Is Next Major Air Show A Barometer For International Aviation?

Airbus 380. Credit:

The next big international airshow will take place in England. The Farnborough Air Show in July will help determine if the international aviation industry is ascending, descending or maintaining altitude.

That will no doubt be a debate over the next six months considering that last week’s Singapore Airshow wrapped up with several mixed messages.

While Asia, and China in particular, should provide a booming market for both aircraft production and commercial aviation, there are concerns about the stability of the global economy. Plus, with saber rattling taking place in North Korea and China, there is uneasiness about political and military clashes in the region.

Also, with oil prices at record lows and leading to lower prices for jet fuel, there is less urgency for airlines to start phasing out jets that aren’t as fuel efficient as new models.

The 2014 Singapore Airshow did $32 billion (U.S. dollars) in business while this year’s event reported just $12.3 billion. However, the event organizer said there were 40 deals that have not been announced, up from the 24 undisclosed deals in 2014. That would appear to indicate that there’s neutral growth.

The Singapore event drew the usual number of exhibitors and featured its largest display of static aircraft with over 60 commercial, private, military and experimental aircraft.

Gulfstream’s G650 is the company’s largest and fastest business jet with a top speed of Mach 0.925. Credit: Wikipedia.

Business Aviation Continues Growth

One of the growth areas is personal/business aviation. The lines for private viewings of business jets at the year’s Singapore Airshow were long – about as long as the waiting list to purchase a new business net. One manufacturer said the earliest delivery would be 2018.

Gulfstream and Embraer each had their top-of-the line business jets on display. In the last decade, world-wide business jets have nearly doubled and a Honeywell Aerospace report estimates the world will need 9,200 new business jet deliveries by 2026.

Airbus To Challenge Boeing’s 777

With the Farnborough Air Show more in its back yard, Airbus Group SE plans to add some intrigue to the event.

Airbus said this week it plans to preview plans to produce a larger version of its A350 jetliner. The move is a counter punch to Boeing’s 777X, which can haul 425 passengers. The A350 stretch model would offer more seats.

“We’re starting to conclude that perhaps there is such a market and now we’re talking to key airlines about what we might be able to do in that market but no final decision has been made,” Airbus’s chief salesman John Leahy said in an interview at the Singapore Airshow. “We’ll certainly be able to give you an update at Farnborough.”

And Farnborough might provide a heat check on the world’s aviation business.  Despite weak sales, Boeing and Airbus have manufacturing backlogs. As one might expect of a Chief Operating Officer, Airbus’ Leahy is optimistic.

“Some people are saying we’re in the middle of a bubble,” Leahy said. “But reality is, the only thing that worries me is to not be able to deliver the aircraft our customers have ordered.”