AIN Blog: ISTAT Becoming America’s Air Show (Sans Aircraft)

 - March 16, 2011, 9:58 AM

This week’s International Society of Transport Aircraft Traders (ISTAT) conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., drew some 1300 attendees–a new record. Apparently, the conference grows larger every year, and as incoming president Joe Ozimek noted, ISTAT has become America’s airshow–minus any equipment parked on an airport ramp and fighter jets flying overhead at ear-shattering altitudes. Unfortunately, the presentations proved rather pedestrian and Airbus COO for customers John Leahy had to return to Toulouse to attend to some “pressing business,” leaving plenty of room for speculation, particularly about the single-aisle market.

On Monday, March 14, the first conference day, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft president Gary Scott perhaps made the news of the show with a guarantee that Bombardier would sell as many C Series airplanes by the time it enters service as Airbus had sold A320s at the time in it entered service. That means 300 airplanes by late 2013. To date, Bombardier has drawn orders for 90 C Series narrowbody jets, leading to the obvious question: from where will the rest come over the next two or three years?

“Gary Scott’s a dear friend, I love him, but if I were him I wouldn’t be at this conference. I’d be out selling the airplane,” quipped Steven Udvar Hazy, chairman and CEO of Air Lease Corporation. “They’ve got to get some [more] airline sales. They’ve got to establish themselves. Going around saying you’ve got a great airplane is one thing…but now its time to get out there and get some airplanes sold.”

Scott intends to do just that, starting this year, he said.

He also insisted that the C Series does not compete against the Boeing 737NG or the Airbus A320neo, even though its seating range falls within the lower ends of the Boeing and Airbus models. In fact, it appeared that many ISTAT attendees would tend to agree. Boeing and Airbus, if anything, will gravitate toward higher capacity narrowbodies, the thinking went.

Some other observations:

Speaking in place of Leahy for Airbus, Andy Shankland, vice president of marketing, said he sees no end to the A320neo’s production run, notwithstanding the inevitable presence of replacement aircraft appearing by the middle of the next decade. In fact, Shankland presented a graph that showed the A320 line running until 2028.

Meanwhile, Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, announced that first flight of the 747-8 Intercontinental would happen this Sunday (March 20), weather permitting. He also said Boeing would take a “hard look” at raising the production rate of the 737 to 42 a month, because, as he put it, telling a blue-chip customer to come back in five or six or seven years for an airplane is “not the right answer.”

Finally, Albaugh more or less unofficially “launched” the 787-10 at ISTAT, calling it a project in which he has “great interest” and one in which the economics would prove “eye watering.” Yet he admitted that its predecessor 787-8 will not meet its early weight and range goals. “There are a lot of things we’re going to do to clean the airplanes up, a lot of things we’ll do with the engine manufacturers,” he said. However, Albaugh wouldn’t venture a guess when the airplane would meet its 8,000-nm range guarantee.

His thoughts then turned to the earthquake in Japan, where, of course, a number of Boeing suppliers reside. Albaugh reported no serious effects on Boeing’s big suppliers in the country, namely Mitsubishi, Kawasaki and Fuji Heavy Industries. “I can tell you that our suppliers came out of the earthquake in pretty good shape,” he said.

“I think the question that we haven’t had answered yet is ‘will they limit power?,” Albaugh continued. “What does the transportation infrastructure look like? Then, even more fundamental than that is, can the employees get to work? I’m sure when I get back to the office tomorrow morning [Tuesday], we’ll have a better view. But they did come to work this morning.”