Paris Air Show Preview: More Orders on Tap for Boeing, Airbus?

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The biannual Paris Air Show officially begins Monday and the world’s two largest aircraft makers are revving up for what is likely to be a relatively modest week of new orders. According to estimates we’ve seen, Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) could write up about 200 new orders in Paris, while Airbus could write an equal number.

Boeing is expected to launch its newest 737 MAX variation, the 737-10, with orders from Lion Air, Spice Jet and Chinese lessor CDB Leasing, with one or two other buyers possible, according to Leeham News. Whether orders for the 737-10 are incremental or conversions from existing orders will determine the impact on Boeing’s top line.

There was also some speculation that Boeing might launch its New Midsize Aircraft (NMA) at the Paris show, but the most that Aviation Week expects is “the first few tangible details.” The NMA is believed to be a dual-aisle aircraft that fits between the company’s 737-10 and 787-8 and capable of seating 220 to 270 passengers on flights ranging from 4,500 to 5,000 nautical miles.

Even though configured as a twin-aisle plane, the NMA is targeted to operate at single-aisle aircraft costs. How that might happen is, at this point, known only to Boeing.

Analysts at Buckingham Research, a long-time Boeing bear, believe that the launch of the 737-10 could add as many as 200 new single-aisle orders to Boeing’s order book. Buckingham and others don’t expect to see much in the way of orders for the company’s dual-aisle planes.

Industry analysts Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group notes the problems facing the dual-aisle (wide-body) market:

[T]he market prefers smaller jets. It hates very large jets [like the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380] (of 960 forecasted, just 355 have been delivered, and both models are heading below one-per-month rates). Most of all, when airlines can use a single-aisle jet instead of a twin, they do so. More transatlantic routes than ever are now flown by a single-aisle jet, with the A320neo and 737 MAX accelerating this trend.

According to Aboulafia, the market favors Airbus’s single-aisle approach, and because Airbus does not have a plane that exactly matches the specs of Boeing’s NMA, the European aircraft maker will likely have to come up with “an enhanced A321neo or a stretched and (possibly) rewinged and reengined A322neo.”

Airbus also thinks that its A321LR (long range) aircraft is already filling the gap that Boeing wants to fill with its NMA. While the single-aisle Airbus plane is close to the range, it is short on seating capacity, according to some U.S. carriers.

Ultimately, the outlook for Paris is only a little better for the two plane makers than last year’s Farnborough Airshow, where Airbus wound up with 197 new orders and commitments to 182 for Boeing. In 2015, Airbus had around 421 new orders and commitments at the Paris show, compared to Boeing’s total of around 331. At the Paris show in 2013, Boeing and Airbus combined to sell more than 900 airplanes at a sticker price about $135 billion.