This has been intriguing me for a while. There are a few good reasons as many models are planned months in advance, even though there is a growing trend for some manufacturers to react more quickly (and less accurately, as demonstrated by the AC Frenchblue A330), to new livery releases or airline start-ups.
This year should have seen the delivery of Transaero’s A380’s and 748’s. That won’t be happening. Arik Air can’t now afford the 748i’s they ordered, and despite the orders for more freighters by Volga-Dnepr Group’s Air Bridge Cargo, other than the minor livery difference for the UK registered 748F’s, there isn’t one due for a new airline.
777-300ER production is taking a not unexpected cut as new customers hold on to wait the 777X, which at best estimates won’t be delivered until the last quarter of 2019. There hasn’t been a new order for any version of the 777X in 14 months.
There are only a few orders for 777-300ER of note. One is the long-awaited arrival of United’s version, but they’re a while off yet. China Southern, KLM, Air India, Aeroflot, China Eastern and the Japan Air Self Defence Force, along with EVA Air and Saudia a few Turkish and a small number of Emirates, and one final Air Austral are all that’s due in the next few months. Other than the JASDF version which is unlikely to become a model, and United, not one is for a new customer, which is no real surprise, but a little daunting for model collectors and makers who will either have to re-release on a new registration or hope for a special livery.
The 777F is in full production but the next 12 months will see almost all of its output handed over to Fedex as they race to replace their DC-10F and MD-11F fleets.
The shining light in the Boeing mantle at present is the 787 family. Airlines that haven’t yet taken delivery of any of their order include: Singapore (30), Aeroflot (22), Delta (18) left over from Northwest’s order but unlikely to ever be delivered, EVA Air (18), Qantas Group, possibly for Qantas (rather than for jetStar) (8), Air France-KLM for Air France rather than KLM who already have them in service. Gulf Air have 16 on order and have just selected Rolls Royce for their engines, Jet Airways (10) although due in 2017 on Wednesday 17th August 2016 they were deferred to the end of 2019. Iraq (10), Arik Air (7) but doubtful, Biman Bangladesh (4), Air Astana (2), Air Tahiti Nui (2), and Air Niugini, Icelandair and EC Air all with 1 each.
The thing with these is they are spread over the next 3-4 years, across all three versions.
The list of 737 customers is vast and varied, and by no means will all of them see production as models. The big model maker challenge is the introduction of the MAX versions, with another set of wings, engines, and a very different set of split scimitars to the retrofitted type. Key customers who have never flown the type before will be interesting, especially Monarch and Icelandair for example.
The gap in the mid market between 777 and 737 looks like it won’t be fixed until 2025 at the earliest. In the meantime that middle ground is being cleaned up by the A321LR.
The 767 still offers a few livery and model possibilities. There’s still no Icelandair 767 yet despite the pair flying in and out of Paris and London for months now and two more being delivered in 2017. The KC-46 has now been approved for slow construction and that will provide Gemini MACs with something new. Freighters for DHL are unlikely to be produced unless Phoenix make them, and Fedex have cornered the majority of production for years to come.
Airbus is having a difficult time with the A380.The Neo version looks like it’s buried and with it any really long-term future for the aircraft has probably gone the same way. Emirates want more economic engines and aerodynamic refinements and they just aren’t forthcoming. Eventually, despite wanting more, they will need to look at a replacement, and that means a growing likelihood of the 777-10 being built. Only one new airline will take delivery of the A380 now, and that’s ANA in 2018, under the compromise deal that allowed them to buy bankrupt Skymark Airlines, who owed Airbus a fortune.
The only ‘new’ A380 airlines now will be those who take them on second-hand. First the 6 A380’s that Malaysia is desperate to get rid of between 2017-19, then the first in service from Singapore Airlines as they come off 10 year lease in 2017, followed by a rolling number of Emirates as they come off their 12 year leases, 2018 onwards. Will someone pick them up? Or will they go the way of the A340-600 and find themselves at 10-12 years old stuck on a runway in France or the US with nowhere to go? I think they have a future for at least some – BA would love more but won’t buy new, even Virgin Atlantic and Turkish might look at leasing a second hand A380 or two, it’s unlikely lease rates will be very high.
The A350-900 and -1000 of course are the big-ticket Airbus models with a list of new airlines who haven’t taken delivery is long. It’s true that American and Delta have now delayed theirs until 2018-22, but Aer Lingus, BA, Malaysia, Afriqyah, Air Asia X, Air Caraibes, Air Mauritius, Asiana, China Eastern, Etihad, Hong Kong, KLM, Air France, Phillipine, Aeroflot, SAS, Singapore, United, Virgin Atlantic, JAL and of course early in the new year, Lufthansa, will all take delivery over the next few years and many of them are both 900 and 1000 versions. I doubt Yemenia and Libyan are likley to take theirs right now or any time soon.
The A330 continues to do well, and the development of the Neo version will pose a challenge for the model makers, with new wings, engine options, modified landing gear and a tweaked fuselage. Of course they could just ignore it like they seem to have done with the A320Neo so far. The list of CEO and NEO customers is vast, but it has to be said, few are new liveries or new airlines now.
The A330-300 Regional is now also being delivered with the first 200ton version being delivered to Saudia. Expect a model soon.
A320 series will also pose a new challenge for model makers, producing the tweaked Neo with its engine options and modified wings is going to mean replacing the worn out and badly made JCW/Gemini mould with something new. And please, we don’t want another botch like the A330 new mould with its over-elevated wings. Nor, when Phoenix get round to their version, do we want wings like they came up with on the 737, looking like they were a relief map of Amsterdam’s canal system.
And yet the really interesting one will be which of the major players finally sticks their neck out and builds the CS100 and 300. How can Gemini, who now have Delta and Air Canada orders to consider ignore it? JCW seem to have a mould to use. Lufthansa will get theirs and Swiss already have theirs, with a pretty decent model on offer from Herpa. With Air Canada, Gulf Air, Iraqi, Korean, Privat, Republic Airways service lines, Saudi Gulf and Air Baltic signed up and almost 80 for various lease companies that will end up with airlines all over the world, how long can they wait? This is an aircraft with a future.
There are also the Mitsubishi’s to consider, the revamped Embraer E-Jet E2 and even the Chinese industry offerings. I have a feeling we won’t see the former or the later at all.
Yet there is one big aviation industry issue still looming in the distance. After the 777-X there isn’t one major airliner development project or new aircraft in the pipeline. We actually face the possibility that the entire 2020’s will be devoid of any new aircraft types not already underway.
Of course there is life in the older moulds yet. 744’s may now be out of freight conversion fashion, but 757’s, 737-8’s, A320’s are all now actively available for conversion with manufacturer approved projects, and design specifications to make them easy converts for new owners. Regional freighters are very much considered the new way forward and there are plenty of aircraft that will serve as donors.
There will always be surprises. Things like the demise of Transaero, the rise of Amazon and its new cargo services, who knows what’s next? Airlines will be changing their business models, Brexit will have either no impact at all or seriously hammer British airlines, and aviation in general if agreements can’t be made to leave the skies, and treaties as they are in that sector. Heathrow expansion will also either reduce London’s attractiveness by not going ahead, or offer it a way to keep its place in the world if it does. And, who knows what a new US administration will bring, or how Russia and China will behave in the next few years, or what will happen in the Middle East? One thing is sure, expect the unexpected in aviation.
Don’t expect that in model world though. Nobody will do anything that costs them money, unless it’s a dead certainty to sell. And that may well rein in many airline options that aren’t based on existing moulds. Investment in new moulds will only happen when the return on that investment can be guranteed long term.
Frankly, the few customers who’ve ordered the 777-X right now would make me think long and hard about producing the 777-X model any time soon. Only 6 airlines have ordered the 306 aircraft ordered so far, all majors, and only 3 have ordered the 8 with the 9. Thats just 9 variants plus the factory launch aircraft, so maybe 12 variations. At possibly $100k in development costs for the two variations, that’s a lot of profitably sold models to claw back the development cost. If they make $8 per aircraft that’s 12,500 models to cover that alone.
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