large commercial jet aircraft backlog grew by four in September providing a new total backlog record and a new single-aisle
backlog record. This does not translate into new single-aisle or widebody engine order book records - both segments currently
have fewer engines on the books than at the start of this year. The big issue this year has been the order intake; 864 fewer
aircraft and 2,342 fewer engines than by the end of September last year.
Deliveries are up but
the order intake is down. The backlog is up, but only slightly and only Airbus currently has a larger backlog than at the
start of the year. Boeing’s backlog is lower. At the end of September, Airbus had 373 more single-aisles on firm order
backlog than at the start of this year, but four fewer widebodies. Boeing’s backlog has suffered from high delivery
numbers - the company has just had an all-time record quarter, beating the previous record set in Q2 this year – and
now has 56 fewer single-aisles and 77 fewer widebodies on backlog order.
Two things are particularly striking about the industry this year. The first is that both the aircraft
and the engine order intakes are way behind those of last year. The second is that most of the overall gain in delivery numbers,
single-aisle and widebody, is due to Boeing.
The relatively low order intake has been a feature for several months. At the end of March this year, 217
fewer aircraft had been ordered than by the end of March last year. By the end of June it was a case of 382 fewer aircraft,
despite having a major European air show (Paris) and the intake by the end of September this year was 864 aircraft lower.
Much the same sort of thing happened to the engine order intake; by the end of March this year 480 fewer engines had been
ordered, by the end of June it was a case of 282 fewer engines because of a good intake at Paris, but by the end of September
the intake of 2,054 engines was less than half the intake by the end of September last year.
It could be argued that the massive aircraft and
engine order intakes in July last year, at Farnborough, have skewed the figures and that is certainly true when comparing
2014 figures with those of this year. But the fact is that the January to September aircraft and engine order intakes in 2011,
2012, 2013 and 2014 were larger than the intakes this year.
By the end of September, Airbus had taken orders for 875 new aircraft, 202 fewer than at the same
point last year. Boeing had taken orders for 507 new aircraft, 599 fewer than at the end of September last year. The only
other manufacturer with orders in the first nine months of last year was Bombardier; the Canadian company had taken orders
for 63 CSeries jets but has had no orders for that program this year.
Despite far fewer aircraft being ordered, some major programs have done better this year than last
year. Just one A318 has been ordered this year which is one more than last year. The A330 program has taken orders for 43
more aircraft while the 747 intake is up three, the 767 is up 44 and the 787 is up four.
If one looks at what has happened to minor aircraft
programs (a minor program is a variant of a major program e.g. 737-700 or A330-200) there are 11 that have taken orders for
more aircraft this year. The A330-300 and the A330-900 have both taken orders for 25 more aircraft and the A321neo has taken
orders for 19 more aircraft. The 767-300F has the largest gain of all Boeing’s minor programs; up 44 aircraft and the
777F intake is up 12 this year. The 737-900ER, 747-8F, 787-8 and 787-10 all have gains but in single figures.
Single-aisle engines have been the
biggest casualty of the slowing engine order intake with the LEAP and CFM56 taking substantially fewer engine orders this
year. There have also been fewer orders for the PurePower program but the V2500 does buck the single-aisle trend with orders
for more engines than by the end of September last year. In fact more V2500 engines have been ordered so far this year than
in the whole of last year.
The widebody engine order intake at the end of September was down one fifth on the intake at the same time
last year. Most of the decline is actually due to far fewer orders for the GE9X and GE’s order total intake this year
amounts to 258 engines, 410 fewer than at the end of September last year. However, while the intakes of the GE90 and GEnx
are both lower than last year, the CF6 has had something of a resurgence with 108 orders so far, 64 more than last year. This
is almost entirely due to orders for more 767-300Fs.
The Engine Alliance GP7200 and the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 programs have not taken any orders
this year and had none in 2014. The last GP7200 order was in August 2013 and the last PW4000 order was in July 2012.
Rolls-Royce is the only engine company
to have had more engines ordered this year than in the first nine months of last year. It is interesting that by the end of
September last year there had been no Trent 900 or Trent 7000 orders and Rolls-Royce’s total intake amounted to 172
engines. So far this year the British company has taken orders for 448 engines, 276 more. This represents an enviable gain
size of the Airbus and Boeing backlogs - Airbus had over 5,500 single-aisles on backlog at the end of September, a new record
for the company - one cannot be so sure that either company’s management would be very concerned, or concerned at all,
about a lower order intake. Even if December turns out to be a bumper month in terms of new orders it is unlikely that either
manufacturer will have anywhere near as many orders as in 2014. But there is another aspect to this which is that since the
start of last year the Airbus backlog has grown by nearly 1,200 aircraft while Boeing’s backlog has grown by over 700
and both manufacturers have order books that represent nine or 10 years of work. Bombardier would obviously like to see a
larger CSeries backlog and COMAC would like more orders for the C919.
The engine manufacturers are in much the same sort of position with most of their order book growth
attributable to new engines. The big difference between the aircraft and the engine manufacturers is that due to fewer orders
there are fewer engines currently on order than at the start of this year.
aircraft manufacturers have a new backlog record and even if it is almost entirely due to the Airbus backlog gain this year,
it is still a new record. Other than Rolls-Royce, the engine companies have all now got smaller order books than at the start
of this year and, as a result, there are currently fewer single-aisle engines and fewer widebody engines on firm order than
at the start of this year.