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Robust Order Announcements Highlight Active Paris Air Show

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At the Paris Air Show, held at Le Bourget from June 20 to June 26, home cooking never tasted so good for Airbus.  The European aerospace OEM saved its best for its home turf, dominating the headlines in a week of massively strong new order announcements on the back of its A320NEO (new engine option) single-aisle aircraft.

When the dust had settled, Airbus has set a record for commercial aircraft sales at any air show ever, winning business for 730 aircraft worth a total of $72.2 billion (at list prices).  Of these orders, 660 were for Airbus’s A320NEO, driving its order total since program launch to more than 1,000 aircraft.

Boeing fared reasonably well, but could not hold a candle to the excitement surrounding the A320NEO.  Boeing racked up a respectable 142 orders worth a total of $21.2 billion.  One bright spot for Boeing was that 45 of its orders were for widebody aircraft, primarily for its 747-8 and 777 aircraft, which command significantly higher prices than narrow-body planes. 

Overall, this air show was the second highest year ever in term of total firm orders received.  As the chart below highlights, only in 2007 did the total of Airbus and Boeing firm orders exceed 2011’s total.  If there was any doubt as to the commercial aviation sector’s resurgence from the downturn in the 2008 / 2009 timeframe, then Paris this year finally quashed it.

In fact, the main focus over the intermediate term will be on the vast supply chains Airbus and Boeing count on to deliver on their overflowing order books.  Boeing found out the hard way in its recent experience with its rollout of the completely new 787 that sales is only part of the equation – execution is just as critical.  Perhaps Airbus will learn from its rival’s experience as it prepares to roll out the A320NEO for first delivery in 2016.

Commercial aviation really is the primary theme at Paris and not military aviation.  While there were military aircraft on display and major prime contractors in attendance, it’s all about the commercial jets.  The tone amongst military suppliers was comparatively subdued, as the contractors supplying into tight defense budgets are looking at a leaner, uncertain future.