They count planes differently, don't they?

By John Keller
Posted by John Keller

THE PARIS AIR SHOW BLOG, 20 June 2013. I've been covering the aerospace and defense industry for a long time, yet still there are plenty of things that utterly mystify me. The way the major aerospace manufacturers count airplane sales is one of them.

I've spent a good chunk of time this week doing my best to track aircraft sales announced at the Paris Air Show from the big players like Airbus and Boeing, from the up-and-coming companies like Embraer, to the niche players like Bombardier and ATR, and even from the helicopter makers like AgustaWestland, Sikorsky, and Eurocopter.

Despite my best efforts, however, some of the numbers just don't agree with published reports.

Here's an example: by my count Airbus announced deals for 536 passenger jetliners this week at Paris. A company announcement, however, says Airbus only made deals for 466. I counted announcements for 275 aircraft sales from Boeing this week, yet a Boeing announcement says the company made deals for 442.

I can't figure out where these numbers come from, but then again, I've been covering the Pentagon's annual budget (or trying to) for decades now, and some of those numbers I couldn't explain if my life depended on it.

I think it's much the same with airplane sales.

Here's my methodology for counting aircraft sales this week at the Paris Air Show. I simply combed the company Websites for public announcements of aircraft sales. Although this may sound straightforward, it's really not.

Companies use different terms for different transactions. There are firm orders, memoranda of understanding, commitments, conversions, and other descriptions of firm, pending, or wishful orders.

I looked through the public announcements, totaled up all the numbers no matter what the transaction being described, and came up with my numbers.

For the four business days just concluded at the Paris Air Show, I have 536 aircraft sales for Airbus, 381 for Embraer, 275 for Boeing, 115 for ATR, 72 for Bombardier, 54 for AgustaWestland, 17 for Sikorsky, and 10 for Eurocopter, which gives us a rough count of 1,460 total sales for the week.

These numbers could be close, or they could be off. I can make no promises for how my numbers jive with the industry. As for Boeing, company officials say the Seattle-based jet maker inked deals for 442 aircraft worth about $66.4 billion during the Paris Air Show. This is a lot more than my total of 275. Airbus, meanwhile, claims to have made deals for 466 airplanes at the show. This is far fewer than my count of 536.

I haven't seen any official totals from the show yet, but let's face it, the official numbers most likely will be different from mine.

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The Aerospace & Defense Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

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