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Formally launched by Airbus last
December, the A320neo (for 'New
Engine Option') programme has been
accelerated by six months. e European
manufacturer now plans to certi cate
and deliver the latest variant of its best-
selling single-aisle family in October 2015, instead of the
second quarter of 2016 as previously scheduled.
Airbus has also con rmed the Pratt & Whitney
PW1100G geared turbofan (GTF) engine as the
lead development powerplant for the new model, for
which the manufacturer had already collected over 330
orders and commitments by early April. e company
claims the re-engined aircra will o er a 15 percent
improvement in fuel e ciency compared with current
Airbus Chief Operating O cer (Customers) John
Leahy said that the A320neo has become "the fastest-
selling aircra in history," and that Airbus will have
accrued "over 500 commitments" by the time the global
industry gathers at June's Paris air show. As of April, he
said Airbus was "a week or two" away from closing deals
with prospective customers in the Asia-Paci c region,
Europe, and Latin America.
Equivalent neo variants of the shrunk A319 and
stretched A321 models are each expected to account
for an initial 25 percent share of the market, with the
baseline A320neo taking half of the orders. Airbus
has acknowledged that this three-way division might
change over time as the programme matures. Currently,
the manufacturer sees no ready market demand for a
re-engined version of the small A318, which Airbus
Executive Vice-President (Programmes) Tom Williams
sees as a "niche product".
Apart from putting the aircra in operators' hands
earlier, the revised entry-into-ser vice (EIS) target
date for the A320neo has the e ect of increasing the
European manufacturer's lead over whatever Boeing
decides to do in response.
For its part, the US manufacturer has long proclaimed
that it does not compete against -- far less copy -- Airbus
products, but that it simply tries to meet the demands
of the market. By late April, it remained unclear when
Boeing would decide whether to re-engine its 737 or
proceed directly to an all-new single-aisle design.
Five or more years ago, when the world was beginning
to speculate about a successor to the A320 and 737
programmes, the airframe manufacturers were talking of
a market that could emerge for a new design in the early
years of this decade. Engine makers reacted in horror,
saying that new technologies permitting increased
e ciency and enhanced environmental performance
would not be available before 2015 at the earliest.
Since then, such projections have moved further and
further into the future, with Leahy proclaiming in early
2010 that the time would not be ripe for an all-new
aircra until at least 2022, or even later. e potential
timing for an 'A30X', which would incorporate a
package of advanced engine, materials, and systems
technologies, has slipped ever more to the right.
Most recently, Leahy's view of technological
developments has led him to look beyond 2025 until, at
a technical brie ng in Toulouse in April, he con dently
predicted 2030 or even 2035 as the right time. A
principal element of Leahy's picture of an aircra for the
2030s is the development of new, much more e cient
open-rotor (OR) engines.
Such a schedule would provide the very popular
current A320 design with a potential manufacturing
"life" of more than 40 years: "the longest continuous
production run in history", claims Leahy.
To be sure, Leahy's statements must be seen in the context
of Airbus's rivalry with Boeing. e executive's previous
remarks about post-2020 timing seemed designed to
imply that anything Boeing o ered before that date
would be compromised because better technolog y
would be just around the corner.
Indeed, some analysts see the latest statements
as an e ort to goad Boeing, the US manufacturer's
determination not to respond directly to the European
manufacturer's moves notwithstanding.
If Boeing were now to proceed with an early, all-
new design, Leahy implies it would not be able to o er
sufficient performance improvements to justify its
development costs. Boeing can, of course, counter that
the A320neo is simply a compromise that does not o er
much improvement over the current aircra .
Airbus has brought its re-engined A320neo programme forward by six months, while claiming that the technology
required to justify an all-new single-aisle design will not be available until at least 2030. Ian Goold reports from Toulouse.
As of April, Airbus was "a week or two" away from closing
deals with prospective customers in the Asia-Pacific region,
Europe, and Latin America, according to John Leahy.
Airbus's John Leahy
says the manufacturer
may have more
than 500 A320neo
commitments by June.
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