About those Durable Goods Aircraft Orders: Undercurrents of Worry
The Seattle Times reports Paris Air Show will Feature Bold Talk and Undercurrents of Worry as Boeing Pitches New Jet.
At the Paris Air Show, which starts Monday, bold talk from Boeing of new airplanes won’t mask the current precarious reality of the aviation industry.
At the biennial show, Boeing will launch the 737 MAX 10, a new larger model of its latest single-aisle jet — a stopgap measure against a corresponding Airbus jet that’s a runaway sales winner. The launch customers may include United Airlines.
And yet, facing lower profits and a glut of large airplanes in the market, airlines are looking to defer or even cancel existing orders. And the threats of terrorism, protectionism, travel bans and a wider ban on onboard laptops all threaten a steeper downturn.
For Airbus, the A380 superjumbo jet program looks like it’s finally dying. For Boeing, the main worry is even more critical: the new 777X program.
In Everett, the jetmaker is investing billions of dollars to set up a highly automated production system for the 777X, due to debut in 2020. Yet 69 percent of the orders for that plane are from the big-three Gulf carriers, all of which now suddenly look shaky.
The chances of the 777 production rate returning to previous highs in the early part of the next decade look increasingly dim, stoking fears of further job cuts in Everett.
Expect significantly lower orders in Paris than in recent years. And for all the talk of shiny new future airplanes — about which Boeing will face plenty of skepticism — there’ll be an undertow of worry about current and near-term jet models.
The MAX 10 is little different from the other models. It’s designed to address, with minimal cost to Boeing, the wild sales success of the rival Airbus A321neo, which has won almost 1,400 orders because it flies farther and carries more passengers than any 737.
Industry analysts doubt the MAX 10 will significantly dent the A321neo’s success.
Singapore Airlines, the first airline to fly the A380, is preparing to return the first five jets in its fleet to two aircraft lessors — which in turn are trying desperately to remarket the gigantic planes as VIP private jets. If that doesn’t work, they could be scrapped.
“That is the kiss of death,” said Adam Pilarski, aviation analyst with consulting firm Avitas. If those 10-year-old planes cannot find an airline willing to buy them, then who would step forward to buy new ones?
Too many widebodies
While the A380 is perilously close to running out of runway, other widebody jets from both Airbus and Boeing are simply in a sales slump.
For Boeing’s 777X, the timing of the slump is awful.
Overcapacity in the widebody jet market has already forced Boeing to slash 777 jet production, and jobs, in Everett.
In 2016, Boeing delivered 99 current model 777s. In August, the rate sinks to 60 jets per year. And next year, Boeing is expected to deliver only around 42 of the jets as it leaves blanks in the production line to allow mechanics extra time to cope with the introduction of the first 777X models.
The problem is that five of the seven identified airlines that have ordered the 777X, all blue-chip giant carriers, are in trouble.
Carsten Spohr, chief executive of Germany’s Lufthansa, said this month the airline must think about deferring some of its 34 orders as it reviews its capacity needs.
Cathay Pacific, with 21 on order, last month said it will have to lay off 600 people due to intense competition.
And 235 of the 340 orders in Boeing’s books are from the three Gulf carriers: Emirates of Dubai with 150, Etihad of Abu Dhabi with 25 and Qatar Airways with 60.
All three have seen their business hit severely by the fall in the price of oil, which slashes the spending of Middle East travelers and also cuts the influx of business people lured by the region’s economic boom.
Battle of Orders
The Seattle Times article is very detailed with numerous images. It’s worth a closer look. The above image is one that really jumped out at me because of recent durable goods reports.
Durable Goods New Orders
Supposedly, nondefense aircraft orders were up 83.2% in January from December, another 57.2% in February from January, and another 7% in March from February.
Numbers are heavily revised. I just downloaded the current data from the Fred repository. The numbers now look like this.
Aircraft Orders Seasonally Adjusted
Durable Goods Orders Seasonally Adjusted
The second chart puts the first chart into proper perspective.
At first glance, one would never expect that data to be seasonally adjusted due to all that month-to-month volatility.
About those Durable Goods Aircraft Orders
235 of the 340 orders in Boeing’s books are from the three Gulf carriers that are all in trouble.
Lead times are so long that cancellations are bound to happen for one reason or another.
The above charts and the Seattle Times article show why it is best to ignore aircraft orders when looking at durable goods reports.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock