Tim Robinson and Bill Read report from the fourth trade day of the Paris Air Show, held 20-26 June and offer final thoughts on this years exhibition.
With transport back to normal – and the weather co-operating for once, the 2011 Paris Air Show reached a crescendo of orders as Airbus recorded a hugely successful air show – notching up some $72.2bn worth of deals, compared to Boeing’s $17bn.
The exhibition saw Airbus rack up its largest number of aircraft – 730 from 16 customers – at any air show – and is indeed the biggest number of airliners ordered at a trade show.
Some of these deals were extremely last minute, with Airbus execs saying forthrightly, that they had been winging it, with late night negotiationsnd 3am haggling. One senior Airbus veteran said it was the most ‘free wheeling’ air show he’d ever seen – but that the deals and orders had just ‘come together’.
The big finale
The final trade day for Airbus was kicked off by an order from Japan’s Skymark Airlines, which added two A380s to its original order of four bringing it to six.
This was swiftly followed by an order from India’s GoAir – which placed an order for 72 Airbus A320neos. Airbus also confirmed a order had been placed for 10 A380s from an unidentified customer.
Finally we had the much expected 200 A320neo order from fast growing Asia-Pacific carrier AirAsia – headed by entrepreneur Tony Fernandes. It is worth some $18bn at list prices, with CFM’s LEAP-X engine being chosen to power these aircraft.
Video of Airbus chief Tom Enders announcement here
At the press briefing, Fernandes gave an amusing insight into how the MoU was inked, which involved a late night party on Valentines Day, getting Airbus chief salesman John Leahy to dance before he would sign, and finally getting a bevy of AirAsia’s glamorous flight attendants to kiss the contract. Rock’n’roll aviation indeed.
Late night partying aside, there are wider implications from this buying frenzy this week. Let’s take a look at them.
Firstly is the extraordinary success of the A320neo – total orders of which now stand at some 1029. This remember, has been achieved in only six months since launch in December 2010 – making it the fastest selling airliner in history. As noted previously, what was seen as an interim gap-filler has now turned into a major programme – surprising even Airbus themselves with its popularity. Airbus chief Tom Enders noting that he ‘underestimated the market demand’ for the neo.
Second – this will no doubt ratchet the pressure up on Boeing to decide on whether to take the plunge with a whole new aircraft, or adopt a re-engined 737. While this may not be fair, the perception from some quarters (and expressed by some vocal airline ceos) is that they are dithering – the ‘clarification’ promised by the company at Paris not having seemed to have had the desired effect. Crucially a large factor – the engine technology – lies out of Boeing’s direct control – with the rush for neos indicating that airline execs see next gen single aisle as further (2025-30) in the future.
Third – and visible on the amount of other business going on at the show, was that these big deals (along with ATR, Bombardier, SuperJet etc) do not just benefit the OEMs. Instead it is worth remembering that there is a trickle-down effect into pilot training, MROs, spares, support services, cabin design, IFE, ground support equipment that will boost large sections of the global aerospace industry and create long-term jobs.
Fourth. This even extends to those outside the aerospace community. As the ash cloud crisis of 2010 demonstrated, when air travel is down, so are hotels, tourism, restaurants and business. Aviation is now so closely intertwined with the globalised economy that the introduction of these new aircraft then, allowing more and more people to fly, will have positive benefits to growth and economic stability around the world. The other theme from the show is that a milestone has been achieved with biofuels – the technology is there – and it just needs large scale production.
Fifth. Yet tempered with this are two concerns. Firstly – given the massive demand, will Airbus (and Boeing’s) supply chain be able to keep up? With the rebound in civil aerospace – led by Asia-Pacific being so strong any bottlenecks or issues in keeping pace could lead to embarrassment, delays, or costly compensation. The second is on flight training and the demand for pilots. Already in China and India there have been instances of pilots falsifying records – a symptom perhaps of the incredible growth and need to fill cockpit seats. How then will the industry continue to maintain its high standards of safety – given the requirement for sheer numbers?
This then, meant the 2011 Paris Air Show was a far cry from the gloom of 2009.
Global marketplace on show
As well as the big announcements from major OEMs, the show also played host to six exhibition halls containing around 2,000 exhibitors showcasing a comprehensive range of aerospace products and services. These included companies, research associations and service providers representing civil, defence, space, manufacturing, research, maintenance, engineering and many other sectors.
UAVs were very much in evidence around the stands with many new platforms and applications on show . Among these were the WaveSight autonomously-operated UAV aerial and ground monitoring system from Indian company AVAANA Software, the Albatross rugged civil surveillance ‘Drone Conceptor’ biplane UAV from Swiss Aircraft Technology SWAT in Switzerland, the Sixtron triple-rotor military surveillance UAV from Alpi Aviation in Italy which can be folded up (complete with operating system) inside a knapsack and a range of small hovering and fixed-wing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) UAVs from French company Fly-n-Sense.
Flapping around the booths was the Avitron remote-controlled model ornithoptor from XTIM Sarl which had the wonderful marketing slogan of ‘Le Premier Oiseau Bionique’.
ATC training for the iPhone generation
Bored of Angry Birds? Have good spatial awareness? Can you think in three dimensions? Raytheon may have something for you – an iPad app to for ATC training. The app, available from Raytheon’s app store starts with simple exercises in controlling a single aircraft in time and space, to a recreation of a FAA STARS radar screen with multiple contacts. Though at the moment you need to click on a contact to issue instructions, Raytheon plans on adding voice recognition soon.
But this is not a timewasting game while waiting for the bus – it is part of the company’s training solution for the performance based ATC training for the US FAA under the ATCOTS (Air Traffic Control Optimum Training Solution) for NextGen ATM. Raytheon forsees that as the previous generation of controllers retires, and the Xbox generation gives way to the iPhone generation, these type of learning ‘games’ will be an integral part of training. Indeed it is likely that iPhone/iPad-style human machine interfaces (HMI) will eventually migrate into actual ATC displays at some point too.
Spotted on the French aerospace research agency Onera stand was this model of a familiar looking winged high-altitude space launcher. The EOle concept would see a twin-fuselage mothership aircraft airlaunch a rocket to put nano-satellites (5kg-10kg) into orbit.
Bought an whole load of A320neos this week? Haven’t got any cabin crew for them? Help, it seems, is on hand on with this instant flight attendant spotted on one of the souvenir stands – though at Euro 32 this must break some kind of minimum wage laws…
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