Paris Air Show

Paris 2011: Boeing must act now on narrowbodies, says ILFC chief

 - June 21, 2011, 1:28 AM

Boeing needs to “get on with it,” if it is to compete with the Airbus A320neo, according to International Lease Finance Corporation CEO Henri Courpron. The leasing group argued yesterday that the answer may lie in an early Boeing 737-800 upgrade.

The 737-800 is a formidable aircraft,” he told AIN. “We get excellent feedback from our customer airlines all over the world on it. We’ll see what happens this week but if the A320neo gets a strong endorsement Boeing will have to get on with it.” Airbus has been busily collecting further orders for the Neo since the Paris show started yesterday.

Courpron suggested that Boeing would need to find only a 5- or 6-percent improvement in economics for the -800 for it to be attractive to airlines and keep Boeing in the picture while it considers an all-new aircraft. “They don’t have to get the 15 percent that the A320neo gives us. It just has to be close enough to be good enough. The 737-800 is very competitive in the workplace,” Courpron said.

Some of the upgrade could come from the CFM56-5BE engine, which brings a 2-percent improvement in fuel burn, while the remainder could come from cost of ownership and maintenance gains. “You have to remember that fuel is only 30 percent of the total operating cost,” he said.

While Boeing might win breathing space with a 737-800 upgrade, Courpron is in no doubt that both Boeing and Airbus will have to come out with an all-new offering later this decade or early next. “They owe it to themselves to come out with new aircraft,” he added.

On Monday, Courpron signed the definitive agreement with Pratt & Whitney president Dave Hess for PW1100Gs to power the 60 firm and 40 optioned A320neos ordered by ILFC, the first customer for the geared turbofan. The companies had announced the agreement in March.

“We were behind the P&W engine from the start,” Courpron told AIN. “We were never worried about the gearbox. Sometimes you need a leap of faith, and we believe this will be a great engine.”

Courpon added that both P&W and CFM had been encouraged to improve their respective offerings for the A320neo. “We encouraged them to take this aircraft seriously and they finally reached the same conclusion.”