Regardless of whether this week’s 50th Paris Air Show (June 17 to 23) sees a surprise fly-past by the newly airborne Airbus A350XWB widebody, the biennial event will open with expectations of yet more airliner orders further bolstering backlogs. Both Airbus and Boeing, which will display two 787 Dreamliners, are expected to announce further orders.
Airbus has taken steps to resolve what remains the bane of air travelers’ lives: lost baggage, which it estimates is a $2.6 billion problem annually. Better still, its new Bag2Go program raises the possibility of passengers being able to let their bags travel independently and arrive in a timely way at their final destination. Through a partnership with German baggage maker Rimowa and communications group T-Mobile, the airframer has tapped radio frequency identification technology to create a so-called intelligent suitcase that can be dispatched and tracked from the passenger’s smartphone.
Airbus is understandably relieved to have flown the A350 XWB widebody just before the Paris Air Show, but the European manufacturer’s twin-aisle family accounts for only a small proportion of outstanding orders as it prepares to proceed with the new aircraft’s flight-test program. Nevertheless, deliveries of 247 aircraft overall and net orders for 493 new jets by June 1 constitute a “strong start” to 2013 for the European manufacturer, according to marketing senior vice-president Christopher Emerson. Airbus delivered 588 aircraft in 2012 and expects to ship more than 600 this year.
If you look closely at the exhibits of the major aerospace and defense companies here this week, you will likely notice some unexpected capabilities on display. With their traditional defense businesses threatened by declining budgets, many of these companies are exploring “adjacent markets.”
This trend started with offers in the security and IT realms. But now they are extending to other areas, such as energy, environment and climate; food and water security; and natural disaster protection and response.
The pan-European Neuron UCAV is making its public debut, outside Hall 2 here as part of the Dassault Aviation static display. But you could easily miss it. For security reasons, the stealthy, arrow-shaped drone has been enclosed in a dome, with the only public view being through a clear plastic curtain. Dassault is lead contractor, and France the lead country, for the six-nation technology demonstration project. The other participants are Greece (HAI); Italy (Alenia); Spain (EADS-CASA); Sweden (Saab); and Switzerland (Ruag).
Boeing harbors no interest in getting into a so-called price war with Airbus, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner insisted during a roundtable discussion with journalists yesterday in Paris. But when pressed for a reaction to Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier’s recent comments about his ambitions to attract more than 50 percent of the widebody market, Conner eagerly answered the challenge. “I would say the same thing,” quipped Conner. “So it’s going to be fun. We look forward to it.”
On January 1 Austria Metall (Hall 4 A38) concluded a multi-year contract with EADS to supply aluminum plate and sheet for the manufacture of structural components and skin for Airbus aircraft. Worth up to €100 million, the multiyear contract highlights Austria Metall’s continued growth, which is being underpinned by a €220 million investment in the Ranshofen, Austria factory that is turning it into one of the most technologically advanced facilities in Europe. New capabilities being added to the company’s portfolio include the ability to produce thicker and larger high-strength products.
The Paris Air Show attracts not just buyers and sellers of aircraft and related equipment, but also the buyers and sellers of the companies that make them. The aerospace and defense sectors have been hotbeds of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in recent years, and the bankers who guide and cajole these deals have once again flocked to Le Bourget.
“It’s clear for us that this is the year of the A400M. The aircraft is ready, and it will be the reference for the next 30 years.” These were the words of Airbus Military’s Domingo Ureña-Raso, speaking just prior to the Paris Air Show.
The aerospace industries in Morocco and Tunisia still tend to be viewed as embryonic by some Westerners, but the North African countries are starting to capitalize on the desire by European companies to move production offshore and take advantage of the close proximity to these low-cost economies. Both countries have made a commitment to develop an investment framework promoting local jobs, and opportunities for international companies, and this is paying dividends with the constant creation of new aerospace concerns.