Last week’s ILA airshow in Berlin did little to bolster backlogs of airliner orders, beyond the pair of ATR 72-600s that the regional aircraft maker sold to Austrian carrier InterSky. The $47 million deal will see the first of the 70-seaters delivered in December and the second in March.
Airbus, meanwhile, attracted plenty of attention in Berlin, mainly due to the leaked news of an impending mega-merger between its parent EADS and the UK’s BAE Systems. At press time union representatives at various Airbus factories continued to express anxiety about possible implications for employment, despite assurances from company executives that the merger will not radically change Airbus’s plan.
Airbus president and CEO Fabrice Bregier said that the possible combination would make no difference to the company’s organization, product plans, engineering, manufacturing or strategies for the future. “Several thousand of today’s Airbus team members came to us as BAE Systems employees,” he noted.
During the ILA show, Airbus announced that Air Asia will receive the first ‘Sharklet’-equipped A320 at the end of this year. Airbus displayed the Sharklet flight-test aircraft at the show, and plans to deliver the same airplane to the Malaysia-based low-cost carrier next year. The airframer reported that flight tests have demonstrated a 4-percent reduction in fuel burn–1 percent better than predicted. Moreover, calculations show that the improved takeoff and climb performance will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,000 metric tons per aircraft per year.
Reflecting on the recently published Global Market Forecast from Airbus, John Leahy, the group’s chief operating officer for customers, pointed to the company’s huge expectations for air transport growth in the Asia-Pacific region. He argued that the industry has lived in a “two-step world” since 2000, when market growth in the developing economies of the East first accelerated, compared with the West’s mature economies. The world’s OEMs hold orders for a record 8,200 airliners, and Airbus claims 52 percent of the resulting seven-year backlog. Compared with Boeing, Airbus “has a better industrial process and we manage our orders better,” Leahy claimed. He presented data that purported to show a smoother production ramp-up at Airbus than at its U.S. competitor. But he acknowledged that limited capacity among Airbus’s suppliers prevents it from raising production of the A320 family to a monthly rate of 44, as it had considered. “The supply chain is maxed out,” Leahy said.