Odds and Ends from the Paris Air Show
- While an order or two are expected to come from Qatar Airways’ mercurial CEO Akbar Al-Baker, the buzz here already is that U-Turn Al may yet again live up to his nickname. It’s been widely expected that he would, at long last, order the Bombardier CSeries, but Al-Baker is renowned in aviation circles for embarrassing OEMS. He’s done it to Bombardier, Airbus and Boeing and has flipped-flopped in his praise-criticism-praise for the CSeries and the A320neo. For Boeing, it was a major embarrassment when at the Farnborough Air Show in 2008 Boeing issued a press release announcing Qatar ordered the 777 only to rescind it hours later (even though it was correct) at Al-Baker’s insistence. Neither did he show up for the 787 roll-out even though Qatar’s logo was displayed in the roll-call of tail logos and a chair was reserved with his name on it. While Al-Baker recently trashed-talked the A320neo, word now is that he will place an order for the airplane (with CFM LEAP engines, maybe?) for a new Qatar leasing company. He has been feuding with Pratt & Whitney, and if he by-passes the GTF for the A320neo, this could mean PW hasn’t bent over to his demands—and the CSeries could suffer as a result.
- Talk among reporters is that the A350-1000 rescheduling to a 2017 EIS may make sense from an R&D standpoint, but is the rescheduling of the -800 from 2014 to 2016—with no discernable technological reason—indicative of the emphasis to reassign engineering and other resources to keep the A350-900 schedule intact for a late 2013 EIS? Boeing postponed the 787-9 to reassign resources to the 787-8. Airbus alluded to this, but was not definitive, at the EADS press conference Saturday. We plan to ask; the -800 delay just has the look and feel of the 787-9 delay, albeit for entirely different reasons.
- We went to Le Bourget Sunday to refresh our memory of where things were (having last been there in 2009). Exciting, right? Well, it turned out that way, sort of. The Breitling L-1049 Super Constellation was there and using our press pass, we asked the crew if we could go on board. Not only was the answer yes, we got a personal tour by the captain and a key person involved in aircraft restoration. We were with Addison Schonland, our AirInsight partner, and we’re planning a couple of after-air show podcasts to talk about the Connie and the key person’s involvement in the Eastern Airlines DC-7B we rode and wrote about last month. Alas, we were turned down when we asked if we could have a ride on the Connie when it flies during the show. Seems they will be doing some 45 degree banks and therefore the flights are considered experimental—and freeloaders like the press may not apply.
- Aviation Week has this story about how CFM revamped its LEAP engine (CFM is dropping the “X” from the name). The story is quite interesting if somewhat incomplete. Guy Norris, the reporter, does his usual excellent job of pulling details together. But we’ve had the advantage of talking with airlines which Guy did not for his piece. The airlines, who saw the so-called “Orange Books” provided by both engine OEMs, and CFM’s LEAP-X (as it was then known) came up 3%-4% short to PW’s GTF on fuel burn–and that’s why PW was running away with early orders. CFM had to re-jig its engine to catch up, and the result is what Norris describes. It’s worth noting that before the re-jig, CFM’s advertising emphasized the heritage reliability and durability of the CFM56 rather than fuel burn. CFM’s huge installed customer base for the CFM56-powered 737 and 50% share of the A320 gives CFM losts of muscle to offer deals on existing and new MRO contracts that PW doesn’t have. CFM half-sister GECAS, the mega-lessor, also has a policy of only buying airplanes with GE engines, another disadvantage to PW. Once LEAP was re-jigged, the sales were inevitable. While CFM now claims it is 1% better on fuel burn than GTF, an airline fleet planner tells us LEAP is 0.5% worse than GTF, a number than can be easily overcome with the commercial side of the deal.
- Sunday, as noted, is a day of transition. The air show begins Monday. And we’ll be there.