Pop quiz. Which is the fastest-selling new commercial airplane program in history – the A350 or the 787 Dreamliner?
Recently we’ve heard claims that the A350 has taken the crown. But I’m just scratching my head about that because, in these kinds of cases, what really matters is when the two sides start their clocks.
In the case of the Boeing 787, we consider our formal launch to be April 2004, concurrent with our first orders from ANA. Using the same logic, you start the A350 clock when it was “formally launched” on October 6, 2005, along with its first orders (actually dating back to December 2004). So, clearly this Airbus product has a ways to go before exceeding the 787 at a comparable point in the program timeline.
But wait a minute. More than a year after the “formal launch,” Airbus started the clock over again. They announced on December 1, 2006 an “industrial go ahead” for the A350. So, which launch is which?
Has the A350 really been selling for only 2 years? Or has it actually been more than 3 years? If you compare the 787 orders timeline with the original A350 “formal launch” in 2005, clearly the 787 has done better.
If you do want to claim that the clock started in 2006 with the A350 “go ahead” - or re-start as I would call it - then yes, using that arbitrary date, you can claim a better result. However, remember that this 2006 re-start conveniently came loaded with a number of previous orders - which for the most part were converted to “new” orders.
Note that at the 2005 Paris Air Show, Airbus claimed it was already “sitting at 90” [A350 orders], and by late 2005 claimed well over 100 orders for the A350. So keep this in mind when you hear that this airplane did not launch until the end of 2006 and therefore is the “fastest-selling.”
My recent lunch bill came to exactly $7.77 at Panda Express.
Not to change the subject, but the other day I paid for my chow mein lunch at a local Chinese fast food place and the check came to exactly $7.77.
I thought to myself, “What an odd coincidence.” Which is to say, strange things do happen sometimes.
But I really got the urge to go “hmm” when I realized that my lunch bill came to exactly the same total as Airbus’ net orders for 2008: 777.
Admit it, don’t you think that’s, uh, interesting?
I got that urge again with regard to the Airbus backlog number at the end of 2008. On January 8, Boeing announced a backlog at the end of the year of 3,714 airplanes. One week later, Airbus announced a 2008 year-end backlog of exactly one unit more: 3,715.
To be fair, over the last few years, the competition has been a lot more transparent about numbers – posting net orders along with the gross - and removing orders from their books, for example, for the A310, an airplane that they no longer manufacture. So those are some good steps.
But it’s always a bit intriguing to see what’s being claimed from time to time. Coincidence? Clever marketing? Or maybe just “hmm.”