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Airbus, Boeing seek 2020 foresight
As airframe manufacturers in China,
India, and Russia aspire to grab a
share of the global commercial-
aircra market, they might not yet
fully appreciate the problems that
could accompany the establishment
of a successful jetliner family.
Airbus and Boeing have had to deal with the
problem of their own success this year, as they mulled
their next moves. While Airbus continued to support
the introduction of the A380 very-large airliner and
worked on designing its new A350 widebody, Boeing
pursued certi cation of the 787 twin-aisle twinjet, as
well as a prospective upgrade for its established 777
More immediate still in 2010 was the approaching
need for the manufacturers to decide on their single-
aisle product development: should they breathe new
life into the A320 and 737 families with new engine
choices -- the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared
turbofan or CFM International Leap-X -- or plump
for new projects that bene t from new and emerging
technologies. Both manufacturers talked of decisions
being made by the end of the year.
Airbus concluded that a re-engined A320-series
-- dubbed A320 New Engine Option (NEO) --
could provide an interim solution, keeping the basic
design fresh until, the company predicted, emerging
technologies become available in 2025 (or soon a er)
to justify an all-new aircra . Boeing has considered
similar moves, but claims continuing engine and
aerodynamic improvements offer the prospect of
permitting the launch of a new model in, say, ten years'
Early this year Airbus Chief Operating Officer
(Customers) John Leahy predicted that if an
A320NEO were launched in late 2010, Boeing
would immediately announce an all-new design for
2020 launch. In mid-November Boeing Commercial
Airplanes Chief Executive James Albaugh said the US
manufacturer was likely to do exactly that, while senior
Airbus executives reportedly remained divided on the
For both companies, single-aisle production
provides a valuable stream of revenue and pro t as
they consider development of larger designs. Boeing
and Airbus recently stepped up single-aisle production,
with Leahy claiming that Airbus could sell 4,000
more A320-series machines, compared with the 4,125
delivered before this year. Airbus aims to deliver 26
Chinese-assembled A320s this year and 38 in 2011.
Historically, the two have played leap-frog with the
introduction of new designs or signi cant upgrades to
competing designs, but currently each company's room
for manoeuvre is compromised. Neither would nd it
easy to commit, say, US$10 billion to a completely new
As Airbus accelerates A380 production (with
ngers crossed while Rolls-Royce resolves an apparent
design de ciency in the Trent 900 engine), it is also
developing the A350, for which delivery has been put
back to late 2013. e manufacturer has two critical
factors to consider: capital and manpower. e military
A400M, ramped-up A380 production, and A350
development will require substantial expenditure in
the next few years.
Wall Street analysts Bernstein Research noted in
November that the challenge for Airbus is ensuring
availability of adequate engineering resources to re-
engine the A320. Airbus marketing o cials have been
keen to proceed if the problem can be resolved.
For its part, Boeing is now almost four years late
with its much-troubled 787, has the 747-8 also behind
schedule and is mulling a 777 upgrade.
At the same time, the two manufacturers are looking
over their shoulders for potential future competition
in the 150-seat market from Brazil's Embraer and
Canada's Bombardier, not to mention other upstart
rivals in China and Russia.
Engine Lease Finance (ELF) Chief Executive
Jon Sharp believes oil prices could drive Airbus and
Boeing decision-making on re-engined aircra , saying
the new engines must "con dently deliver signi cant
fuel savings while maintaining other ownership costs".
Powerplant manufacturer Rolls-Royce has encouraged
the airframers to launch single-aisle replacements
rather than pursuing interim solutions that could
delay introduction of new, "highly integrated and
optimised" aircra .
Boeing's Albaugh argues that, faced with choosing
between new engines in 2015 or new aircra ve years
later, most airlines would opt for the latter. While new
engines could contribute to 15 percent-lower operating
costs, related development costs would dilute total
savings to less than 5 percent.
Richard Aboula a, aerospace analyst at consultancy
Teal Group, has noted a positive airline response to
Airbus and Boeing are facing major challenges as they approach decisions on the future of their single-aisle jetliner
families. The manufacturers may decide by the end of 2010, whether to re-engine or replace current designs, as
Ian Goold reports.
Boeing says its 737 customers are not seeking new engines for the jetliner.
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