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Widebody orders, deliveries and backlogs are down.
(The latest figures we have are to the end of August 2017.)

It is not just the widebody aircraft segment that is suffering from fewer orders, fewer deliveries and a lower backlog. The same thing is happening to widebody engines. At the end of August the widebody aircraft backlog was the smallest since August 2013 and the widebody engine backlog was the smallest since May 2013. This is not because high delivery numbers are eating into the order books, it is simply because the order intakes of both aircraft and engines are way below delivery numbers.

Widebody backlog decline has been an on-going thing for a little while now and the aircraft and engine manufacturers have not exactly been saying that things will change anytime soon. It is sometimes reported that an airline customer is considering deferring their widebody deliveries, pushing them back a few years. Cancellations are relatively few and far between. There have been 22 this year, and 64 last year, far fewer than the number of single-aisle cancellations.

From time to time, there is the announcement that a certain widebody aircraft program has been “slowed”. The annual or monthly production rate has been brought down but there is always the possibility that, in time, it will go up again. Sometimes a planned production rate increase is put on hold which amounts to much the same thing.

What none of the manufacturers like to say is that the widebody aircraft and widebody engine backlogs have been declining to the extent that the current backlogs are the lowest for four years. But that is exactly what has happened.

The most recent widebody aircraft backlog low was at the end of August 2013 when there were 2,384 aircraft on firm backlog order. There was a period of growth to December 2014 when the backlog peaked at 2,747 aircraft. That was the all-time record. The backlog then slowly but steadily went into decline, sometimes up a little bit up but more often down, month after month. The current widebody aircraft backlog figure of 2,408 aircraft is the lowest since August 2013.

It is much the same picture with the widebody engine order book, or backlog. The most recent low was at the end of May 2013 when there were 4,502 widebody engines on firm order. The order book then grew for two years before peaking at the end of April 2015 with 5,280 widebody engines on firm order. Then it started to drop, pretty well every single month. There were some months with some quite good gains but there were more months with order book falls. At the end of August this year there were 4,586 widebody engines on firm order, the lowest number since May 2013.

          What has happened here is that, over an extended period, widebody aircraft and engine orders have been much lower than delivery numbers. The consequence in both the aircraft and the engine segments has been backlog decline.

          Now look at what has happened since the widebody aircraft and engine backlogs peaked. The widebody aircraft backlog peak was at the end of December 2014. Since then there have been orders for 872 aircraft and 1,053 deliveries. The difference between the two is 181 aircraft. The widebody engine order book peaked at the end of April 2015. Since then there have been orders for 1,236 widebody engines and 2,024 have been delivered/installed. The difference is 788 engines.

Despite the downward trend, some widebody programs have had gains this year. The largest involves the 787-10 (not yet in service) which is up 28 aircraft. The 777X (also not yet in service) is up 20 aircraft, the 767-2C is up 15 and then there is the 777F, up two, and the A350-1000 (not yet in service) up one. That is all. The 777-300ER backlog is down 37 aircraft, the A330-300 and the 787-9 are both down 26, the A350-900 is down 14, the 787-8 is down 13 and the A380 backlog is down 10. All the other widebody aircraft programs have smaller backlogs than at the start of this year but their backlog drops are in single figures.

Some widebody engine programs have also had gains. Well, two have. An order for 30 PW4000 engines in January means that program was up 30 at the end of August. An order for 40 GE9X engines in June means that program was up 40 engines at the end of August. All other widebody engine programs now have smaller order books than at the start of this year: The GEnx order book is 112 lower, the GE90 is 70 lower, the Trent XWB is 26 lower, the GP7200 is 24 lower and the Trent 1000 order book is 20 engines lower.

Fortunately for the industry, things are really rather different in the single-aisle segment. The current single-aisle aircraft backlog has dropped by 46 aircraft this year but at the end of August it was 40 aircraft larger than at the same point last year. Were it not for COMAC’s C919 orders earlier this year though, the single-aisle aircraft backlog would be down much more. Airbus currently has 125 fewer single-aisles on backlog than at the start of this year, Boeing has 25 fewer and Bombardier has 10 fewer CSeries jets on order.

At the end of August there were 11,017 single-aisle jet aircraft on firm backlog order, the fifth largest number ever. The peak was at the end of June when there were 11,135 single-aisles on order.

Airbus has the largest number of single-aisle aircraft on firm backlog order of any manufacturer and currently has a 50.1% share. Boeing has a 40.2% share and has 1,093 fewer single-aisles on backlog than Airbus.

The single-aisle engine order book at the end of August stood at 19,246 engines. This is 1,156 more engines than at the start of the year but 210 fewer engines than were on order at the end of June when the all-time single-aisle order book record was set. The only problem with these overall figures is that they don’t show the true picture of what has happened to the different single-aisle engine programs. The LEAP program is the only single-aisle engine program to currently have a larger order book than at the start of this year. At the end of August there were 13,532 LEAP engines on firm order which is 1,894 more than at the start of the year.

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Philip Abbott,
Editor & Publisher.