Boeing: future aircraft to grow in both size and unit numbers

Farnborough Air Show » 2006
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November 16, 2006, 10:16 AM

New airliners being delivered in the next 20 years will continue to grow in both unit numbers and average aircraft size, according to Boeing. New market predictions from the U.S. manufacturer show a trend toward increased deliveries of larger aircraft with a corresponding decline in the shipments of regional jets (RJs) with 90 or fewer seats. And if RJs are excluded, analysis by Aviation International News suggests the trend will be reinforced, with twin-aisle and very large jetliners seeing gains at the expense of single-aisle machines.

More Aircraft Needed

Boeing’s latest market outlook, unveiled in London last week by commercial airplanes senior marketing vice president Randy Baseler, suggests that airlines will need some 27,200 new aircraft (including freighters) between 2006 and 2025. This compares with 20-year requirements for 25,700 and 25,000 machines forecast last year and in 2004, respectively.

The new deliveries are valued at $2,600 billion, equivalent to more than $350 million a day throughout the period. If realized, the projections will see the global airliner fleet growing from just under 17,500 today to near 36,000 in 2025, according to Baseler. Of the new aircraft, around 9,500 will be required to replace current machines, while over 17,600 will be needed to accommodate industry growth. About 8,750 existing aircraft are expected to remain in service in 20 years’ time, says Boeing.

The manufacturer believes airline passenger traffic will expand at a compound 4.9 percent a year. This would essentially duplicate the 250 percent growth seen over the past 20 years, during which period the impact of several economic recessions and negative passenger reaction to wars, terrorism and local health epidemics were offset by rapid growth following deregulation or liberalization in mature markets and burgeoning prosperity in other economies.

Cargo activity is predicted to grow at a higher 6.1 percent annually. Boeing assumes an average 3.1 percent global economic growth in 2006-25.

RJ Sales Plunge

Comparison of the company’s three most-recent market predictions show the RJ portion of new deliveries falling by a fifth from over 17 percent to less than 13 percent. New single-aisle machines–more than 16,500 in the period–are seen as remaining by far and away the most popular, accounting for around six in every 10 entering service.

The share of twin-aisle aircraft (below 400 seats) among new deliveries will grow from under 21 percent to almost 23 percent, according to Boeing statistics. And among very large jetliners accommodating more than 400 travelers, there will be a growing market presence as the proportion increases by more than a tenth from a 3.2-percent share predicted in 2004 to 3.6 percent in the new forecast. Whereas two years ago Boeing foresaw a 20-year demand for fewer than 800 aircraft of 747 size or larger, its latest market outlook sees a need for almost exactly 1,000 such machines–an increase of more than 25 percent.

Nevertheless, Baseler does not see any early requirements for many more very large aircraft. In his view, this need will only emerge toward the end of the forecast period after many years of growth in long-haul services.

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