It was certainly not a
typical First Quarter. For a start, more aircraft were ordered than engines. Also, just two customers ordered 507 aircraft;
most of the order intake. But by the end of the quarter there was a new single-aisle backlog record as well as a new overall
backlog record. There were more deliveries in the First Quarter than in any previous First Quarter and it was also a record
First Quarter in terms of single-aisle aircraft deliveries.
The total large commercial jet backlog
is now over 10,000 aircraft. A few short years ago, such a thing would have been thought improbable. One would think that
with this enormous backlog - it represents over eight years of work in hand - there would also be a new firm engine order
book record. Actually, the number of engines on firm order fell back in March and the current level is below the figure at
the start of the year. The combined LEAP and PurePower order book was up again in March, following the first order this year
for PW1100G engines, but the combined order book of every other engine program put together has dropped once more and is currently
322 engines lower than at the start of the year, and 1,254 engines lower than at the end of the First Quarter of last year.
CFM56 firm order book is currently 660 engines lower than it was a year ago. The V2500 program currently has 348 engines less
than a year ago. Not everything in this industry is booming. For example, the last V2500 engine order was in January last
year and the last GP7200 engine order was in February last year. You have to go back a bit further to find when the last Trent
800 order was placed; there are none left on the order book anyway.
In terms of the aircraft order
intake, it was a good First Quarter. A total of 651 new jet transports were ordered, though two customers together ordered
three quarters of that total. What we are seeing a great deal of are volume aircraft orders but often there is no engine selection
to go with those aircraft. The total First Quarter engine order intake was 552 units which is less than one engine for every
aircraft firm ordered. The reason the engine order book is not at record levels is because a large number of firm ordered
aircraft do not have engine selections and installs are eating into the firm order book.
something of an engine record though: The Total Engine Requirement (TER) which is the total number of engines needed for every
large commercial jet aircraft on firm backlog order reached the new high of 20,484 engines at the end of March. Included in
this figure are some 2,600 engines that will be needed for the 1,280 aircraft on backlog at the end of March which do not
yet have an engine selection. These aircraft are comprised of 244 Boeing 787s, 985 Airbus single-aisles (including 768 A320neo
Family aircraft) and 51 Airbus widebodies.
New records in this industry have become so common and so
frequent that hardly anyone takes much notice any more. The single-aisle aircraft backlog, for example, reached a new high
for the ninth consecutive month in March. The widebody backlog has improved this year but it is a very long way from reaching
a new record. In fact, while it is 27 aircraft up on the figure at the start of the year, it is still well below the level
at the end of March last year. There are currently 311 more single-aisles on firm backlog than at the start of the year, and
1,111 more than were on backlog at the end of March last year.
The problem with most backlog records
today is that they mostly involve anything to do with demand for aircraft with the new engines. For example, the number of
single-aisles which will be powered by the LEAP or PurePower engines has grown by 455 so far this year and by 1,605 in the
last 12 months. The number of current engine option single-aisles has dropped. In fact, one change in March was that the combined
backlog of all single-aisles powered by the new engines exceeded the combined backlog of single-aisles powered by the CFM56
and the V2500 for the first time (shown on the chart below). This is entirely due to demand for the A320neo Family and the
737-MAX. There have been no orders for the CSeries or the MS-21 or the C919 this year and consequently these programs have
had no backlog change and have not had any input to the growth of the LEAP and PurePower single-aisle backlog.
interesting little point here is that at the end of May 2011, just before Airbus announced all those volume orders for the
A320neo at the last Paris air show, the European manufacturer had 2,331 single-aisles on firm backlog order. That amounted
to 49.4% of the total single-aisle backlog. In the intervening period, the Airbus single-aisle backlog has increased to 3,889
aircraft. One would think that the company's share of the single-aisle backlog would have increased significantly but
the current share is 50.9% or just 1.5 percentage points larger. There are now 2,920 more single-aisles on backlog order than
at the end of May 2011 and, of these, 1,185 are the 737-MAX.
Boeing has not, actually, done that well
with single-aisle market share. Go back to the end of May 2011 again and Boeing's share was 44.5% with 2,101 737s on backlog.
While the number of 737s on firm order is significantly larger now (up 1,024 aircraft), Boeing's share has dropped to
40.9%. COMAC's share has gone from one percent to 4.2%, Irkut's share has dropped from three percent to two and the
CSeries is still on 1.9%.
In theory one should not differentiate between single-aisles with the new
engines and those with the current engine option. After all, only the engine manufacturers get excited about whether an A320
has CFM56 or V2500 power and there is not really much difference between an A320 or a 737 being delivered today and the A320neo
or the 737-MAX of tomorrow. But the fact is that demand hinges on the new engines. In the First Quarter of this year, for
example the only current engine option single-aisle program to have any backlog gain was the A321, up 18 aircraft. In the
same period, the A321neo had a 225 aircraft backlog gain; the 737-MAX backlog increased by 121 and the A320neo backlog increased
Disregard the engines for a moment. The A321 backlog grew by 243 aircraft in Q1; the A320 backlog
grew by 34 and the 737 grew by 51. These figures hide the fact that the A320ceo backlog fell by 75 aircraft in Q1 and the
737-800 backlog fell by 55. Look back a little further and there are significantly larger figures; in the last 12 months the
A320ceo backlog has dropped by 280 aircraft and the 737-800 backlog has fallen by 236.
Things are different
when it comes to widebodies and while the progressive decline of last year has now turned into upward movement, for the moment,
both manufacturers have lower backlogs than a year ago. Airbus has eight fewer widebodies on backlog; Boeing has 47 fewer.
Airbus has 46 fewer A330s on order but does have 61 more A350s on order than a year ago. Boeing does not currently have a
single widebody program with a larger backlog than 12 months ago. In fact, only the 787 has had an improvement this year and
some of that improvement is due to the lack of deliveries. There has only been one Dreamliner delivery this year which was
to Air India at the end of March.
So far this year only four minor widebody programs have had backlog
gain; the A350-900 and A350-1000 (up 29 and five respectively) and the 787-8 and 787-9 (up 11 and 30 respectively). Ten other
minor widebody programs currently have smaller backlogs than at the start of this year.
Not very many
more widebody minor programs have had gains over the past year. The A330-300 backlog is five aircraft larger than a year ago,
the A350-900 backlog is up 46 - the largest gain of any minor widebody program -and the A350-100 is up 41. Boeing's 767-300F
backlog is seven aircraft larger than a year ago; the 777-300ER is up 15 and the 787-9 backlog is currently 28 aircraft larger
than a year ago.
The biggest casualties of the widebody backlog decline have been the very large jets:
The A380 backlog is now 21 aircraft lower than a year ago; the 747-8F backlog is down 18 aircraft and the 747-8 is down nine.
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