Air Transport World

Paris gives strong hints of changes to come. (Paris Air Show)

Paris gives strong hints of changes to come

Through the years the commercial transport manufacturing industry has passed through many stages. Events just prior to and during this year's 37th Salon International de L'Aeronautique et Espace gave one the impression that another such passage is taking place in both the large transport and commuter/regional transport ends of the industry.

Just prior to the Paris show Airbus secured the necessary funding to officially launch its new A330/340 program, producing its long sought "family' of transports considered mandatory for the future. The Boeing Company no longer has the only "family.' In the commuter regional sector, transport manufacturers used Paris to exhibit advanced designs that could produce some dramatically different looking vehicles at the local airport terminal. And woven through all of this was evidence in the Paris exhibit halls and chalets that international ownership of programs is shifting into yet another higher gear. Indeed, it is now difficult to think of a new program that does not involve some degree of international ownership.

Airbus and Boeing, the two most vocal protagonists in the competition for airline world sales, have reached a plateau in their verbal artillery barrages, apparently using the current GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) deliberations on the American government's charges of unfair Airbus government subsidies and related items as a lull during which they can clean their barrels and prepare for the next fusillade.

As Richard R. Albrecht, executive VP of the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company told ATW during the show, "The A330/340 program is a fait accompli. The question is, where do we go from here?' Albrecht said Airbus now has their family of transports. "The (European) taxpayers have financed a whole new industry, and it is time for it to sink or swim on commercial terms.'

Responding to Airbus charges that Boeing makes too much profit on 747 sales and uses the money to subsidize its other programs, Albrecht said, "Maybe they ought to try making a profit. It is fun,' he said. "Sure, the 747 makes a profit and supports other programs. That is the idea.' He noted that at one time the 727 was the "cash cow' that supported the 747 program. "That's why it is good to have a family,' he added.

Albrecht said the dispute with Airbus is a government-to-government issue at GATT, and that is where it should be. If GATT's decision, expected later this month, is unfavorable to Boeing, Albrecht said, "The U.S. has to decide what to do next.'

Boeing now appears to be spending most of its energies building and selling new transports. It announced at Le Bourget that it sold 31 to three customers, orders worth $1.3 billion. Biggest order was worth $865 million for seven 737-300s from International Lease Finance Corp. Air Europe ordered five 757s (Rolls-Royce engines), two 737-300s, and five 737-400s worth a total of $408 million. Southwest Airlines bought one 737-300, its 40th.

Major TAC order

The three orders pushed Boeing toward another record year having sold 194 new transports worth $9.9 billion by Paris Air Show time. During the same period last year Boeing had sold 149 transports worth $6.2 billion. In addition to all of this, Boeing is expected to announce a major order from Texas Air Corp., which is expected to include a large number of its heretofore slow-moving 757s.

Boeing used the Paris show to announce that the big 31-transport order made its 737 the largest selling jet commercial transport ever with deliveries and orders now totaling 1,842, 11 more than the 727. Albrecht told ATW that while Airbus has secured firm orders for 187 A320s--Boeing only counts the Northwest orders as 10--Boeing has sold 686 of its 737s, and McConnell Douglas has sold 313 of its MD-80 family since the A320 program was officially launched in March 1984. The 737 has been selling so well that Boeing is planning to increase production from 14 to 17 per month.

Boeing's prepared briefs at Paris interestingly devoted the most effort extolling the virtues of long range twin operations such as those by the 767 family over the North Atlantic. …

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