Singapore Air Show

Airbus accelerates launch plan for re-engined Airbus A320s

 - February 2, 2010, 11:39 PM

Airbus hopes to reach a decision on an engine replacement option for the A320 family in time for this summer’s Farnborough airshow, according to company COO for customers John Leahy. Planning to offer a new engine from either International Aero Engines, which would adapt a version of the Geared Turbofan developed by Pratt & Whitney, or CFM International, which would offer a member of its Leap-X family, Airbus at the very least needs expects to know which option would appear on the A320 by the end of this year.

Boeing, meanwhile, appears to feel considerably less urgency, judging by the comments of vice president of marketing Randy Tinseth on Monday. “Re-engining is technically feasible,” he said, “but we have time and we will take the time [to reach a decision].”

Meanwhile, an all-new single-aisle aircraft from Airbus won’t reach the market until 2024, Leahy said yesterday.

Both manufacturers issued sanguine projections for the single-aisle market in the region, due largely to the growth of low-fare airlines in emerging markets in Southeast Asia, China and India. “This region has been growing in importance in recent years,” noted Airbus CEO Tom Enders, who emphasized Airbus’s particular commitment to China, in the shape of the new A320 final assembly line in Tianjin. “The quality is at least as good [as it is] in Toulouse and Hamburg,” he said.
Enders also stressed a particular interest in Vietnam, which he said “could play a major role” in terms of industrial activity for Airbus.

According to the latest Asian market forecast from Airbus, airlines in the region will acquire some 8,000 new passenger and cargo aircraft over the next 20 years. Valued at $1.2 trillion, the requirement represents one third of the predicted global deliveries between now and 2028.

Airbus predicts that passenger traffic growth will grow at an average annual rate of 5.9 percent in the region, while cargo traffic increases by 6.3 percent per year, compared with a global increase of 4.7 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively. As a result, according to the forecast, the region will produce a demand for 4,560 single-aisle aircraft, 2,570 twins and 880 very large aircraft in the category of the A380 and Boeing 747-8.

According to Tinseth, the Asia-Pacific region is developing into a two-tier market in which single-aisle growth emerges out of China and India and the rest of the region takes a much higher proportion of larger aircraft types, reflecting the concentration of populations around the big urban centers.

Tinseth cited 6 percent growth in the economies of Asia between now and 2013, and a particularly strong recovery in emerging markets–again, boding well for the single-aisle segment. He explained that as economies emerge from recession, airlines show a natural conservatism, driving them to start their capacity increases with single-aisle airplanes, followed by introduction of widebodies. So, on this basis, Tinseth expressed no surprise that the output rate for Boeing’s 777 has been reduced.    

So with Asia more interested than ever in new-generation single-aisle transports and Airbus and Boeing seemingly reluctant to show their hands in this domain, is the initiative slipping to the Chinese with their Comac C919 airliner? Pointedly, Tinseth wouldn’t rule out Boeing getting involved in this new program, but for the time being, the U.S. company intends to focus on taking Chinese content for its 737 family. “No one buys more parts and assemblies from China than we do,” he said.

Boeing believes the recent trend of airlines grounding their aircraft has peaked, with widebodies at last coming out of desert storage after last year’s near collapse of the air freight market. Tinseth predicted a 7- to 8-percent growth in the market for cargo airplanes this year, compared with a miserable showing last year, when cargo traffic plunged 15 percent after a 6-percent decline in 2008.