25 June 2015, © Leeham Co: With a few days in the office one can look back at Paris Air Show with a bit of perspective. So what are the impressions?
It was surprising how many orders Airbus and Boeing landed. Both had played down the expectations, telling that it will be a decent show but nothing close to record. Yet both were booking orders or commitments which were better than expected going into the PAS.
For both, the single aisle market is still the motor. The need for single aisle 150 to 200+ seat aircraft seems to be inexhaustible. At the same time, Bombardier, which has fine aircraft just below this size, did not book a single order for the CSeries, despite showing and flying them at Paris Air Show for the first time. BBD went to pains in advance of the Air Show to indicate no orders were expected in the wake of executive management changes in the weeks and few months before the PAS. Nonetheless, barriers to entry into new market segments are really high in this business.
This will also bear on Russian and Chinese projects. Russia and Italy had just started to get really good references for their Superjet. Then the Russian leadership decided that political gamesmanship is more important than to build on the inroads they have made over the last 10 years for integration of their countries companies with the business in the western world.
I passed the Russian stands for United Aircraft in Hall 2. It was sad to see that there were qualified people standing there waiting for interested customers. But there were none; the stands were empty. In one year, what was built up during 10 years was destroyed, things have gone cold. Really sad. Russian aeronautical and aerospace industry has a lot of knowledge and tradition that could quickly lead them to being a viable alternative to western technology. Now they hand that alternative choice on a plate to China.
The Russians I have talked to during the years would love to be given a chance to come back and show what they can achieve on an open aeronautical market. The market is there and booming, but their political leadership has made sure they miss this chance of a century.
The Chinese aeronautical industry was less present. It seems to be building strength on a large home market before entering the world scene. China and Russia have agreed to make a new twin aisle aircraft together with, as I understand it, around 250-300 seats, competing with Boeing’s Dreamliner and Airbus’ A330neo. Request for information is out and request for bids to participate will be issued and awarded during 2015.
It is the only new twin aisle aircraft on the horizon. All other projects, and they are only two, 777X and A330neo, are further developments of old platforms. The finishing on the 787-10 and A350-1000 developments are going on but these projects are in their last years of development. New engines, systems and avionics have only the Russian-Chinese project to aim for after the derivatives are done.
It will be especially interesting on the engine front. The only new engine in development which seems to have the right characteristics is Rolls-Royce Advance. GE has several times declared they are full with projects and are not aiming for any new ones and Pratt & Whitney have declared they better finish up what they have as projects already before venturing on anything new.
This leaves Rolls-Royce of the western engine makers. There will for sure also be a Russian alternative but the question is how serious will that be, when cooperation with Western technology companies has become difficult due to politics. Russia lacks manufacturing means for the advanced materials and techniques required for a modern engine. They might have the technology on a research scale in many corners, but the Sam146 project with Snecma shows that the Russian partner struggles to ramp the production due to lack of advanced machines for the production of their part of the engine.
I can’t think things have improved for a cooperation or sale of technology to Russia given the last year’s tension and increased uncertainties . Does a company do all the up front efforts to then see the production contracts being stopped due to sanctions or other problems?
World peace can only come one way, that the world’s economies get so integrated that any conflict means huge negatives for the party that wants to play hard-ball for political gains. We never got there with Russia before things turned south. Let’s hope that this changes and that we get so integrated with the Chinese so that we don’t have to see empty stands in their expositions in future Air Shows.
The chances are good that we will reach a high level of integration before the military might of China has reached levels where the incitement to flex those muscles becomes too large. As a former fighter pilot and developer of fighters (the Gripen), I discussed the Chinese-Pakistani JF17 Thunder at length with the pilots that flew the demonstrations. I was surprised by how good the aircraft flew and the level of its systems. They are not far behind the fourth generations fighters that the West has.
It’s time to get the new Russian-Chinese dual aisle project to where bridges are starting to be built again with the West. If that opportunity is lost, it will take a very long time before the next one comes.