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At the end of 2018 there was a new firm engine order book high
of 26,600 engines and a new annual record for engine installs.
 

The industry was expecting another record production year and that was what it got. Aircraft deliveries and engine installs have increased every year since 2010. For both aircraft and engines, the increase last year was the largest since 2012. There were 120 more aircraft deliveries and 218 more engine installs than in 2017, the previous best year. The only downside to this is that the new production record is very much due to a large increase in single-aisle deliveries. Deliveries of widebody aircraft dropped.

Alongside a record production year are new records for aircraft and engine backlogs. The commercial jet backlog increased by 61 aircraft last year to a new industry high and the firm engine order book increased by 536 engines, also to a new industry high. But, rather like the new production record, these new records were driven by much larger numbers of single-aisle aircraft and single-aisle engines going onto the books.

The number of widebody aircraft on backlog dropped by 91 last year and the number of widebody engines on order dropped by 64. The single-aisle increase in both segments countered the widebody drop. There are now 152 more single-aisle aircraft and 600 more single-aisle engines on firm order backlog than at the start of 2018.

The aircraft backlog has grown for nine consecutive years, mostly as a result of demand for single-aisle aircraft. The number of engines on firm order did drop in 2015 but the engine order book has otherwise been going up each year since 2009, again mostly as a result of demand for single-aisle aircraft.

There are now 12,156 single-aisle aircraft on backlog and 22,220 single-aisle engines on firm order. It is only the second time ever that the single-aisle aircraft backlog has been above 12,000 and it is the first time that the single-aisle engine order book has been over 22,000. There are quite a few single-aisle aircraft on backlog still without engine selections so the potential for single-aisle engines is well above the 22,000 figure.

In the widebody segment, there are now 2,229 widebody aircraft on backlog, a new low (the widebody backlog has dropped by over 260 aircraft in the last two years). Widebody engines on firm order at the end of last year had dropped to 4,380. This was only a 64 engine drop but the current figure is over 450 engines lower than it was exactly two years ago.

Production is the big thing that gets everyone excited in this industry but even a casual glance at the aircraft backlog/engine order book figures shows where the pressure is on the manufacturers: The single-aisle aircraft backlog works out at nearly 10 years of work at 2018 production rates while the widebody aircraft backlog works out at less than six years of work.

Airbus and Boeing are desperate to ramp up single-aisle aircraft production. Both had a record year in 2018 for single-aisle deliveries (but not a record year for widebody deliveries). Once, probably quite a long time ago, the aircraft manufacturers used to say that a four year backlog was stretching things but the lesson of ramping up too quickly and then having to scale back when demand slowed was learned years ago. Nobody wants to go back to that scenario. The fact is though that even the aircraft manufacturers acknowledge that the 10-year single-aisle backlog is too large.

There are plans to increase the production rate of single-aisles in 2019 but one problem here is that annual orders for single-aisle aircraft, and single-aisle engines, exceed delivery numbers so the backlogs keep getting larger and represent even longer terms of work in hand. Then there is the issue of whether suppliers can keep up.

These problems aside, one of the biggest challenges the aircraft manufacturers and the engine companies had to face last year was ramping up production of new engine option aircraft and their engines. This mostly applies to single-aisles of course. Compared to 2017, Airbus increased deliveries of the A320neo by 123 aircraft, to a total of 284, and deliveries of the A321neo increased from 20 in 2017, the year when deliveries started, to 102 last year.  There were 256 737 MAX deliveries last year, an increase of 182 aircraft on the 2017 figure. Deliveries of the A320ceo Family and the 737 NextGen dropped. Airbus delivered 377 A320ceo Family aircraft in 2017 and last year there were 240. Boeing delivered 455 737 NextGens in 2017 and 324 last year. In effect, both manufacturers delivered record numbers of single-aisles, for the second consecutive year, with a very big difference in the mix of programs.

CFM and P&W were in much the same position. The number of LEAP engine installs went from 388 in 2017 to 962 last year, an increase of 574 engines, and the number of GTF installs went from 154 in 2017 to 390 last year, an increase of 236 engines. There were CFM56 and V2500 installs last year, but fewer than in 2017. Despite the huge change in the mix of engines, CFM and P&W both had more installs last year than in 2017 which contributed to the record number of total engine installs (3,272) in the year.

Orders in 2018.

The aircraft order intake slowed last year. By the end of November fewer single-aisles but more widebodies had been ordered than by the end of November 2017. What many in the industry may have been hoping for was another massive boost in December, something along the lines of the 1,238 aircraft ordered in December 2017. It didn't happen. There was a boost, 610 aircraft were ordered in December last year but this took the total aircraft order intake to 1,951, slightly more than the 2016 intake. The single-aisle aircraft order intake last year was the lowest since 2009 but the widebody order intake was the largest since 2015.

Airbus sold 26 A320ceo Family aircraft last year. Other than 13 737-800As, Boeing stopped taking orders for the 737 NextGen. There were none.

The engine order intake also slowed last year but still there were orders for over 4,100 large civil jet engines which is a lot of engines. The single-aisle engine order intake was the smallest since 2015 but the widebody engine order intake of 914 engines was the largest since 2014.

Last year, the LEAP engine had the largest share of single-aisle engine orders and the GEnx had the largest share of widebody engine orders.

Some things haven't changed; it was the same in 2016 and 2017.

Phil Abbott.

Editor & Publisher