Odds and Ends: Top 10 stories in 2012; A400M; C919 “orders”

Top 10 Stories in 2012: Here’s a piece we did for CNN International on the Top 10 stories, David Letterman style, for 2012.

Airbus A400M: Airbus claims it’s ready to go. First deliveries slated for next summer.

C919–orders, no deposits: How firm are the 380 “orders” for the COMAC C919? Good question. According to a Chinese media report via this Western news story, there are no deposits for the “orders.”

Washington State’s Signal to Boeing: Gov. Christine Gregoire, in her final budget (see leaves office next month), put $25m in for aerospace training and STEM education. The Puget Sound Business Journal explains the significance of this.

Update (already): Seems Mobile (AL) is put out we didn’t include the Airbus announcement of a production plant there in our Top 10. Over at CNN, a reader commented that the Delta Air Lines purchase of an oil refinery was worthy. Feel free to add your comments about what should have (or should not have) been included in this list.

A350-800 future: Airbus says it stays firm; here’s what customers tell us

Flight Global has this story in which Airbus says it remains committed to the A350-800, a sub-type that is the smallest of the A350 family and which has been the subject of much speculation that Airbus will choose not to proceed with it.

Airbus hasn’t helped matters because it’s been encouraging customers to switch to the larger A350-900. John Leahy, COO-Customers, some time ago told us the larger -900 is more profitable for Airbus and customers could get deliveries sooner.

But, according to customers we talk to, there are other reasons, too. First, according to one customer, is that Airbus is de-risking the program by getting customers to switch to the -900. The program has been delayed nearly two years and customers expect at least one more delay of three to six months to entry into service. Airbus is concentrating resources on the -900, and by switching customers from the -800, Airbus relieves the pressure on these resources.

This customer, which has switched its orders from the -800 to the -900, believes Airbus will build the -800.

Flight Global has this story which echoes what we’ve been told, citing Akbar Al-Baker of Qatar Airways: he switched from the -800 to the -900 because of the delays. But he now believes Airbus should discontinue offering the -800.

Airbus declined comment on the tie between delays and the switches.

Another customer switched its order did so simply because it likes the operating economics and revenue potential of the larger -900 better than the -800.

A key supplier, however, takes a dimmer view. The person we talked with believes Airbus will let the A350-800 go away, but this is his personal opinion and says that his company hasn’t heard anything to suggest this will be the case.

Eliminating the -800 would leave Airbus without a new technology competitor to the Boeing 787-9. Although some, including Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia, believe Airbus should proceed with an A330neo. Airbus so far dismisses such suggestions and it has not asked engine makers to consider such a possibility. But one airline fleet planner told us that he believes Airbus will one day proceed with the A330neo with an EIS of around 2020. This means Airbus would not have to ask engine makers to explore the possibility until next year or even 2014. So what is true today may or may not be true “tomorrow.”