Who Cares About the Paris Air Show?

When you think of air shows, you probably think of a warm summer day, some cool flying demonstrations to show off military might, and a few static displays of airplanes to walk through. That’s the core of any air show, but for the premier airshows in the world, that’s more of a side distraction than anything else. This week is the biennial Paris Air Show, and what you see happening in the air and on the ground is just fluff. This show is all about doing deals behind the scenes.

Air Show Aircraft Sales

Paris and Farnborough (in the UK) take turns being the premier air show every other year. This year, it’s Paris. There are definitely some very cool flying demos, including the A380 (despite yet another wingtip mishap that almost scrubbed the flight) and a bunch of military flights as well. Why do they bother? They’re trying to get sales. Some airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and suppliers like to hold out to make a big splash at an air show with a big order.

This has never made sense to me. If I were ordering some airplanes, I’d rather tell the manufacturer to save all that wasted money thrown into air show displays and pass the savings along to me. But that’s not how it works. Instead, everyone goes and hangs out in the individual company “chalets” and has a grand old time. During leaner years, the smiles are few and far between, but so far we’re off to a hot start in Paris with almost 300 aircraft orders on the first day alone.

Take a look at some of the aircraft orders that have been announced so far. These are just aircraft orders. There are plenty of other deals with suppliers for a variety of other things as well.

  • Air Lease, the new big aircraft lessor started by former ILFC chief Steven Udvar-Hazy signed up for 50 of the next generation Airbus A320neos with options for 11 more down the road. The company also ordered 20 Boeing 737-800s with 4 options, 11 Airbus A330s, 5 Boeing 777-300ERs, 5 Embraer 190s, 4 Boeing 787-9s, 1 lonely Airbus A321, and a partridge in a pear tree. All of these will be leased out to different airlines.
  • Aircraft lessor GECAS ordered 60 of the Airbus A320neos. It also picked up 15 ATR 72 turboprops with 15 options along with 2 Embraer 190s. Rumor has it we can expect 2 Boeing 747-8 freighters to be ordered today. As with Air Lease, these will all be leased out.
  • SAS out of Scandinavia ordered 30 of the Airbus A320neos and kept 11 options. SAS has struggled a lot lately, so hopefully they’re still around when it comes time to take delivery. These will replace the older MD-80s.
  • Sriwijaya Air (say that three times fast) ordered 20 Embraer 190s to fly around Indonesia along with another 10 purchase rights. What’s the difference between a purchase right and an option? I have no clue.
  • Kenya Airways ordered 10 Embraer 190s with options for 10 more.
  • Bombardier picked up an order for 10 of its new C-Series airplanes with 6 options from a mystery buyer. This will be a launch customer. So who is it? We don’t know, but we do know that Bombardier says it’s a “major network carrier.” I’m eagerly awaiting news of who that might be, but I can’t imagine it’s a US-based airline.
  • Boeing received one order for 15 of its 747-8s and another for two of the big birds. Who ordered them? It’s a secret. Again. While it wouldn’t surprise me if the two were for private owners, those 15 have to be for a major airline.
  • Qatar Airways picked up 6 777-300ERs. It loves making noise at air shows.
  • Saudi Arabian beefed up its A330 orderbook with four more.
  • Almost lost in the shuffle, Air Astana out of Kazakhstan ordered 2 Embraer 190s with 2 options.

If you’re at Paris this week, enjoy all that drinking and schmoozing. If you’re here at home and you’re interested in this kind of stuff, I would recommend following Flightglobal. Those guys have put together some great coverage on what really is a pretty mundane subject for anyone outside the industry.

[Original photo via Flickr user slasher-fun/CC 2.0]

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