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A small October backlog drop and some large order swaps.
(The latest figures we have are to the end of October 2016.)

The large commercial jet backlog dropped by 17 aircraft in October which was the smallest monthly drop since April last year. The Airbus backlog fell by 39 aircraft but Boeing’s backlog grew by 23 which was largely due to orders for 72 widebodies during the month, including 14 747-8Fs. Some Airbus single-aisle programs had fairly large changes in October, due to swaps for larger aircraft.

Swaps are by no means unusual but large swaps don’t happen very often. It is also rather rare to see a new aircraft program having a sudden backlog drop. This is what happened in October when the A320neo backlog dropped by 67 aircraft and the A321neo backlog grew by 65. Only eight A320neo aircraft were delivered during the month so it clearly was not a case of deliveries vastly outstripping the order intake. What actually happened was that two of the largest A320neo customers, IndiGo and Qantas, swapped some of the A320neo aircraft they had on order for the A321neo. IndiGo had 420 A320neo aircraft on order but 20 were swapped for the A321neo which effectively makes the carrier a new customer for that program. Qantas had 99 A320neo aircraft on order but swapped 45 for the A321neo which also made them a new customer for that program.

Other relatively large changes during the month revolved around the 747 and the 787. UPS ordered 14 747-8Fs taking that program’s backlog up to 20. There are still three customers with 747-8s on order, a total of nine, so the UPS order almost single-handedly doubled the 747 backlog. Boeing’s 787 backlog also increased during the month due to orders for 47. Boeing’s widebody backlog increased by 52 aircraft in October which would have been a relief to the company because, for a change, the gap between their widebody backlog and the Airbus widebody backlog got larger. At the end of September Boeing had 33 more widebodies on order than their European competitor. By the end of October, Boeing had 98 more widebodies on backlog than Airbus.

By the end of October the large commercial jet backlog was 157 aircraft lower than at the start of the year. The single-aisle backlog is now 36 aircraft lower than at the start of the year and the widebody backlog is 121 aircraft lower. Airbus and Boeing both have smaller backlogs, down 121 and 160 aircraft respectively. Bombardier is the only manufacturer with a larger backlog.

Airbus’ single-aisle backlog at the end of October was 89 aircraft lower than at the start of this year while Boeing’s single-aisle backlog was 71 aircraft lower. The current engine option A320 and A321 backlogs have dropped 276 and 93 aircraft respectively since the start of the year but the A320neo backlog is four aircraft larger and the A321neo backlog is 274 aircraft larger. Boeing’s 737-800 backlog is currently 300 aircraft lower than at the start of this year but the 737 MAX backlog is 267 aircraft larger.

In the widebody segment, October had the largest monthly gain since December 2014 though this was entirely due to Boeing’s order intake. Airbus did not sell any widebodies during the month and the company’s widebody backlog dropped by 13 aircraft.

Since the start of this year, Airbus’ widebody backlog has dropped by 32 aircraft and Boeing’s has dropped by 89 aircraft. Only five widebody aircraft programs had larger backlogs at the end of October than at the start of this year. The problem for widebodies has been that deliveries and cancellations exceed the order intake by a fairly large margin.

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Philip Abbott,
Editor & Publisher.