Singapore Air Show

Narrowbodies MAX out on show's opening day

 - February 14, 2012, 8:15 PM
Moog general manager Paul Otto (left) sealed a letter of intent, signed in 2010, to supply components for the Comac C919, with Ding Kai, president Avic Qingan. Photo by Mark Wagner.

A flurry of commercial activity in steamy Singapore yesterday marked a busy opening day for the 2012 airshow. Kicked off by the conversion to firm status of a record commitment for 201 Boeing 737 MAXs and 29 737-900ERs placed last November by Indonesia’s Lion Air, the day would prove very lucrative for both Western OEMs and a relative newcomer from China.

In a market where forecasters predict narrowbodies will flourish in the years ahead, virtually all the commercial business centered around single-aisle models, such as the fastest selling airplane in history–the Airbus A320neo. Stealing a bit of Boeing’s Lion Air thunder with a firm order from Kuwaiti lessor Alafco for 35 of the re-engined narrowbodies, Airbus has now collected firm orders for more than 1,300 Neos.

The contract follows another firm order, signed by Alafco at last year’s Dubai Air Show, for 50 A320neos. At the time it held options for 30 more airplanes. This latest deal represents a conversion of those options to firm status and adds another five airplanes to Alafco’s order total, which now stands at 85 airplanes.

Appearing here yesterday for the signing, Alafco chairman and CEO Ahmad Alzabin said he expects deliveries of the 85 airplanes to run from 2017 to 2021. Although Alzabin would not yet commit to an engine option, he said an announcement could come at the show this week. Alafco chose Pratt & Whitney PW1100Gs for its first 50 airplanes. The A320neo can also be ordered with CFM Leap-1As. “We’re working hard now on the engines,” said Alzabin.

BOC Buys C919s

While the A320neo continues its wildly successful sales run, China’s Comac padded its own orderbook for the new C919 with a so-called launch customer agreement (LCA) for 20 of the 168-seat jets with one of Asia’s fast growing lessors, BOC Aviation. Entering its detailed design phase late last year, the C919 has now drawn orders for 235 units, according to Comac, mainly from Chinese-owned airlines and lessors.

Described as a leading Asia-based aircraft leasing company, Singapore-based BOC Aviation (formerly Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise) carries one of the youngest portfolios in the business, with an average age of just under four years. Its fleet of 170 airplanes flies with more than 40 airlines worldwide. Fully owned by the Bank of China, BOC Aviation plans to participate actively in the development of the C919, according to the company’s CEO, Robert Martin.

After passing the state-level preliminary design review on December 9, the C919 entered its detailed design and engineering development phase. Formal production of the first part began last December 19 in Chengdu, China. This year Comac plans to roll out detailed design work, release all production drawings and start “overall trial manufacture” ahead of first flight, scheduled for 2014, and entry into service, planned for 2016.

The C919’s list of Western suppliers include Moog Aircraft Group. At the show yesterday, Moog sealed a letter of intent, signed in 2010, to supply the airplane’s high-lift system, including all flap and slat actuation, pilot interfaces, electronic controls, power drive units, wing tip brakes, gearboxes and miscellaneous components. The contract includes the participation of a Chinese manufacturing subcontractor, Quingan.

Yet another Western supplier, Germany’s Liebherr Aerospace, signed master agreements yesterday to supply the C919’s air management system and landing gear with China’s AVIC Landing gear Advanced Manufacturing Corp. (LAMC). Liebherr signed a LOI to form a joint venture with LAMC at last year’s Paris Air Show to develop and assemble the main and front landing year along with the associated extension and retraction system and nosewheel steering system.