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A new First Quarter delivery record for both single-aisles and widebodies.

(The latest figures we have are to the end of March.)

There were 302 large commercial jet deliveries in the First Quarter which is a new record for a first quarter. There were also new First Quarter records in terms of single-aisle and widebody deliveries.

It was a record First Quarter in terms of deliveries for Boeing, but not for Airbus. The European manufacturer delivered 141 aircraft in Q1, three fewer than in Q1 of last year. Boeing delivered 161 new aircraft, 24 more than in the same period last year (this was made up of 13 more single-aisles and 11 more widebodies than in Q1 last year). While there have not been any 767 deliveries this year, Boeing more than made up the shortfall with 18 787 deliveries. Due to the battery problem in the early part of last year, only one 787 was delivered in the First Quarter.

Airbus has delivered 111 single-aisles so far this year, three fewer than in Q1 last year. Airbus also delivered 30 widebodies, the same number as last year. Boeing has delivered 115 single-aisles and 46 widebodies.

The mix of deliveries has been quite different. In Q1 of last year Airbus had one A318 delivery, the last on backlog, and there were nine A319 deliveries, four more than this year, 82 A320 deliveries which is seven more than this year plus 22 A321 deliveries, nine fewer than this year. Airbus has also had six A380 deliveries this year, two more than in Q1 last year. Boeing had four 767 deliveries in Q1 last year and six 747 deliveries - there have been four so far. With exactly the same number of 777 deliveries, Boeing's big gains in the quarter came from the 737 and the 787.

By the end of March there had been 226 single-aisle deliveries, ten more than last year, and 76 widebody deliveries, 11 more than last year. Both are new First Quarter records.

New quarterly delivery records are not a new thing; quarterly single-aisle figures have been better than the same quarter in the previous year for some time. With the exception of Q4 of last year, quarterly widebody figures have also been larger than the same quarter the previous year for some time. After all, production rates have been slowly rising. But what the industry is seeing now is an almost continuous increase in delivery volume. The First Quarter delivery total this year is over 300 for the first time ever and it is 34 more large commercial jet aircraft deliveries than in the First Quarter of 2012 and 79 more deliveries than in the First Quarter of 2011.

If one then looks at quarterly single-aisle delivery figures, the current figure of 226 is 23 more than in Q1 of 2012 and 46 more than in Q1 of 2011, three years ago.

There is much the same sort of thing with widebodies. There were 65 deliveries in the First Quarters of 2012 and 2013 so the current figure is 11 more. In the first quarter of 2011 there were 43 widebody deliveries so the First Quarter 2014 figure is 33 aircraft larger.

First Quarter delivery numbers are usually the lowest of any quarter in the year so the fact that there is a new record is particularly encouraging for the industry. It points to much higher delivery numbers in the next three quarters. However, as in previous years, the second half total will probably be considerably larger than the first half total.

The projection for this year is for about 1,400 large commercial jet deliveries. That implies an average quarterly delivery total of some 366 aircraft in each on the next three quarters. In other words, more than the total number of aircraft delivered in Q4 of last year which was the all-time record for deliveries in a single quarter.

The new First Quarter aircraft delivery record also means that there is a new First Quarter engine install record. There were 260 new engine installs in March taking the total in Q1 to 624. This is 42 more than in Q1 of last year, 68 more than in Q1 of 2012 and 170 more than in the First Quarter of 2011. There have only been four other quarters with a larger number of installs; the last three quarters of last year and Q4 of 2012.

As with quarterly aircraft deliveries, a new quarterly engine install record is nothing new and there have been a number over the past few years; the Q1 figures for both 2012 and 2013 were records. What is significant about the current figure is that it is the first time there have been over 600 engine installs in a first quarter. The total this time was made up of 452 single-aisle engine installs (20 more than in Q1 last year) plus 172 widebody engine installs which is 22 more than in the first quarters of 2013.

The Aircraft and Engine Order Intake is still strong :

More large commercial jets were ordered in December last year than in the First Quarter of this year. In fact, more aircraft were ordered last June, and also in December of 2013. In quarterly terms, the Q1 intake was the smallest of the last seven quarters. A total of 452 new aircraft were ordered in the First Quarter. In Q1 of last year there were orders for 651 aircraft which is 199 more.

But the surprise in this context is that the First Quarter intake this year was the third largest for a first quarter since Q1 of 2008, six years ago. Back then there were orders for over 700 new aircraft.

One would have thought that most of the major airlines were fully ordered by now, yet new orders still come in, even though in some cases the aircraft being ordered will not be delivered for several years. Production slots for some programs are sold out for years to come. There may even be a growing market for production slots. The interesting thing here is that nearly 450 more aircraft have been ordered in the last 12 months than were ordered in the same period to the end of March last year.

The mix of First Quarter orders is very different to the mix last year. Airbus had more orders for single aisles in Q1 of last year than this year, but fewer orders for widebodies. Boeing has had more single-aisle orders this year, but far fewer orders for widebodies.

Boeing's First Quarter widebody order intake amounted to six aircraft, only one of which was a passenger jet. Airbus had orders for 60 widebodies which is 23 more than in Q1 last year. Boeing had orders for 64 widebodies in Q1 last year.

This imbalance in the order intake is actually narrowing the gap between the number of single-aisles and the number of widebodies that each manufacturer has on backlog. A year ago, for example, Airbus had 764 more single-aisles on backlog than Boeing. But Airbus has taken orders for 957 single-aisles in the past 12 months while Boeing has taken orders for 1,321.  Deliveries and cancellations also play a part in this but, at the end of March, Airbus had 453 more single-aisles on backlog than Boeing which is less than the number a year ago.

This also plays out in the Widebody segment. A year ago Boeing had 261 more widebodies on backlog than Airbus. The current figure is 86 more. Part of the reason for this is that in the past 12 months Airbus has taken orders for 389 widebodies. Boeing has taken orders for 265 (which is 124 less than the Airbus intake) and has delivered 86 more widebodies than Airbus.

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Philip Abbott,
Editor & Publisher.