Farnborough Air Show preview


This is really expected to be a boring show from the perspective of orders. Airbus has been downplaying expectations following last year’s Paris Air Show blow-out of more than 1,200 A320neo orders. How can you match that? The answer is, Airbus can’t.

Boeing will certainly firm up hundreds of 737 MAX commitments, so this will be Boeing’s show. And there is the buzz that Boeing is partnering with Lockheed Martin and NASA (oh, another government subsidy?) to produce a 2,500 mph SST, with details supposed to come at the Air Show. Then there is the leak that the 787 will fly there, the first time in 28 years Boeing has an aerial flying display.

We’ve talked with several journalists and industry personnel who are skipping the Air Show this year. So are we, and we’ve been at the Farnborough and Paris air shows since 2008. We just don’t expect enough news this year that we can’t get from the press releases.

So here are our expectations for the show:

Hyperole abounds: Boeing will trash Airbus. Airbus will trash Boeing. So what else is new? We’re glad we’re not going this year.


  • Lowering expectations: John Leahy, COO Customers, has been tamping down expectations since the first of the year. Airbus had a boffo Paris Air Show, announcing orders and commitments for more than 1,200 A320neo family members. Even he says this should be Boeing’s year and Boeing’s show. Airbus forecast about 600 orders for the year and we won’t be surprised if Leahy announces a few hundred at Farnborough. But another swarm of neos? Not bloody likely.
  • A330: Maybe a few.
  • A350: A lot of effort has been undertaken to announce some -1000 orders at the show to bolster this sagging program. Will Leahy have them? We’re not sure they’ll be ready. But over-all, Leahy only forecast about 30 A350 orders this year. The problem is that the first available delivery slots for the A350 of any sub-type are until around 2020. Why would any customer place an order now and be exposed to up to eight years of price escalation? Furthermore, is the design of the -1000 set? To hear Airbus tell it, the answer is yes. To hear Boeing tell it, the answer is no. What we hear is that Airbus is waiting to see what Boeing will do with the 777X before deciding if it needs to further refine the 1000; and Boeing is waiting to see what the final design for the 1000 is before deciding what to do with the 777X. Who will blink first? We’re probably about a year away from knowing this answer.
  • A380: Some, maybe.


  • MAX, MAX, MAX: Boeing wants to convert hundreds of its commitments for the re-engined 737 into firm orders to announce at the show. We don’t know how many “hundreds” this might be, but we think you could be talking 300-400 or more. Will United Airlines announce its order for 100+70 NGs and MAXes at the show? We wouldn’t be at all surprised.
  • Update, 747-8: Readers pointed out we didn’t mention this airplane in our original post. Sort of tells you we don’t think much about the future of this airplane, even if it is good technically. We think the 748 is a niche airplane within a niche, squeezed by the 777 on the bottom and the A380 on the top. Having said that, people expect Turkish to order either the A380 or the 748; and for Hong Kong Airlines Group to firm up last year’s MOU for the 748. The latter is financially ailing, so we don’t see how it can.
  • 777X: Will Boeing be ready to reveal its plans for this airplane? Highly unlikely. There is a game of chicken going on (see Airbus), and the RFPs to the three engine companies isn’t due back for down-selecting until the fourth quarter. We think it possible the Authority to Offer might come by year end but it is just as likely to slip into next year–in part because of the chicken and in part because of—
  • 787-10X: We believe there is more movement to launch this airplane sooner than later and accordingly we think this will get the nod before the 777X. And Jim Albaugh says the 10X decision will come first. Will it be at Farnborough? This might be a little soon. Will Boeing talk about it more? We wouldn’t be at all surprised. There is a lot of customer interest in this airplane of the size of the 777-200 series and a range of around 6,900nm. But an ATO? Probably not yet.
  • 787-8/9: Maybe some orders.


  • Analysts, consultants, media and geeks will be waiting to see if BBD announces any CSeries orders at the show. We don’t think so. Canadian securities laws say that the company has to announce any LOI, MOU or contract within 24 hours. (In contrast, US and European securities laws permit Boeing and Airbus to merely sneak in an order in an Undisclosed category without an accompanying announcement.) So timing anything for the air show is a bit more problematic for BBD, whether it is the CSeries, Q400, CRJ or business jets. We’re not expecting anything from BBD, but having just been to their media day we came away with a general awareness that there are a number of campaigns that could consummate this year. It’s just a matter of when.


  • No re-engined “E-198” announcement expected. This is said to have slipped to toward the end of the year. New engines. New wings. New systems. Same 2×2 seating. Good airplane. But still a derivative.
  • A little surprised Boeing and Embraer didn’t hold this announcement on the KC-390 until the Air Show.
  • Some orders, but nothing earth-shattering.


  • The on-again, off-again discussion of a 90-seat new technology turbo-prop remains off for now, we believe. So aside from some orders, we don’t expect anything major.

CFM International

  • Lots of orders concurrent with the 737 MAX. Some neo orders. Probably a program update.

GE Engines

  • Orders associated with airplane deals. Otherwise not much to say.

Pratt & Whitney

  • Some neo and CSeries orders for the GTF. Program update.
  • Maybe some V2500 orders.
  • Program update on the GP7200.


  • Some engine orders for 787, A330, A350 and A380 possible. Otherwise RR doesn’t say much. To anybody. About anything.

16 Comments on “Farnborough Air Show preview

  1. Are any B-747-8I orders possible? Boeing was working several customers and thinks it could get up to 30 firm orders for the latest model of the B-747.

    I think you are right about the B-787-10 and B-777-8X/-9X programs, they will not announce much in the way of new news.

    With the A-320NEO effectively sold out until 2020, the B-737MAX is becoming the only game for deliveries earlier than that. The MAX is just as good, if not better than the NEO for the mid-sized to large-sized NB market. Since both Airbus and Boeing have formerly abandoned the small-sized NB market (all NB airplanes smaller than 150 seats like the A-319/-319NEO and B-737-700NG/-7MAX). The C-Series and E-Jets will fill that market role in the future. But for the ‘big boys’ even the B-73G/A-319 are becoming slow sellers.

    Now the announcement of Boeing now cooperating with Embraer on their KC-390 makes perfect sense. There is a military market for tankers and airlifters smaller than the KC-46/A-330MRTT/C-17/A-400M. There are several hundred older KC-130s around the world that need replacement and the other choices are just to big for these smaller Air Forces and/or missions.

  2. While the 787-10 is pretty much a given, what will Boeing make the big investment on next? I would say that a 757 size new small airplane is in the running with the 777X.

  3. I think Airbus will have to blink first on the A350-1000 vs. 777x issue. With the 777s still selling quite well, Boeing is under no pressure to mess with this successful formual. In fact, it would be quite silly of them to do so. Introducing the 787-10 adds another element of pressure for Airbus vis a vis the A350-1000, not to mention two of their more outspoken customers.

    KC135TopBoom touched on a very interesting point. Scott did not include the 747-8 in his analysis/estimate. Sounds like they don’t expect any orders on that front at all.

    Boeing made a big announcement last year about how they hope to get many more orders for the 767. Since January of last year, they have 46 orders, 27 being from FedEx back in November of last year. They have sold 6 to 2 different customers this year. Can we conclude that the 767 program is indeed finally winding down?

    • 747-8* :
      Boeing is all bubbly on that topic presenting a wide range of customers that _should_ order
      that bird.

      • “A380, you never know. Who expected Asiana, Transaero or Skymark?”

        Or Kingfisher?

        Uwe :
        747-8* :
        Boeing is all bubbly on that topic presenting a wide range of customers that _should_ order
        that bird.

        Boeing (and Airbus for that matter) has never said which customers SHOULD order this or that airplane.

  4. Probably some A350-1000s, maybe not a lot, but western 777 operators. The spec looks good from a market perspective. Looking at the price list it seems Airbus is asking a premium and slots will not be available for a long time. No blinking at all.

    I have a little deja vue with regards to the 777x / A350-1000. Boeing saying / thinking they have time, they have the best product, airlines will wait, etc. To wake up one morning to learn airlines that where friends have a different agenda..

    Maybe also see some transcon operators and Chinese securing A321 NEO slots.

    A380, you never know. Who expected Asiana, Transaero or Skymark?

  5. I think the 748 will live on as a freighter, I dont see much use for the passenger model however. And IMO, they should have done more on the 748, like the 777-X sort of NG.

    • You don’t think the B-747-8I is an “NG”? BTW, I do see it having a place in the passenger airline market. But, right now the market for VLAs is slow, the A-380 has only sold 4 examples this year, and those were really just firming up a prior MOU.

  6. Now that both A and B go for derivative products, expect the research & technology community to seek for ‘bridge’ money’ until the next new development gets underway. In that light, I am not surprised at all to see all sorts of nonsense ideas being warmed over. Supersonic transports is clearly one of them. Maybe the impact of the sonic boom can be somewhat mitigated. Shouldn’t distract from the fact that the whole idea, by laws of physics, remains economically unviable.

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