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There are several new records but not all programs are booming.
(The latest figures we have are to the end of September.)

By the end of September the number of aircraft and engines on firm order had reached new high points. It was an all-time record quarter in terms of aircraft and engine orders. It was also a record Third Quarter in terms of the number of deliveries. The industry is booming yet some programs have smaller order books than at the start of the year and some have had fewer deliveries than in the same period last year.

There is another new aircraft backlog record and another new engine order book record. There have been so many of these new records that they do not come as much of a surprise any more. It is almost a case of the industry accepting that, month after month, there will be some sort of new record. This industry, as the aircraft and engine manufacturers like to tell us, is doing very well indeed. It is, but not all the programs are booming. The new aircraft and engine backlog records actually translate into new single-aisle aircraft and new single-aisle engine backlog records. The number of widebody aircraft on firm backlog order dropped in August and again in September. The same thing has happened to widebody engines.

One could say that at the end of the Third Quarter this year, the number of widebody aircraft on backlog order was at the highest end-of-quarter level ever, and that would be true. The same applies to the number of widebody engines on firm order. But this ignores the fact that the figures were much higher at the end of July and it is not exactly as though the widebody aircraft backlog is significantly larger than at the start of the year either. The current figure is just 17 aircraft larger and the reason it is that order of magnitude larger is because Boeing's widebody backlog is currently 119 aircraft up on the figure at the start of this year. The Airbus widebody backlog is 102 aircraft lower than at the start of the y.

Now look at the number of widebody engines on order. The current figure is 86 larger than at the start of this year and the reason it is as much as that is because the GE9X order book is 440 engines larger and the CF6 order book is 12 engines larger. There is not a single other major widebody engine program which had more engines on firm order at the end of September than at the start of 2014. Not one.

Things are a little different when it comes to single-aisle aircraft and single-aisle engines. At the end of September there were 864 more single-aisle aircraft on backlog, and 1,428 more single-aisle engines on firm order than at the start of this year.

Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier all have larger single-aisle backlogs. The Russian and Chinese manufacturers have had no change. The A319 is the only major single-aisle program to have a smaller backlog but when one looks at minor programs the current engine option versions of the A319 and the A320 both have smaller backlogs. The new engine option versions have larger backlogs.

It is the same at Boeing; the 737 backlog is 353 aircraft larger than at the start of the year but when you look at the minor 737 programs, the 737-700, 737-800 and 737-900ER all have smaller backlogs. The 737-MAX backlog is 532 aircraft larger which is more than the A320neo gain (but not as much as the gain of the A320neo Family which currently has 647 more aircraft on backlog than at the start of this year).

Then look at single-aisle engines. There were more PurePower, LEAP and CFM56-5B engines on order at the end of September than at the start of the year but both the V2500 and the CFM56-7B have order books that are 358 engines lower than the figures at the start of this year.

The point here is that it is all very well looking at the overall figures but backlog gain has never been across the board, and it probably never will be. By the same token, just because there has been a record quarterly order intake does not mean that all aircraft and engine programs have benefitted. As it happens, the Third Quarter aircraft order intake was an all-time record for a single quarter and the Third Quarter engine order intake was also an all-time record for a single quarter.

Compared to the same period last year, a total of 79 more aircraft have been ordered this year, made up of 29 more single-aisles and 50 more widebodies. Airbus has taken orders for 991 single-aisles this year which is 48 more than in the same period last year. Boeing has taken orders for 792 737s, 50 fewer than at the same point last year. Bombardier has sold 31 more CSeries jets.

In the widebody market, Airbus has taken orders for 86 aircraft this year which is 83 fewer than at the same point last year. Boeing, on the other hand, has taken orders for 314 widebodies which is 133 more than in the first nine months of last year. The total intake this year is 2,246 aircraft made up of 1,846 single-aisles and 400 widebodies.

When it comes to the engine order intake, things are very different chiefly because more customers with previously ordered aircraft placed their engine orders this year than was the case last year. In total there have been orders for 4,396 engines this year, 1,046 more than in the same period last year. This is made up of 3,556 single-aisle engines, 854 more than in the same period last year, and 840 widebody engines, 192 more than in the same period last year. The table on the next page shows the position.

Aircraft orders this year have made a positive difference to the backlogs of some major programs but there has also been the attrition of deliveries and the surprisingly large number of cancellations, a total of 394 so far. As a result of all this, the 777 and 767 are the only widebody programs with larger backlogs than at the start of the year, and the A319 is the only major single-aisle program with a smaller backlog. But this all goes back to the point that backlog gain is never across the board.


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Philip Abbott,
Editor & Publisher.