Busy Farnborough Airshow Breaks Order Records
The 2014 Farnborough International Airshow (July 14-20) was a dynamic and captivating edition of the long-running biennial event–packed with high-octane sales activity, novelty and a touch of controversy. As of press time, the show was on track to surpass all the main metrics for the 2012 event, with more than twice the volume of announced sales; more than 100,000 visitors on the five trade days; and approximately 1,500 exhibitors (of which 26 percent were newcomers and 15 percent had expanded their presence).
Uncharacteristically for an English summer, the sun shone on this year’s show and exhibiting airliner manufacturers and engine suppliers took every opportunity to make hay while it did, logging orders amounting to almost $168 billion (according to AIN estimates) and eclipsing the 2012 tally of $72 billion.
Despite the no-show of the show’s most eagerly anticipated aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-35, Farnborough presented plenty of interest for the military sector. With the UK general election campaign under way, British Prime Minister David Cameron opened the show with an announcement about new defense spending of approximately $1.9 billion that previews next year’s UK Strategic Defence and Security Review. Most of the money will go toward intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance programs, albeit much of it going to support projects that were to have been phased out next year. A day later, outgoing UK defense secretary Philip Hammond (hastily reassigned to the position of Foreign Secretary in a cabinet reshuffle during the airshow after the surprise resignation of William Hague) signed an agreement with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves le Diran, to launch a two-year feasibility study for a new unmanned combat air vehicle. The program is worth $180 million to partners BAE Systems, Dassault Aviation, Rolls-Royce, Safran, Selex and Thales.
Stealing the thunder of the absent F-35, Textron AirLand’s Scorpion tactical jet made its international debut. Built in Textron’s Cessna factory in Wichita, the jet is billed as an affordable intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike platform capable of performing “lower-threat” battlefield and homeland-security missions. The aircraft is powered by two 4,000-pound-thrust Honeywell TFE731 turbofans.
Air Transport Sector
Airbus launched the A330neo and was rewarded with a flurry of orders that formed a significant part of a phenomenal catch of just over $75 billion in new business announced in Farnborough. The European group–appearing in a brand-new pavilion combining all its various aerospace and defense interests for the first time since it adopted Airbus as a collective brand, in preference to EADS–also displayed its soon-to-be-certified A350XWB widebody, as if to defy Boeing, which condemned the A330neo launch as proof of its claim that the A350 is a commercial failure.
The key aspect of the A330’s rebirth is a pair of new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 turbofans and redesigned engine pylons. Also new is a 12-foot (3.7-meter) wingspan extension to 210 feet (64 meters) and Sharklet winglets fashioned after those on the A350XWB. Airbus says the new version will burn 14 percent less fuel than the existing model and predicts first deliveries in December 2017.
Boeing gave a world debut to its just-certified 787-9 Dreamliner, which consistently impressed a knowledgeable crowd with its agility in the daily flying display. The U.S. airframer, which consistently asserts that it does not hoard orders to be announced at airshows, said it logged approximately $40 billion worth of contracts. Foremost among these was a mega-contract with big spender Qatar Airways that ultimately could be worth up to $37.7 billion. The backbone of the order is the $18.9 billion conversion of a December 2013 memorandum of understanding for 50 777-9X twinjets. The Arabian Gulf carrier added purchase rights for another 50 of the new model, and it placed a firm order for four 777 Freighters (and took options on four more).
Next up from Boeing will be a high-capacity version of the 737 Max-8 narrowbody, which will take seating capacity to 200 seats from 189 and cut seat-mile costs by 5 percent.
Among engine suppliers, GE Aviation and its CFM International joint venture with Snecma were the most prolific in breaking down the value of orders and support contracts signed at Farnborough, reporting respective totals of $14.6 billion and $21.4 billion. Rolls-Royce also benefitted from a valuable trawl of new orders, most notably resulting from the sole-powerplant status its Trent 7000 turbofan enjoys on the A330neo. International Aero Engines won an order to supply V2500s to power the 30 A320ceos ordered by International Airlines Group.
Regional airliner and narrowbody OEMs enjoyed success at the show. Embraer signed a bumper crop of deals worth $6.7 billion, among them multiple orders for its new E-Jet E2. Bombardier was not far behind, with $4.3 billion in new business that saw the order books for both the new CSeries narrowbody and the Q400 twin turboprop pass the 500-aircraft marks. Mitsubishi received a welcome boost for its MRJ-90 program, logging $2.1 billion in new contracts. Sukhoi also announced new orders for 15 SSJ-100s, valued at approximately $530 million.
Embraer unveiled a full-size mock-up of the passenger cabin for its new E-Jet E2. The Brazilian airframer is in the final stages of customer consultation before it puts the finishing touches on an interior that is intended to enhance comfort and convenience, with features such as bins large enough for every passenger to carry on a roll-on bag.
Bombardier unveiled a passenger-and-cargo derivative of its Q400 twin turboprop. Available in various configurations, the combi offers up to 8,200 pounds of cargo capacity and as much as 1,150 cu ft of volume. Using Class C cargo compartments, the so-called high-cargo version can hold 50 passengers at a 32-inch seat pitch.
Mitsubishi Aircraft also displayed a new interior for its MRJ regional jet, featuring distinctive Japanese motifs. According to product marketing director Noriyoshi Saito, the program is getting back on track after several technical setbacks and is now slated to fly next year, with deliveries to launch customer All Nippon Airways following in 2017. “We can say with confidence [that] currently development is progressing very well, and at this point we actually have an aircraft that’s in the airplane shape, so that’s a lot different from the previous three delay announcements,” he told AIN.
Patrick de Castelbajac, the recently appointed CEO of ATR, signaled a change in strategy by telling a Farnborough press conference that he has shelved plans for a 90-seat addition to the company’s twin-turboprop lineup. “It was something my predecessor was keen on, as were probably 95 percent of our employees and a number of our customers,” he said. However, Castelbajac added that ATR parent company Airbus Group now believes that “the time is not right” for the project. This leaves Pratt & Whitney Canada to focus marketing efforts for its new-generation 90-seater turboprop engine on Bombardier, which may yet expand its Q400 offerings.
Dowty Propellers signed a letter of intent with Avic Aircraft Xi’an Aircraft to provide the propellers for the Chinese company’s new MA700 twin turboprop. Under the agreement reached at the Farnborough show, Dowty is to develop new propeller blades for the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150C engines.
Business Aircraft at Farnborough
Textron Aviation’s newly certified Cessna Citation X+ made its first transatlantic crossing to attend the Farnborough gathering, flying the 2,788 nm from Presque Isle, Maine, to Paris in five hours 33 minutes at an average groundspeed of 502 knots and burning 10,600 pounds of fuel. It then made the short hop to the UK to show off its extended fuselage (15 inches longer than that of the original Citation X), winglets, Garmin 5000 avionics with autothrottle, Clairity cabin management and entertainment system, redesigned seats, dual-zone temperature control and more powerful 7,034-pound-thrust Rolls-Royce AE3007C2 engines.
Among the Farnborough debutantes was the certification flight-test Avanti Evo under development by Piaggio. The Evo features a redesigned forward wing, slicker engine nacelles, drag-reducing winglets and five-blade scimitar propellers that promise to cut external noise by 68 percent compared with the current Avanti II. The Evo cabin has enjoyed a complete makeover, with Iacobucci HF seats and an interior designed by Poltrona Frau that features better air conditioning and lighting.
During the show, Piaggio announced its first major order for the Avanti Evo, with Hong Kong-based finance group Bravia Capital signing an order for 10 and taking options on another 40. Bravia CEO Bharat Bhise said that he expects most of the aircraft to operate in the U.S. market.
Meanwhile, China-based Sparkle Roll Jet took delivery of the first of 10 extended-range Avanti IIs that it ordered in October last year. The company plans to use the twin turboprop for “a business commuter service” that will fill a market segment between airline service and private charter.