Paris Airshow 2005: Getting the Big Picture…

Every aviation analyst as well as aviation enthusiast was anxiously waiting for the opening hour of this year’s Paris Air Show. With the hype around both Boeing and Airbus, this year’s Paris Air Show promised to be yet another milestone in aviation with three breakthrough aircraft being offered to airlines, the Boeing 787 and Airbus’s A350 and A380. Visitors could watch with much amazement the flying capabilities of the A380, while the A340-600 performed its usual flying display at low speeds combined with sharp turns. Big orders placed by (new) Indian airlines came as a surprise to most. Orders from the Middle East were modest with only one major single order placed by an Arabian airline so far.

With Airbus having the A318, A340-600 and the A380-800 present as both static and flying displays, combined with the orders announced during the press visiting days, Airbus dominated the Paris Air Show taking up about 65 percent of all orders announced during the show. With more details published about the A350 airlines are now also looking at the possibilities this aircraft offers. In total Airbus sold 261 aircraft worth 29.1 billion U.S. dollars during the air show, while Boeing chalked up 148 orders worth 14.8 billion U.S. dollars. Of these Airbus orders, at least 125 were placed by Indian airlines. Airbus came back with a vengeance. Even though the Indian airlines appear to be on a rebound, some aviation observers are sceptical about the massive orders placed by these airlines. Most of these Indian airlines are new and still need to prove themselves. Even so one of these airlines ordered 100 A320 aircraft while another ordered the A380-800 to many people’s surprise. Some of these airlines focus on a hub-to-hub strategy while others focus on the point-to-point philosophy giving us a mixed picture of which strategy will prove to become the winner in India. Boeing on the other hand announced smaller orders for the 777 and the 737.

While Airbus is known to announce its orders at major events, Boeing has a more conservative approach by not giving flying displays and announcing orders as they are placed. Some observers think Boeing should be worried with the large Airbus orders but worries are probably an overstatement. Boeing’s orderbook so far has been very good, with the 787 and 737 still leading the way. The new 747 Advanced is also said to enter its final development stage and is almost ready for launch. Boeing still remains determined about the point-to-point strategy becoming the future way of flying which explains Boeing’s confidence in their highly advanced and successful 787 which until now has over 200 orders. Airbus is now seeing the potential of this medium capacity (ultra) long-range market and now offers the A350 which some people still see as a rebuffed A330. Some observers think the end of the A340-200/-300 and the A330-200/-300 is coming closer with the introduction of the A350. The aircraft’s projected capacity and range are very close to Airbus’s own A340 and A330 as well as the 787 and 777 offered by Boeing. Airbus now offers aircraft for both the hub-tot-hub operations as well as to point-to-point operations.

Looking back on this year’s Paris Air Show it shows that Airbus was getting ready for a comeback. The silence on Airbus’s side for the last few weeks only made us wonder more about what Airbus was working on. The sudden rise of Indian airlines gives both aircraft manufacturers more reason to focus on this market. Unlike the doubts that some observers may have, the fact is that airlines have placed large orders whether they have come as a complete surprise or whether the orders were expected. Only time will tell whether these big orders can support the expected growth in air travel. One thing is sure, after this year’s Paris Air Show, it has become clear that the aviation industry is on a rise again with more large aircraft orders expected to be announced before the end of this year. Aircraft manufacturers can look forward to a full production line for the coming years which can be a good indication of more things to come…

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