With a rash of new civil aircraft orders widely expected at the show this week, Airbus and Boeing continue to enjoy the fruits of the ongoing industry boom. U.S.
manufacturer Boeing could see its year-end tally again reach 1,000 units, while its European competitor prepares to issue plenty of news here in Dubai to follow its slew of announcements at the Paris Air Show in June.
Local carrier Emirates Airline appears likely to steal most of tomorrow’s headlines, but other carriers will form a formidable supporting cast. The names include Saudi Arabian Airlines, Air Arabia, Gulf Air and Yemen Airways. Lessor Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) Capital may also join the fray.
Recently, Boeing had officially logged orders for 956 airplanes this year, but it has since announced further business covering 17 aircraft for Asian carrier Cathay Pacific. Additional orders, such as those from British Airways and Vietnam Airlines for Model 787s, have yet to appear in formal Boeing listings.
For its part, European competitor Airbus booked orders for 141 aircraft in September, including business with four new customers, bring its total for the year to 854. Last year it received gross orders for 824 aircraft, while Boeing might exceed 1,000 orders for the third straight year.
Emirates, which operates 100 aircraft and has a slightly larger number on order, appears poised to place orders this week for at least another 100 new aircraft.
Unconfirmed reports indicate it has chosen the Airbus A350XWB twin-aisle twinjet, with a firm requirement for at least 50 examples. While it awaits delivery of those, the Dubai carrier will likely order 30 A330s to provide interim lift.
If it has been able to reach agreement with Boeing, Emirates also should place orders for some twenty 747-8I passenger aircraft, although the ability of this latest iteration of the Boeing flagship to carry a full load to Los Angeles has been the subject of much negotiation between the two.
But perhaps the Dubai-based carrier would command perhaps the greatest attention if it were to commit itself to a launch of a stretched version of the giant A380, for which it already holds orders for 55 examples of the standard aircraft. A confirmation by Airbus that is was seriously entertaining expressions of interest from airlines would confirm its commitment to this top sector of the market.
Given the lack of a Boeing entry in the very-large aircraft stakes, neighboring Saudi Arabia could return to Airbus, having previously launched the A300-600. Saudi Arabian Airlines will sign deals here with General Electric for engines, Lufthansa Technik and Air France Industries for maintenance, and Thales for in-flight entertainment equipment.
Meanwhile, Yemen Airways will confirm its requirement for 10 Airbus A350s powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000s–still the only engines available for that airplane.
Qatar Airways stands as another potential customer for engines, as the airline has has yet to select a powerplant for its previously ordered Airbus A380s. Low-fare carrier Air Arabia has indicated a requirement for 34 to 50 new aircraft, while the Sharjah-based operator also expects to add at least another 10 leased machines to its 11-strong Airbus A320 fleet.
Gulf Air reportedly has a $1 billion budget for new twin-aisle aircraft, while DAE Capital is in the market for some 30 aircraft as it continues to establish a portfolio expected to reach 125 aircraft within five years.
Pakistan F-16 deal under scrutiny
Recent events in Pakistan, notably the imposition of emergency rule by General Pervez Musharraf last Saturday, have stirred discontent in U.S. political circles that could potentially delay or halt the supply of arms, including the F-16 deal reported elsewhere in this issue. Many politicians, including Presidential candidate and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Joe Biden, have voiced their concern over the U.S. administration’s aid policy toward Pakistan. A meeting between the Pentagon and Pakistani defense officials scheduled for last week was called off, and the whole notion of U.S. aid to Pakistan has come into question.
President Bush has told Musharraf to hold parliamentary elections and to step down as army chief. Musharraf said on Thursday that he intended to comply, but with some conditions and not as quickly as those in Washington–or in the opposition parties–might desire. Without a conclusion that Washington finds satisfactory, it seems likely that the U.S. will cut, delay or withdraw the military aid package.