As Orders Slow, Pressure Mounts on Production Plans

With a slowdown in aircraft net orders anticipated for the industry's big two, the impact could be felt in MRO agreements.

Boeing delivered 748 commercial aircraft in 2016, maintaining its position as the world’s biggest aircraft manufacturer and almost matching its total for 2015.

Net orders, however, fell to 668, 100 fewer than in 2015, despite a big order from GECAS for 75 737 MAX 8 aircraft at the tail end of the year.

Accounting for cancellations, there were 550 orders for the 737; 17 for the 747; 26 for the 767; 17 for the 777; and 58 for the 787.

Meanwhile, Boeing delivered 490 of its best-selling line, the 737 – a rate of 41 aircraft per month for 2016.

Airbus’ results, released later this week, should also reflect a slow-down in orders after airlines’ buying bonanza earlier in the decade, while analysts predict that its deliveries will trail Boeing’s.

Both Airbus and Boeing say that backlogs are strong enough to ride out a cyclical drop in orders, and both are pressing on with production ramp-ups for their narrowbody lines.

Airbus is the more aggressive in this respect: In 2020 it expects to overtake Boeing as the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, although that goal was initially set for 2018. Delays to A350 production are one reason for the extension.

If fuel prices remain low, however, and orders stay in the doldrums through 2017 – as many expect – one wonders if the two manufacturers will revisit plans to take A320 and 737 production rates to 60 and 57, respectively, by the end of this decade.

Interest rate movements are also important, as higher rates plus cheap fuel might convince many airlines to hold on to their current fleets for longer, with significant implications for the aftermarket.

Mass retirements of current-generation fleets would lead to a glut of used serviceable material, depressing prices for parts and demand for repairs. In turn, this would hit pricing for nose-to-tail maintenance deals.

TAGS: Airframes
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