LONDON – On the eve of the Farnborough Airshow, the biggest aviation event since the coronavirus pandemic hit the industry, Boeing Commercial Airplanes boss Stan Deal said on Sunday he expects a show successful, with large order announcements on Monday and more aircraft sales as the week unfolds. .
“It’s going to be a pretty robust show,” Deal said.
Before Seattle wakes up on Monday, Boeing is expected to announce an order from Delta Air Lines for around 100 MAX.
Deal spoke at a press conference in a sprawling conference room inside the luxury Grosvenor House hotel in central London, where Boeing executives are staying during the air show.
The event itself takes place in a small town with a very large historic airfield about 40 miles southwest of the town, the site of Britain’s first powered flight in 1908.
Although often a sweltering occasion, this year’s air show is set to experience record temperatures, with UK media broadcasting extreme heat warnings all weekend.
Inside the hotel’s air-conditioned great room, Deal was confronted with pointed questions about the many issues facing Boeing and dismissed them each with a positive twist.
Could the MAX 10 be canceled, as CEO Dave Calhoun suggested earlier this month, if Congress does not approve an extension to allow it to be certified without a system security upgrade? of the jet that alerts the pilots in the event of a problem?
“Not a high probability,” Deal said.
Deal said the MAX 10 flight deck as it currently stands is “the safer alternative” because it’s largely common to all other 737s in flight.
He seemed confident that Congress would grant this extension.
What about deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner, largely halted due to quality defects for 20 months and still at a standstill?
Regulatory approval to resume deliveries is “very close,” Deal said.
“Maybe the ninth inning of a baseball game is the right way to describe it,” he said. “And I don’t think there will be any extra innings added.”
And hasn’t its competitor Airbus won the lion’s share of the single-aisle market?
“I’m actually quite happy with the product strategy,” Deal said, adding that MAX sales are “recovering” the single-aisle market while Boeing remains “dominant” in widebody sales.
“When you add it all up, we’re about a 50:50 player,” he said.
In the first half of the year, Boeing won 205 net orders while Airbus won 259, not counting China’s commitment this month to buy 292 Airbus planes that remains to be finalized.
Airbus’ backlog of undelivered planes stands at more than 7,000 planes, although some of them may be melted down. Boeing’s order book is firmer but much smaller at just over 4,200 planes.
With US-China relations so tense and contentious, isn’t this China order for Airbus and the corresponding snub from Boeing a big concern?
“Hopefully when COVID is cleared in China, we’ll see the MAX come back and we’ll start deliveries,” Deal said. “We have not abandoned China.”
The much-delayed giant 777X jet, now five years behind with $8 billion in extra costs?
The delay will allow time to get through the arduous certification process, Deal said, and when it makes its debut in 2025, he expects the big jet market to come back strong and the aircraft to experience a great success.
“It will be a flagship aircraft,” he said. “I’m very confident of it.”
Deal’s only acknowledgment of bad news was that the aerospace supply chain is in bad shape, due to post-pandemic labor shortages.
The biggest bottleneck is the jet engines. Deal said CFM International, the GE/Safran joint venture that makes the LEAP engine for the MAX and A320 family, is behind on deliveries.
At Boeing and throughout its supply chain, when demand picked up, laid-off employees did not return to work as quickly as expected, and hiring and training new hires is costly and slow.
But even then, Deal said Boeing largely solved that problem on its own.
He said any laid-off mechanics who wanted to return have been called back and Boeing is offering a higher starting salary to attract new hires, especially to Renton as the MAX ramps up.
“At the start of the year, we were struggling with that. Now, I don’t see any constraints on hiring our mechanics. We managed to attract people,” he said. “And the same on the engineering front.”
The main problem now lies more with suppliers who lack employees. “We’re going to work with them and get through this,” he said.
Otherwise, Deal did not tolerate any negativity.
Of course, Boeing has suffered one disastrous setback after another over the past three years.
But now “we’re on the right track,” Deal said, clearly eager for a successful airshow to break the cycle of bad news.