Farnborough Airshow Sales

Airplane

For the most part, aircraft age quickly and die young. The revolving door is spinning them out. Orders for the 20-year-old A330 would have dried up by 2016. With a longer view, Airbus waited until this week’s Farnborough International Airshow to announce a revamped A330-800neo and A330-900neo.

The talking points include a 14 percent reduction in fuel and an increased range of 400 nautical miles for the best-selling wide-body jet, according to Airbus.

Loyal customers have been pushing Airbus to build a “new engine option” A330, which puts the A330, with its cast-iron reliability and new double-scotch engine revver, in a benevolent wind with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner competing for long-haul passengers, especially in Asia’s underserved secondary cities.

Most of the neo’s increased efficiency comes from larger engines with larger fan blades built by Rolls-Royce in Britain. The neo aircraft also has a larger wingspan and other aerodynamic tweaking, as well as extra seats.

The current A330 seats 250 to 300. The A330-900neo, configured with 310 seats, will be on the tarmac in late 2017. The 252-seat -800neo arrives six months later, reports USA Today.

The A330 entered passenger service in 1994. Airbus has sold about 1,100 worldwide but the clock ticks and it has orders for only about 250 more. Turning and squirming analysts say the popular A330 is responsible for 40 percent of Airbus’ commercial airliner profit.

“With our decision to re-engine the plane, we will keep the A330 flying high for many more years to come,” Airbus CEO Tom Enders told the Wall Street Journal.

The A330 is showing its age next to a generation of lightweight, carbon-fiber planes like the Dreamliner and Airbus’ A350-XWB that was launched at Farnborough and is due out this year. But the double-decker A380 and the larger A350s have tardy sales and are “years away from recouping their development costs.”

Yet even with its new engines and other improvements, analysts predict the fuel economy of the A330neo will fall 15 percent short of newer planes. On the other hand, the A330neo’s can probably be delivered sooner. For some airlines, it’s the difference between a dog in the lab and the dog at your feet.

Airbus has targeted 1,000 customers for an upgraded A330, including Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic, AirAsia X, and Los Angeles-based Air Lease Corporation who ordered the first 25 A330-900neos at Farnborough. They also committed to 60 of Airbus’s 185-seat A321neo single-aisle jets.

Other aircraft deals announced at Farnborough includes $3 billion for 30 upgraded Boeing 737 single-aisle jets from Monarch Airlines, a British charter carrier.

Avolon, an Irish leasing company, is buying six Boeing 787 Dreamliners and five upgraded 737s. Boeing also won an order for 10 737s from Okay Airways, a regional airline based in Beijing.

International Airlines Group committed to buy a total of 70 150-seat A320neo jets.

The Tarmac’s View:  Next up for Airbus is the A350 Family, which doesn’t seem to be measuring up. We’ll soon know how the A350-XWB operates in the yonder. But Airbus does admit one wing is stalled. Its backlog for the A350-800, the 270-seat version, will be converted to orders for the A330neo or the 314-seat A350-900.

Bloomberg reports Airbus’s 742 orders for the carbon-fiber A350 family are behind Boeing’s 1,031 for its Dreamliner, based on company websites. And the A350 is just now entering service.

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