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Orders and Deliveries in December made a huge difference
to year-end 2017 figures.


Up until December the aircraft order intake was down, the backlog was lower than at the start of the year and it certainly did not look like the manufacturers would meet projected delivery numbers by the end of the year. Then everything changed. More aircraft were ordered than in the previous nine months put together; a new monthly delivery record was set which in turn meant that there was a new annual delivery record and, finally, the backlog soared.

Remember what happened at the end of 2016? For most of that year the order intake was slow, delivery numbers were not much different to those of the previous year and the backlog went up and down, a bit. But in December 2016, orders surged, aircraft delivery numbers went through the roof and there was a new year-end backlog record. The same thing happened again in 2017 only this time more aircraft were ordered, more were delivered and the year-end backlog gain of 757 aircraft was much, much larger than the gain in 2016.

The industry may have been expecting another “Super December” in terms of aircraft deliveries if only because delivery numbers invariably rise towards the end of each year. But 213 deliveries? Probably not. In December 2016 there were 181 deliveries of which 111 were Airbus. In December 2017 there really were 213 deliveries of which 127 were Airbus. This took total 2017 deliveries to 1,498 which is a new annual record. The European manufacturer had a record year with a record number of single-aisle deliveries as well as a record number of widebody deliveries. Boeing also had a record year and had a record number of 737 deliveries though the U.S. manufacturer’s widebody total was down. The Airbus total was larger than the projection for the year while Boeing’s total was a little short though it was one aircraft larger than the company’s previous annual record set in 2015.

Bombardier only started CSeries deliveries in June 2016 and had delivered seven by the end of the year. Last year was the first full year of CSeries production and there were 17 deliveries in all. This is short of the 30 to 35 that the company had originally projected for 2017 but it was a gain on 2016.

So, Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier each had a record year. There were 62 more single-aisle deliveries than in 2016 but seven fewer widebody deliveries.

The increased number of aircraft deliveries naturally translates into a larger number of engine installs. For the first time last year there were over 3,000 new engine installs on new aircraft. This, however, was very much a single-aisle thing. The widebody engine manufacturers have suffered from falling demand for widebody aircraft. Annual widebody aircraft deliveries have gone from 411 in 2015 to 401 in 2016 and then to 394 in 2017. Annual widebody engine installs have consequently dropped from 908 in 2015 to 876 in 2016 and then 846 last year. Compared to 2016, in 2017 there were 124 more single-aisle engine installs but 30 fewer widebody engine installs. So, 2017 had a record number of jet engine installs but this was made up of more single-aisle engine installs and fewer widebody engine installs.

The surprise here, such as it may be, is that CFM and Rolls-Royce were the only engine manufacturers to have a larger number of installs last year than in 2016. Pratt & Whitney did have 72 more PurePower installs than in 2016 but there were fewer V2500 installs last year which brought the company’s overall total down. CFM had 322 more LEAP installs last year but, there again, the LEAP program’s first installs were in July 2016.

Orders: The December aircraft and engine order intakes really stand out. They completely changed total figures for 2017 and were instrumental in pushing the aircraft and engine backlogs up. The only downside here is that both aircraft and engine orders were very much a function of single-aisle orders. In total, 1,226 aircraft were ordered during the month and 2,370 engines. Of those aircraft orders, 1,203 were for single-aisles and of the engine orders, 2,324 were for single-aisle engines. In other words, the vast majority of aircraft orders were for single-aisles and the vast majority of engine orders were for single-aisle engines.

The same sort of thing happened with total aircraft and engine orders last year. The total aircraft order intake amounted to 2,513 (there were orders for 3,499 aircraft in 2014) but of that number, 2,256 (nearly 90%) were single-aisle aircraft. The total engine order intake last year was 6,378, a new annual record and much higher than the 6,070 ordered in 2014 which was the previous annual record. But of those engine orders, 5,830 were for single-aisle engines, also a new annual record but 91% of all engines ordered in the year.

One can immediately see where this is going: Orders for single-aisle aircraft and single-aisle engines vastly outnumbered deliveries/installs with the result that the single-aisle backlogs increased massively. Orders for widebody aircraft and engines were much lower than delivery numbers with the result that widebody aircraft and engine backlogs fell during the year to the extent that at the end of the year they were at the lowest point for several years.

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Philip Abbott,
Editor & Publisher.