winglets and composite wings added in some cases. But the engine manufacturers have the task of developing several all-new engines for the derivative models, while meeting the same ramp-up commitments shared by Airbus and Boeing for both clean-sheet and existing aircraft.
Not surprisingly, the executives of engine manufacturers are less enthusiastic about taking on any more work until they can prove they can deliver on promises already made.
Source: Flight International