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The Industry today
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Aircraft deliveries, the backlog and the order intake all dropped in 2019.

Last year may long be remembered as the one in which Boeing had a very big issue with the 737 MAX. The industry, on the other hand, may also remember 2019 for a number of other reasons; the largest drop in annual delivery numbers, the first year-end backlog drop since 2009 and the lowest aircraft order intake of the last 10 years. There has been something of a downturn and not everything can be blamed on the MAX although that is where the finger points when looking at delivery numbers.

Aircraft deliveries and engine install numbers dropped by 23% last year, the first time that there has been a drop since 2010. The big difference was that the drop last year was the largest ever and, because delivery numbers were much smaller 19 years ago, the largest that there has ever been in numeric terms. Compared to 2018 which was the record year, last year there were 374 fewer aircraft deliveries and 754 fewer large civil jet engine installs. The aircraft and engine totals by the end of last year were the lowest since 2012.

This was not what the industry was expecting at the start of last year. Airbus and Boeing were projecting record numbers of deliveries, more than in 2018. Last year was supposed to be the ninth record year in a row. For thousands of suppliers around the globe it was going to be another bumper year. Then the 737 MAX was grounded due to safety concerns. Boeing could carry on building them and could park them, but they couldn’t be delivered to customers and so, expecting the grounding to be a short-lived thing, Boeing carried on building the MAX and started parking completed aircraft. There have been no deliveries since mid-March and the impact on Boeing’s single-aisle delivery numbers has been immense. Most recently, the company announced that production was being suspended. Boeing did manage to deliver 381 aircraft last year and even delivered a record number of freighters, but the company’s single-aisle deliveries dropped from a record 580 in 2018 to 127 last year. Instead of a vast increase in the number of MAX deliveries, Boeing delivered more NextGens than MAX jets.

Airbus had a record year, again. It was the European manufacturer’s 17th consecutive record year with a record number of single-aisle and a record number of widebody deliveries. Both manufacturers delivered more widebodies than in 2018 and by the end of the year there had been 427 widebody deliveries, a new annual industry record. The previous widebody delivery record was set in 2015 with 411.

So, by the end of the year there were 47 more widebody deliveries than in 2018 but single-aisle delivery numbers had dropped from the record 1,238 in 2018 to 817. Airbus had delivered 84% of all single-aisles. In total, Airbus delivered 599 new engine option single-aisles (A320neo Family and A220). This was more than ten times the number of 737 MAX deliveries.

While there was a new annual widebody delivery record, this did not extend to engine installs. There were 884 last year, more than in the previous three years but 24 fewer than in 2015 so it was the second largest widebody engine install total. The number of single-aisle engine installs dropped by 842 from the record 2,476 in 2018 to 1,634 last year.

Orders for aircraft and engines:

It almost seems that last year Boeing was preoccupied with issues other than sales. Orders for new aircraft had slowed in 2018 and by the end of that year looked set to slow further in 2019. They did. By the end of the year the total order intake was the lowest since 2009 with 979 single-aisles (also the lowest since 2009) and 394 widebodies, which was the largest annual intake since 2014. In addition to the low order intake, there were more cancellations than in other recent years and by the end of the year the net order intake was 834 aircraft. In 2018 the net order intake was 2,255 aircraft.

There was worse to come. Airbus sold more single-aisles and more widebodies than their competitor. This was not a case of just a few more single-aisles and a few more widebodies, it was a case of 849 more single-aisles and 40 more widebodies. Boeing’s total order intake last year was 242 aircraft. Airbus took orders for 1,131 and took orders for the largest number of single-aisles since 2017 and the largest number of widebodies since 2014.

Boeing’s single-aisle order intake of 65 aircraft last year was over 770 lower than in 2018 and the company’s widebody order intake was over 230 aircraft lower. Orders for the 737 MAX, Boeing’s answer to the A320neo Family, virtually dried up; a total of 43 were ordered. This was an almost insignificant number considering 824 had been ordered in 2018.

                By the end of the year Airbus has sold 914 single-aisles compared to Boeing’s 65, and 217 widebodies compared to Boeing’s 177. It was a terrible year for the U.S. manufacturer and market share just slipped away.

                For the engine companies, things were different. They took orders for more single-aisle engines than in 2018 but fewer widebody engines. However, the total engine order intake of 4,300 last year was larger than the intake in 2018.

One might have thought that CFM’s LEAP program would have suffered in the wake of the lack of orders for the 737 MAX but CFM took orders for nearly 2,600 LEAP engines last year, some 460 more than in 2018. CFM and Pratt & Whitney do have something of an edge here; they don’t have to rely on aircraft orders for engine orders. At the start of last year there were plenty of single-aisle aircraft on firm order without engine selections, all A320neo Family. There are not many left. There were some widebody aircraft on order at the start of last year without engine selections and their numbers have gone down as well.


Aircraft and engines on firm order:

Last year the aircraft backlog dropped but the engine order book went up. There were 421 fewer large commercial jet aircraft on backlog than at the start of the year but 838 more large civil jet engines.

The single-aisle aircraft backlog dropped by 151 aircraft during the year and the widebody backlog dropped by 270 aircraft. It was the first single-aisle aircraft backlog drop since 2009 and it was totally unexpected. The year-end widebody aircraft backlog has dropped every year since 2014. There are now fewer than 2,000 widebody aircraft on backlog for the first time in years. The single-aisle aircraft backlog peaked at the end of 2018 and the current figure is just one more than the backlog at the end of 2017.

Where these rather bland numbers get interesting is when one looks at the individual manufacturer’s backlogs. Airbus currently has 6,563 single-aisles on backlog, 27 more than at the start of the year, and this represent 54.6% of the entire single-aisle aircraft backlog. Boeing has a 4,585 single-aisle aircraft backlog which is 178 aircraft lower than at the start of 2019 and which represents 38.2% of the year-end single-aisle aircraft backlog.

Airbus has 919 widebody aircraft on backlog, 122 fewer than at the start of the year but 47% of the entire widebody backlog. Boeing has 1,040 widebodies on backlog, 148 fewer than at the start of the year but 53% of the entire widebody backlog. Airbus and Boeing both had exactly the same number of passenger widebodies on backlog at the end of last year. That is new.

For the engine manufacturers, 2019 ended with a new order book high but this was very much a function of more single-aisle engines on firm order. Year-end widebody engine numbers have been dropped for each of the last five years. The peak was at the end of 2014 when there were 5,118 on firm order but by the end of last year the total had dwindled to 3,844. This was 536 fewer engines than were on order at the start of the year and 600 fewer than at the end of 2017. Only one widebody engine program had a larger order book at the end of 2019 than at the start of the year. This was the Trent 7000 which had 586 engines on order, up 116 from the start of last year.

While the widebody engine order book has been shrinking year by year, the number of single-aisle engines on firm order has grown. The figure of 23,210 at the end of last year is a new industry high and represents a gain of 1,374 engines since the start of the year.

It turned out to be a pretty good year for the single-aisle engine manufacturers in terms of their order books but not such a great year in terms of install numbers.


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Philip Abbott,
Editor & Publisher.