London — On the eve of the Farnborough Air Show, the biggest aviation event since the coronavirus pandemic slammed the industry, Boeing Commercial Airplanes boss Stan Deal said Sunday he expects a successful show, with significant order announcements Monday and more jet sales as the week unfolds.
“It’s gonna be a pretty robust show,” Deal said.
Before Seattle wakes up on Monday, Boeing is expected to announce an order from Delta Air Lines for about 100 MAXs.
Deal spoke at a news conference in a vast conference room inside the Grosvenor House luxury hotel in Central London where Boeing’s executives are staying during the air show.
The event itself is in a small town with a very large and historic airfield about 40 miles southwest of the city, the location of Britain’s first powered flight in 1908.
While often a sweltering occasion, this year’s air show is expected to see record high temperatures, with the British media broadcasting extreme heat warnings all weekend.
Inside the air-conditioned Great Room of the hotel, Deal faced pointed questions on the many problems Boeing faces and batted each away with a positive spin.
Could the MAX 10 be canceled, as CEO Dave Calhoun suggested earlier this month, if Congress doesn’t approve an extension to allow it to be certified without a safety upgrade to the system in the jet that alerts the pilots when something goes wrong?
“Not a high probability,” Deal said.
Deal said the MAX 10 flight deck as it is now is the “safest alternative” because it’s largely common to all other 737s flying.
He seemed confident Congress will grant that extension.
What about deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner, largely halted because of quality defects for the past 20 months and still stalled?
Regulatory approval to resume deliveries is “very close,” Deal said.
“Maybe the ninth inning of a ballgame is the right way to describe it,” he said. “And I don’t think there’ll be extra innings added.”
And hasn’t rival Airbus won a lion’s share of the single-aisle jet market?
“I’m actually quite content with the product strategy,” said Deal, adding that MAX sales are “making up ground” in the single-aisle jet market while Boeing remains “dominant” in sales of widebody jets.
“When you add all that together, we’re about a 50:50 player,” he said.
In the first half of the year, Boeing won 205 net orders while Airbus won 259, not counting a commitment from China this month to buy 292 Airbus jets that is still to be finalized.
The Airbus undelivered airplane order backlog stands at more than 7,000 airplanes, although some of those may melt away. Boeing’s backlog is firmer but much smaller at just over 4,200 airplanes.
With U. S-China relations so tense and confrontational, isn’t that China order for Airbus and the corresponding snub of Boeing a big concern?
“I hope as COVID gets eliminated in China we’ll see the MAX come back and we’ll start deliveries,” Deal said. “We haven’t given up on China.”
The much-delayed giant 777X jet, now five years behind schedule with $8 billion of added costs?
The delay will allow time to get through the lengthy certification process, Deal said, and when it debuts in 2025 he expects the big jet market to be roaring back and the airplane to be very successful.
“That’s going to be a flagship airplane,” he said. “I’m very confident of it.”
Deal’s sole acknowledgment of bad news was that the aerospace supply chain is in bad shape, because of labor shortages after the pandemic.
The biggest bottleneck is jet engines. Deal said CFM International, the GE/Safran joint venture that makes the LEAP engine for both the MAX and the A320 family, is behind on deliveries.
At Boeing and throughout its supply chain, when demand recovered, laid-off employees didn’t come back to work as fast as expected and hiring and training new hires is costly and slow.
But even then, Deal said Boeing itself has largely dealt with that problem.
He said all the laid-off mechanics who wanted to return have been recalled and Boeing is offering higher starting pay to attract new hires, especially in Renton as the MAX ramps up.
“At the beginning of the year, we were struggling with that. Now, I don’t see a constraint on our mechanic hiring. We’ve been able to attract people,” he said. “And the same on the engineering front.”
The main problem now lies more with suppliers short of employees. “We’ll work with them and get through that,” he said.
Otherwise, Deal countenanced no negativity.
For sure, Boeing has suffered one disastrous setback after another for the past three years.
But now, “We’re on the upswing,” said Deal, clearly eager for a successful air show to break the cycle of bad news.