FARNBOROUGH OPENS WITH SIGNS OF A DOWNTURN
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
16 Jul 06. Observers at a dinner last night prior to the opening of the 2006 Farnborough Air Show shared the view of the Editor in our belief that this year’s Farnborough Air Show will herald reality entering the once high-flying aerospace industry.
The pre-Show party at the Hard Rock Café was a effort to breathe life into Farnborough at a time when the industry is under pressure and Paris is rattling its sabre to achieve European dominance. As with all military campaigns the wish to divide forces is always a mistake and the presence of two Air Shows in the U.K., RIAT and Farnborough at the same time and the same year not only puts pressure on budgets it also questions which is the best, with RIAT, so far, winning the argument.
As the mighty A380 comes into Farnborough it had hoped before the problems reported last month that it would herald the future might of the European industry against Boeing of the U.S. In reality Airbus has suffered a drop in orders and has recorded no new A380 orders this year. Apart from wiring problems, other areas of concern rest with the ‘extras’ requested by airlines such as bar areas, duty free shops, spars and other such gizmos. Not only do these carry a weight penalty they all require their won wiring and loom system that has to be connected into the main ring. Reports of fuselages arriving at Toulouse with no wiring loom are rife. Even if the A380 problems are solved the aircraft is still loss-making up to 350 orders. A sources suggested that airlines are fighting to be first in the queue at LAX in particular as if you have 3 A380s arriving at the same time, that means 1500 passengers to disembark, at least 4000 items of luggage and hotels to be provided for! A logistics nightmare which explains Boeing’s reluctance to join the party.
On July 11th, the Wall Street Journal reported that Airbus won 117 plane orders in the first half, the company said — less than a quarter of the orders announced to date by Boeing Co. Orders fell 58% from 276 in the comparable year-earlier period, a sharper drop than the broad full-year decline predicted by both jet makers after record sales in 2005. Boeing’s orders rose to 480 for the year to July 5, compared with 439 in the first half of 2005. Airbus still turned out more jets than Boeing in the first half — as it has each year since 2003 — delivering 219 planes, up from 189 a year earlier. Boeing delivered 195 planes, up from 155. But the latest order figures suggest Airbus may lose its lead. The jet maker, based in Toulouse, France, is struggling with production delays for its A380 superjumbo, and weak sales of its planned A350 have forced a costly re-evaluation of the midsize jet’s design. Both companies are expected to announce further sales at Britain’s Farnborough Air Show, which will open Monday. Jet makers often put some of their order announcements on hold for major industry events.
Airbus has won more orders than Boeing for five straight years, but Boeing has since made up ground it had lost. Higher oil prices have made less-efficient four-engine, widebody planes such as the Airbus A340 less attractive than twin-engine alternatives such as Boeing’s 777. Boeing has won 69 orders so far this year for its 787, the long-range, fuel-efficient widebody jet due to enter service in 2008 — taking the total of firm orders for the plane to 360. Airbus took 13 new first-half orders for the A350, billed as a rival to the Dreamliner, taking its total to 100.
EADS executives arriving at Farnborough would have hoped that other news at Farnborough would take the heat off the current spat. But, there is little to show, so far, from this year’s show. In previous years BATTLESPACE would have already run our Show Introduction issue, but there is little to say, so, for the first time, we will not be running a Show daily at Farnborough but issue one post-show i