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Amid a string of Paris air show announcements that saw firm orders and commitments spiralling to around 1,100 aircraft, were the ongoing pledges about the industry’s commitment to achieving Net Zero. But there was also the sense that the industry was starting to acknowledge that timelines for the adoption of more radical technologies are probably unrealistic, especially as many enablers remain outside the sector’s control. So the industry’s Net Zero targets are looking to be even more reliant on sustainable aviation fuels, however much this may cost.
Both CFM and Pratt and Whitney have publicly recognised the well-publicised reliability shortcomings of their new-generation single-aisle powerplants. CFM outlined Leap upgrades designed to address operational and durability issues with the Leap. P&W conceded that the PW1000G’s time on wing was “not yet at the level we expect”, confirming around 10% of the P&W A320neo fleet is currently grounded. While remedies are in work Pratt also pointed to global supply-chain pressures affecting material availability that have exacerbated the problems.
Despite its woes, P&W announced a major PW1100G order from United Airlines to power 120 A321neos on order, as well as follow-on deal from Indigo Partners’ Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris. These announcements nudged P&W’s share of the A320 family firm order backlog versus CFM to just over 40% (excluding orders where no engine decision has been made).
In some more positive news for Pratt, Boeing selected the PW1100G to power its Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) demonstrator programme, designated X-66A.
This flying testbed, which mates an MD-90 fuselage to new wings and powerplants, is due to fly in 2028 and could be a precursor to any 737 Max successor from the second half of the 2030s.
Airbus and Boeing announcements at the show comprised more than 1,050 orders and LoIs worth around $71 billion (at 2023 Full-Life Base Values), with the lion’s share (825 aircraft/78%) taken by Toulouse. Most of the orders (970) came from Indian carriers, including 500 A320neos for IndiGo. The delivery timescale associated with this order indicates Airbus intends to sustain A320neo production until at least 2035, by which time the re-engined A320 family will have been in service for two decades. As the show opened, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury gave the strongest hint yet that an all-new replacement is in early stages of development, when speaking of a need to launch by “2030 at the latest” to ensure service entry in 2035-2040.
While P&W has said very little on any next-generation powerplant development as it focuses on current durability issues, CFM is moving forward with its RISE open-fan architecture which offers a claimed 20% efficiency improvement over today’s engines. It plans to begin testing a technology demonstrator on an A380 in around 2025. Pratt believes that delivering a 20% improvement with the next-generation single-aisle powerplants is unlikely for at least a decade.
The raft of new orders this week has pushed the Airbus/Boeing firm backlog beyond of 13,500 aircraft, including 11,600 single-aisles. This equates to more than 10 years of production at current rates and even 7.5 years at 2025 rates.
It raises the question of how long before Airbus starts talking of the need to go beyond the monthly rate of 75 A320 family aircraft a month from 2025/2026, to normalise the delivery timescale to fewer production years. Meanwhile there is no end in sight to the creaking in the supply chains!
This production scenario is supported by the OEMs’ latest 20-year market forecasts published just ahead of the show. Both Airbus and Boeing project long-term demand exceeds 40,000 new aircraft, equating to an average of 2,000 per annum. Given the lower delivery rates we project from now through 2025, their own forecasts also suggest that higher rates will be needed on a sustained level to achieve these forecasts.
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