Thursday’s Farnborough impressions

Airbus had its press briefing, rescheduled from Monday, much to the puzzlement and speculation of observers and rivals (or, perhaps, that should be in the singular).

The speculation was rife: Airbus’ super-salesman John Leahy had a big order up his sleeve for announcement. British Airways would announce an A350-1000 order. Cathay Pacific Airways would order the A380 and A350.

Alas, it was none of these. CEO Thomas Enders started the briefing saying that he thought it be more productive for Airbus to recap the week, with orders to talk about, than to start the week with nothing to say. And that’s what it was.

Airbus ended the week with 247 firm orders plus commitments for nine airplanes. One hundred of the orders, however, are left over from the Dubai Air Show–the contract was signed at Farnborough, but these can’t truly be considered a part of this air show.

The breakdown is 128 A320s (70 from Dubai); 11 A330s; 98 A350s (30 from Dubai); and 10 A380s, though four of these were ordered instead of the carrier taking four test airplanes, so this is only a net gain of six.

The A350 program has now sold 472 firm orders, a rate Leahy and the statistics say is faster than the Boeing 787.

This tally is also Airbus’ second best Farnborough Air Show, following the one two years ago when 280 orders were announced.

Other highlights from the Airbus conference:

  • Airbus is looking at developing a freighter for the A330-300, with a decision perhaps 6-12 months out;
  • The company is spending about $160 million annually (at current Euro exchange rates) on research to enhance the A320 between now and a replacement airplane, involving weight savings, new interiors and a soon-to-be-tested blended winglet developed by Aviation Partners;
  • Application of the new P&W Geared Turbo Fan on the A320, once rejected by Leahy, may be a possibility after all, depending on customer demand and the outcome of test flights of the GTF on the A340 test bed;
  • The A350 is essentially sold out through 2017, which parenthetically is also about the same time as the 787; and
  • 3,000 aircraft flying today are 20 or more years old; in five years, this number will double.

Tom Williams, EVP-Head of Programs, called Bombardier’s launch of the CSeries a “brave thing.” He believes the plane will be seen as an interim plane, bypassed by the next generation of single-aisle aircraft, serving a niche market that he believes is much smaller than Bombardier forecasts; that it will be an orphan aircraft, without a family to buy “up” to; and it will enter the low-end of the Boeing and Airbus markets.

Airbus’ end-of-show brief was a very useful wrap; Boeing might want to follow suit at future shows. This timing by default gives Airbus the headlines as the show wraps.

Other stuff, mostly whimsical:

  • Every time a military jet fighter or bomber throttled up for take-off, car alarms up and down the nearby parking lot went off;
  • “Green” aviation was a theme through the air show, right down to the notices on the waste bins to recycle. Maybe they do things differently in Europe than in the US, but there were no separate bins for plastic bottles, newspapers, and trash like back home;
  • At a big 2 1/2 hour press conference on Green aviation where Boeing Commercial President Scott Carson and Airbus CEO Tom Enders were featured speakers, Boeing didn’t have hand-outs of Carson’s speech–not even on flash drive–while the Airbus flash drive was packaged in an oversized, non-recyclable box with non-recyclable plastic neatly holding the drive;
  • At the same eco-conference, an engineer for Rolls-Royce engines couldn’t figure out how to work his Power Point presentation;
  • Boeing had a very classy eco-aviation center;
  • BAE Systems had perhaps the most interesting aircraft display, an indoor retrospective of aviation pioneers with replicas of several wood-and-wire era bi-planes; and
  • Reporters still rate the Airbus media chalet lunch menu the best-of-show, an important item considering most journalists are moochers; Boeing had a good cut fruit tray, though, something Airbus should do next time.

2 Comments on “Thursday’s Farnborough impressions

  1. So the big secret you hinted at and were sworn to secrecy was…. there is no big secret?

    Enquiring minds want to know 😉

    – Jim

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