Rare Orders for 747-8s and A380s the Highlights of the Month
by J. Kasper Oestergaard, European Correspondent.
Boeing and Airbus delivered 49 and 38 commercial jets in February 2018, respectively, compared to 51 and 49 deliveries during the same month last year. Given that Airbus and Boeing expect major delivery hikes this year, it is surprising that both companies are trailing last year’s figures. In 2017, Boeing delivered 763 jets (748 in 2016), in line with company expectations, while Airbus surpassed its delivery target of 700 jets by handing over 718 aircraft during 2017 (688 in 2016).
In February 2018, Boeing delivered 35 737s (of which six were 737 MAXs), well below the current average monthly rate of 47 jets. The company also delivered two 767s, one 777, and 11 787s. Boeing raised its 737 production rate to 47 per month in Q3 2017 from 42 previously and plans to increase it further to 52 during 2018. Boeing plans a further increase to 57 737s per month during 2019.
In February 2018, Airbus delivered 29 A320s (19 ceo / 10 neo), one A330, and eight A350s. For most of 2017, Airbus struggled with late deliveries of PW1100G PurePower Geared Turbofan (GTF) engines from Pratt & Whitney for the A320neo family of aircraft, but was able to finish the year on a high note. On February 9, 2018, new GTF woes emerged when several airlines reported instances of in-flight shutdowns and aborted takeoffs. On February 21, Pratt & Whitney announced that a solution had been found and that production engine deliveries incorporating the change would begin in early March 2018. A total of 181 A320neo family aircraft were delivered in 2017 vs. Airbus’ forecast of 200, up from 68 during 2016.
On February 20, 2018, Airbus delivered the world’s first A350-1000 widebody airliner, to launch customer Qatar Airways. Then, on February 28, Airbus rolled out the first A350-900 ultra-long-range variant. According to Airbus, the aircraft will be able to fly farther than any other commercial airliner. Airbus plans to deliver up to 120 A350s (all variants) in 2018, when the production rate hits 10 per month. Airbus is considering a further increase to 13 A350s per month in 2019. The ramp-up of A350 XWB deliveries combined with a higher A320 production rate of 46 per month (commenced Q2 2016) means that the company is narrowing Boeing’s deliveries lead and could surpass its top rival by 2019 or 2020. By mid-2019, Airbus expects to be delivering 60 A320 jets per month. In December 2017, former Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier even indicated that there is enough demand for Airbus to be producing as many as 70 A320 jets per month. The company has internally been debating rates beyond 60 for some time now.
In February, Boeing logged 30 gross orders (minus seven cancellations => net of 23). Boeing’s February bookings included a major order for 14 747-8Fs from UPS. The order could be linked to strong U.S. and international air cargo growth in 2017. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), world air cargo ton-miles increased 9 percent in 2017, and another 4.5 percent expansion is expected in 2018. UPS also had a banner year in 2017, with international export shipments up 15 percent. At the end of 2017, the company operated a fleet of 13 747-400Fs and three 747-8Fs. UPS also ordered four 767-300Fs, while an undisclosed customer placed an order for three 777Fs.
Airbus’ February bookings included a major Emirates order for 20 A380s as well as an order for 20 A320neos for an undisclosed customer => 40 gross orders (minus 12 cancellations => net of 28). Airbus has retained an order lead over Boeing every year since 2012. In 2017, just as Boeing looked set to win the orders race, Airbus finished the year on a high note and reported a full-year intake of 1,109 net new orders, ahead of Boeing’s 912.
Airbus’ order backlog as of February 28, 2018 stands at 7,243 jets (of which 6,126, or 85%, are A320ceo/neo family narrowbodies), ahead of Boeing’s 5,805 (of which 4,615, or 80%, are 737 NG/MAX narrowbody jets). The number of Airbus aircraft to be built and delivered represents a 10-year backlog at the 2017 production level. In comparison, Boeing’s backlog would “only” last 7.6 years. Airbus booked 1,109 net new orders in 2017, resulting in a book-to-bill ratio of 1.54. Boeing booked 912 net new orders in 2017, for a book-to-bill ratio of 1.20.
Forecast International’s Platinum Forecast System® is a breakthrough in forecasting technology. Among many other features, Platinum provides 15-year production forecasts. The author has used the Platinum Forecast System to retrieve the latest delivery forecasts. For 2018, Forecast International’s analysts expect Boeing and Airbus to deliver 801 and 782 large commercial jets, respectively. These are the latest “live” forecast figures (adjusted frequently by FI analysts as new information comes in). These figures exclude militarized variants of commercial platforms such as Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon, KC-46 tanker and C-40 Clipper and Airbus’ A330 MRTT tanker.
In late January 2018, Boeing reported that it expects to deliver 810-815 commercial aircraft during 2018 (including militarized variants of commercial jets). On February 15, 2018, Airbus announced that it expects to deliver around 800 commercial jets this year (including militarized variants of commercial jets), but at the same time emphasized that its projections depend on engine manufacturers meeting commitments.
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