Airliner leasing pioneer Steven Udvar-Hazy is back in business with a vengeance. Barely six months after leaving the ILFC group that he founded back in 1973, following a failed bid to take control of a stake in the company from its troubled AIG parent, Udvar-Hazy's new Air Lease venture gave the industry a welcome shot in the arm by ordering about $10 billion worth of aircraft at July's Farnborough International Airshow. As part of a plan to build its start-up portfolio to 100 to 120 aircraft by mid-2011, Air Lease, which has raised an initial $3 billion in launch capital, ordered a mix of 51 Airbus A320s and A321s, plus up to 60 Boeing 737-800s, up to 20 Embraer 190s and 10 ATR2-600s.
This bullishness on the part of a leading figure in the leasing community was understandably seen as a significant vote of confidence in the air transport sector because lessors are taking a gamble when they order aircraft that they then hope to lease to operators. According to Udvar-Hazy, Air Lease's portfolio could be built up to a peak of around 350 to 400 aircraft within a few years and further orders could well include the new Airbus A350XWB-a program that he himself helped shape, having earlier rejected Airbus's initial plans for the A350.
Meanwhile, ILFC may be turning the corner on its problems, having just raised almost $4 billion in new investment that will be used to repay funds AIG borrowed from the U.S. Federal Reserve at the height of the financial crisis. As of June 30, ILFC had a total of 115 aircraft on order, collectively worth about $13.5 billion and due for delivery through 2019.
By contrast, trading conditions do not appear as rosy for DAE Capital, the leasing arm of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise. The company has refused to comment on reports that it has cancelled or transferred to other customers orders for just over 50 airliners. Analysis of the current backlog of orders at Airbus suggests that DAE Capital has scrapped orders that it held for seven A350XWBs and 18 A320s, and Boeing has refused to comment on reports that the lessor is taking one fewer 737, 10 fewer 777s and 15 fewer 787s. However, a spokesman for the government of the United Arab Emirates, DAE's main shareholder, has previously acknowledged that DAE Capital has been renegotiating deals it had previously made, covering some $29 billion worth of new aircraft.