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:: June 2000 Newsletter ::

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Dear Fellow Aircraft Market Watchers,

I just got back from Europe, and all I got my clients was some lousy information.

So, what did I learn? Well, I learned the Europeans are serious. Seriously serious. EADS looks like an effective and rational organization, far better than most Americans thought the Continent’s aerospace industries could produce. More importantly, I am now certain that A3XX will happen. I still say first deliveries in 2009, but it could easily be moved to the left, and the Airbus gospel remains late 2005. Curiously, they have split the program launch process, with a “commercial launch” just announced, and an “industrial launch” to follow, so there’s obviously some room to adjust the schedule. But there is indeed corporate and government money behind it; only the details (eg, the market) remain uncertain.

Incidentally, one side facet of the A3XX program is a return to good, solid old fashioned commercial jet fantasizing—everything from cocktail lounges to go-kart courses. It’s a big plane; why not offer a swimming pool? Unsurprisingly, most prospective airlines have been tight lipped, but Qantas, being largely Australian, seems to buy into the airplane-with-video golf course concept. Gotta love those Aussies.

Then there’s the A400M, which the Euros (the people, not the currency) are serious about, too. Noted genius Pierre Condom of Interavia said it best when he asked “Can Europe Say No To The A400M?” Very simply, if Europe wants to actually spend money on lift, this is their best chance. Otherwise, surrender to reality, and return to gradual off-the-shelf acquisition of C-130Js, converted jetliners, and perhaps C-17s. But everyone is talking about A400M, so it might happen. I give it a 45% chance, which is my highest estimate ever during 13 years of following the program.

Trouble is, Europe can’t afford both at once. Spending $10 billion in public money on two Airbus planes in the next ten years can’t happen. Europe probably doesn’t even have the necessary engineering resources to make them both go. But it is entirely possible that Europe could fund A3XX and then turn its attention to A400M, with an A400M in-service date of around 2012.

Meanwhile, Britain (read BAE) continues to remain aloof, looking more to the US (it may well have acquired Lockheed Martin Sanders by the time you read this). Relations with the rest of Europe appear to be an ongoing problem for the Brits—Pascal Lamy, the EU Trade Commissioner, recently said that Britain could be “drowned in mid-Atlantic” if it joined NAFTA. Obviously a skilled diplomat, that Lamy fellow, but his attitude sums up the situation well.

No matter what becomes of Britain, my overall impression is that Europe is getting its act together. And the good old days of American hegemony are ending.

Concerning this month’s supplement, there’s not a lot of news, although the Rotorcraft overview is largely new. The Trainers overview is about the same. Not much has happened on the T-6/PC-9 and Tornado programs. The Gulfstream series is doing better than ever. There is an MD-80 “epitaph” update. The 757 is slowing down, but as this is written the order book has been pushed above 1,000 by orders from American and ATA.

July’s supplement, which I am not looking forward to writing, will include about 20 reports, including the Regional Aircraft overview, 747, A340, F-5/T-38, CH-47, Dash 8, Learjet, Hawker series, and countless others. I will also update the commercial airliner inventory appendix. I hope your summer continues to go well. And let me know if you want to buy me a beer at Farnborough.

Yours, ‘til my next trip to Europe goes horribly awry,

Richard Aboulafia
 

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