At the Farnborough Air Show on Monday, Boeing released an eye-poppingly strong growth forecast for the next two decades of aviation. Yet while the long-term outlook is rosy, industry insiders are concerned about the near-term prospects for really big and expensive airplanes, including the 777X that is the future star of the Everett assembly plant.
At the Farnborough Air Show Monday morning, Boeing released an eye-poppingly strong growth forecast for the next two decades of aviation.
Yet while the long-term outlook is rosy, industry insiders are concerned about the near-term prospects for really big and expensive airplanes, including the 777X that is the future star of the Everett assembly plant.
There are a total of just over 22,500 commercial jets flying around the world today. Boeing projects that by 2035 that figure will more than double, to 45,240.
Vice president of marketing Randy Tinseth said last year 3.7 billion people traveled by air. By 2035, he said, that number will swell to 7.5 billion.
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The strongest growth area will be Asia, particularly China, which delivered to Boeing two new orders at the Show on Monday.
Xiamen Airlines announced a memorandum of understanding to buy up to 30 Boeing 737 MAX 200 airplanes, the high-density version of the MAX family. Meanwhile Shenzhen-based Donghai Airlines ordered 25 Boeing 737-8 MAX 8s plus five 787-9s.
Ihssane Mounir, Boeing’s head of sales for northeast Asia, said growth is so strong in China that Boeing cannot deliver all the planes the airlines want. In an interview, he said the entire fleet of commercial jets operating in China today is about 2,500 jets, compared to 6,500 in the U.S.
However, the worldwide fleet growth now is focused on smaller single-aisle jets such as the A320 and the 737. Sales of bigger widebody jets have been sluggish for a year or two.
In fall 2013, Boeing launched its big 777X twinjet with orders and commitments for 259 airplanes. In the nearly three years since, Boeing has added just 47 more orders, the most recent of which were a year ago at the Paris Air Show.
Meanwhile, Boeing is struggling to fill a big gap in deliveries of the current model 777s, before the 777X production ramps up. Boeing has sold just 13 of its flagship twinjet so far this year.
Months ago, Airbus was talking about launching a new bigger version of its A350 jet family to go up against the 777-9X. But the European jetmaker has backed away from that step.
And Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Ray Conner said Sunday that though Boeing could easily do a stretch version of the 777X, a 777-10X, it hasn’t determined that enough airlines would want to buy it.
John Plueger, chief executive of major airplane lessor ALC, said in an interview that the slow pace of big jet sales is short term.
He said the 777X is “a great airplane” and will eventually be very successful as airlines over the years replace the more than 1,200 existing Boeing 777s delivered around the world.
“They will all be replaced,” said Plueger. “It’s just a matter of time.”
“But if a year from now in Paris, there haven’t been any bigger sales of 777X, then you would take a little pause,” he said. The question then would be “Have these airplanes gotten too big and too expensive?”
That’s got to be a disturbing thought for Boeing’s leadership, which is all in on 777X development, including spending $1 billion just on the new wing plant in Everett.
It would take a Biblical collapse in that 20-year forecast for the 777X not to succeed.
Monday afternoon at Farnborough, a torrential rainstorm flooded the exhibition halls. Air Show business activities abruptly ceased and the rest of the day’s flying display was canceled.
It wasn’t a sign. Just English weather.