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Airbus Flag Flies High in Paris, eVTOLS Come of Age

Arun Sivasankaran - : Jun 25, 2023 - : 8:46 am

After the record-breaking order for 500 Airbus A320 family aircraft from IndiGo on the opening day of the Show, it would have nothing short of a major upset if Airbus did not win the latest round in its battle for commercial jet orders with Boeing.

As it turned out, there were no surprises in store.

After a rather lackluster performance at the Farnborough Air Show, Airbus needed a stellar show to reassert its supremacy, and the IndiGo order provided the European plane maker the perfect momentum to do just that. The major order came in the second half of the day, after Airbus had secured two smaller orders, one from Air Mauritius for three A350-900s, and then from Saudi low-cost carrier flynas, which firmed up an order for 30 new Airbus A320neo family aircraft.

Another major order followed for Airbus on the second day, when Air India signed a purchase agreement for the 250 aircraft it signed a letter of intent for in February. The other orders on the second day for the European OEM was from Philippine Airlines for nine Airbus A350-1000s, and from Qantas, which committed to nine more Airbus A220-300s.

Having done all the heavy lifting on the opening two days, the company was able to cruise through the rest of the Show, racking up a few more smaller orders, including from aircraft lessor Avolon that signed for an additional 20 A330neos. TAAG Angola Airlines also signed lease agreements for nine Airbus A220s with three lessors. Day four was a barren one, but by then, the Show had already become an unqualified success for Airbus.

The European plane maker’s total tally of 821 aircraft at the Show includes 740 Airbus A320, 20 A330neo, 52 A350, and nine A220.

Boeing had a quiet start to the Show, with no orders on Day 1. Day 2 began on a promising note when it bagged its first order of the event, from China Airlines for eight Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. Avolon soon firmed up an order for 40 737 MAX 8s. Another order came the U.S. manufacturer’s way from Air Algerie, which placed an order for eight Boeing 737 MAX 9s besides signing a MoU for two 737 BCFs. The company’s biggest order of the show came from Air India, which followed up a letter of intent in February by signing a purchase agreement for 220 aircraft. The order also includes options for an additional 70 aircraft.

On day three, Luxair became the launch customer for the 737 MAX 7 in Europe by placing an order for four aircraft of the type. Indian low-cost carrier and startup Akasa Air placed an order for four more 737 MAX aircraft; of the 76 planes ordered so far by the carrier, 23 are Boeing 737-8s and 53 are 737-8-200 aircraft. Boeing eventually ended the event with 356 aircraft. According to reports, there is good news in the pipeline for the U.S. airframer as the Indian airline is getting ready to announce a three-digit aircraft order by the end of the year.

Other Talking Points: The Show proved that sustainability in aviation and advanced air mobility (AAM) are here to stay. A few days before the event, the chief technology officers of seven of aviation’s biggest companies – Airbus, Boeing, Dassault Aviation, GE Aviation, of Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, and Safran – issued a joint statement on sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and reaffirmed their commitment to developing aircraft and propulsion technologies that enable net-zero carbon emissions. During the Show, all the three major aircraft OEMs – Boeing, Airbus and Embraer – unveiled new sustainability initiatives, and they were not the only ones pledging to make aviation greener.

The Show provided electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft makers with the perfect platform to showcase the progress made since Farnborough. All the major companies in the industry – including Eve Air Mobility, Lilium, Volocopter, Archer Aviation, AutoFlight, Boeing subsidiary Wisk Aero, and Joby Aviation – were at the Show, many of them with life-size or dispaly models of aircraft. Volocopter’s two-seat eVTOL made many heads turn when it made a silent and smooth landing at the Show after a 15-minute flight.

The AAM sector is brimming with promise, but there are likely bumps down the road. “Program delays are highly common in new aircraft programs; multiple FAM companies have already announced such delays, and more are likely to follow,” a McKinsey report published at the Show said.

A large chunk of the investment in the Future Air Mobility (FAM) industry this year has gone to surveillance and cargo drone players, a significant change from previous years, the report adds. Surveillance and cargo drone players have accounted for 51 percent of funding year to date (YTD) in 2023, up from less than 15 percent in previous years.

Funding for the FAM sector continues to flow. According to the report, US$19.8 billion has been raised over the last decade for FAM, with disclosed funding for the sector touching US$4.8 billion over the last 12 months. US$2.5 billion has been raised YTD in 2023, up 15 per cent from the first six months of 2022.


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