I’m on the way to SFO posting this high above the North Atlantic with no model to hand so lets take a look at what might come out of the Chinese factories, based on some of what we know to be coming up in the airline world.
This year that may be a lot harder. With airlines taking ever greater exception to unliscenced product, those who do liscence it being more stringent about their requirements, not just of fit and finish, but how it’s actually sold, things will become more difficult to produce.
Several big airlines are taking to the idea that the only place their aircraft should be sold is either on their aircraft or in their retail shops, online or traditional, Singapore and ANA come to mind straight away. Singapore Airlines has always been stringent about unlicensed products – that’s why you don’t see Gemini with any listings. It looks like they’re about to become a whole lot tougher no matter where the product is made.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty once it comes into force will also compel China to allow copyright cases and unliscensed goods issues to be dealt with cheaply, and far more quickly, than its red tape obstructed system does now.
So all that apart, what’s coming up?
Swiss will be taking delivery of 9 777-300ER’s – the first such aircraft to operate within Lufthansa Group. the first has already been given a striking new livery.
The retirng Swiss A343’s, four will be transferred to Swiss subsidiary Edelweiss with its highly distinctive livery from November 2016.
Eurowings will also take delivery of A343’s and more A330’s along with A320’s and A319’s so that will give plenty of opportunities.
Lufthansa Cityline is unloading its Embraer fleet over to Austrian to replace their ancient Fokker 100’s and is taking on CRJ-900’s to replace the Embraers.
Austrian’s new and less interesting, ‘my Austrian’ livery has still yet to see the light of day in model format.
Norwegian gets 787-9’s into service from the end of February.
Will Phoenix produce a Virgin Atlantic A333 in the correct colours? They’ve produced pretty much everything else. Will TAP Portugal get a new livery now that the new Portuguese government has pulled back some ownership rights from Azul?
787 has orders for delivery across several airlines that we haven’t seen models of, though not all are due this year. This includes Air Niugini, Air Europa (first 787 flew 16 Feb), Uzbekistan Airlines, El Al, Aeroflot (sanctions may delay these years), Air Astana, Gulf Air, Singapore Airlines, Iceland Air, Arik Air, Biman Bangladesh and EVA Air.
The 787 deliveries continue for all the major players from United to BA, Virgin Atlantic and ANA, Air India, and many more.
A350’s are still on slow delivery schedules. A big problem with seating supplier Zodiac has delayed Cathay Pacific’s entry into service and Airbus – despite the commercial pressure, prefer to ramp up production far more slowly than many would like. They don’t want quality complaints and issues like the Charleston plant gave Boeing and the 787 issues that severely tarnished it’s EIS in general.
Air China, China Airlines, Air Asia X, Asiana Airlines, Etihad, Thai (may be delayed as the airline is in dire straights), and Lufthansa are set to join Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and TAM this year as A350 customers.
Inevitably the first of many versions of A320 & A321 Neo will be seen in multiple liveries, CS100 is scheduled to join Swiss and Lufthansa, the CS300 is due in the last quarter for Air Baltic. The 737 Max is a way off from EIS but I’d be amazed not to see a Boeing version at the very least.
Iceland Air has recently taken delivery of a pair of 767-300’s to operate into major markets like Heathrow – I’d love to see one of these made. However as nobody could be bothered with the amazing Aurora Borealis livery 757, the chances must be pretty small.
The fact remains that the vast majority of aircraft models will either be spurred by existing airlines getting new liveries or older getting special event/marketing decals. It will be interesting to see what LATAM does about it’s follow on A350’s once the new livery is revealed, especially after having the first A350 in the old TAM colours.
What we won’t be seeing are new customers for the A380 – ANA isn’t scheduled to take it’s trio until 2018. However we will see a new Malaysian Airlines livery (Malaysian CEO Christoph Muller stated today they were keeping all 6 A380’s until 2018’s A350 deliveries), in the next few months though with a massively reduced fleet, the 772’s now all sold off.
2017 will be a big year for A380 liveries as Singapore Airlines – possibly even some Thai, end up on the second hand market. In 2018/19 Emirates starts to shed it’s first A380’s.
Arik Air technically has 2 748i’s on order (reduced from 4) but it looks unlikely that will ever happen now. The 4 Transaero A380’s and 4 748i’s will never see the light of day following that airline’s demise and freighter orders, other than to existing customers seem unlikely. Having chosen the 777F I don’t see EVA Cargo going for the 748F as some hoped.
There may be some ‘goodbye 747’ models as ever more airlines withdraw them from use. Air France has already got rid of theirs this year, Cathay and EVA are due to end theirs, and despite low fuel prices Thai is in so much trouble I suspect it will change it’s mind and ditch it’s remaining aircraft after a brief reprieve. Transaero’s fleet of 744’s have all gone into storage after return to their leaseholders.
Now I don’t claim this as an exhaustive list – just a meander through what may or may not transpire and it may be tilted towards my own bias! What I want is fewer, better quality models, not a pile of dubious looking and deeply flawed mass produced junk. But don’t hold your breath! If you think Phoenix have gotten any better think again. I’ve just been sent images of the Singapore A333 by a disgruntled reader, from the latest release and it ain’t pretty. Mine is due here this week. Fingers crossed it’s not another Phoenix catastrophe.
I just hope that Gemini stay on the path they seem to have generally followed. Keep the quality high and nobody minds paying the price.
Finally, I’ve got a couple of real surprise reviews for you in the next couple of weeks…keep following and now and again I’ll post a hint or two on Facebook or Twitter….