Aircraft electrification and air mobility were well represented at the 53rd Paris Air Show, but it was the recasting of veteran platforms in new roles that made news. Airbus introduced an extra-long-range member of its A320neo family, the A321XLR, a single-aisle jetliner with a range of up to 4,700nm – 15% more than the long-range A321LR – and maximum takeoff weight of 101 tonnes. Powered by the same fuel-efficient LEAP engines as the A321neo, the A321XLR shares some parts commonality with other A321s.
Eleven airlines showed interest in the continent-hopping range and greater payload capacity without the cost of a widebody, placing orders for 48 A321XLRs, making commitments for 89 more, and converting 112 existing A321neo orders to XLR models. A321XLR deliveries are expected to start in 2023.
Airbus’ A220, the former Bombardier C Series, captured 85 orders, while the widebody A330neo received 24 new orders and commitments.
In all, Airbus commercial aircraft received 149 new firm orders and 214 commitments. Notably, airlines and lessors converted 352 existing aircraft orders – mostly from the A320 to the larger A321neo and the new A321XLR.
In its Global Market Forecast (GMF) for 2018-2037, Airbus analysts anticipate air traffic will grow at 4.4% annually, requiring 37,390 new passenger and dedicated freighter aircraft worth $5.8 trillion. The global passenger fleet of planes featuring 100 to more than 500 seats will more than double to 48,000 aircraft during that time.
The forecast for 28,550 new single-aisle aircraft represents more than 75% of total expected demand.
As interest in the A321XLR and A330neo demonstrates, “There is a growing trend to use aircraft across a broader range of operations, with today’s more capable aircraft blurring the boundaries between market segments,” Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Eric Schulz notes. The top-end single aisles can fly efficiently on long-haul routes and wide bodies equally serve regional operations.
Boeing officials expressed remorse for the lives lost aboard two 737 MAX airliners and noted safety, quality, and integrity as the company’s foundational values. Boeing leaders answered questions and shared progress on the 737 MAX as the company prepares for the airplane’s safe return to service. They addressed engine issues delaying 777X progress and missteps with the KC-46 tanker program, then explained their analysis of the market and supply chain for a New Midsize Airplane (NMA) but offered no timeline for introduction.
On a more positive note, International Airlines Group (IAG) officials announced their intention to purchase 200 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 10 jets, a deal valued at more than $24 billion at list prices. IAG is the parent company of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, Vueling, and LEVEL that combined fly more than 113 million passengers annually.
“We have every confidence in Boeing and expect that the aircraft will make a successful return to service in the coming months having received approval from the regulators,” says IAG CEO Willie Walsh.
Boeing sales included 787-9 and 787-10 Dreamliners worth $7.8 billion and 11 widebody 777 Freighters.
Boeing’s static display included a 737-800BCF – a Boeing converted freighter – featuring added fuel efficiency and nearly 24,000kg payload capacity. The factory’s repurposed 737-800s generated at least 35 orders from aircraft leasors ASL Aviation Holdings and GECAS, marking Boeing’s entry into the traditionally aftermarket conversion business.
Boeing Defense, Space & Security highlighted the T-X trainer, F-15EX, F/A-18 Super Hornet, P-8 Poseidon, and KC-46 tanker.
Boeing executives released an updated Current Market Outlook that forecasts an $8.7 trillion aerospace and defense market through 2028, up from $8.1 trillion a year ago. Including commercial air travel, defense, space, and services markets, the 20-year outlook projects a $16 trillion market, driven by the projected need for 44,040 new jets valued at $6.8 trillion and related services valued at $9.1 trillion.
The figures include $3.1 trillion for commercial airplanes as operators replace older jets and expand their fleets, $2.5 trillion of defense and space opportunities (40% of expenditures expected to originate outside the U.S.), and a services market valued at $3.1 trillion.
“Notwithstanding some recent moderation in passenger and cargo traffic growth, all indications are pointing to our industry sustaining its unprecedented streak of profitable expansion. We see a market that is broader, deeper, and more balanced than we have seen in the past,” says Boeing Commercial Marketing Vice President Randy Tinseth.
He says 44% of new airplane deliveries will replace aging aircraft with the remainder for traffic growth. Passenger traffic is expected to grow an average 4.6% and cargo traffic will grow an average 4.2%. The global commercial fleet is expected to reach 50,660 airplanes by 2038.
Single-aisle demand will reach 32,420 new airplanes, a $3.8 trillion market driven by continued strength of low-cost carriers, replacement demand, and growth in Asia Pacific.
Forecasts predict a need for 8,340 new widebody passenger airplanes valued at more than $2.6 trillion through the next 20 years, with an added need for 1,040 new large freighters.
Embraer’s 2019-2038 outlook forecasts a worldwide demand for 10,550 new aircraft with up to 150 seats, worth $600 billion.
Aero engine record
GE Aviation and its 50/50 joint venture company with Safran Aircraft Engines, CFM International, reached a record $55 billion in jet engines, services, avionics, and digital offerings at the show. The figures include 1,150 LEAP-1A engines to power Airbus A320 family jets, plus 30 GEnx-powered Boeing 787 Dreamliners, and several TrueChoice and rate-per-flight-hour services agreements.
Electrification on display
Electric-powered concept aircraft on display at the show included Israeli company Eviation Aircraft Ltd.’s Alice – an all-electric-powered, 9-passenger commuter aircraft prototype with a design range of 650 miles. Boeing showcased its personal air vehicle built by subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences and 12-rotor Cargo Air Vehicle capable of lifting 227kg and flying at 113km/h. Airbus had its Vahana single-seat electric prototype on display, and Voltaero and the team of Daher, Airbus, and Safran displayed hybrid electric propulsion concepts based on conventional aircraft.
Boom Supersonic founder and CEO Blake Scholl, joined on stage by Takeshi Morita, director, business creation strategy department at Japan Airlines – a strategic partner and investor in Boom – reviewed the company’s plans for rolling out XB-1, its two-seat supersonic demonstrator aircraft, in December 2019, with supersonic flight planned for 2020.
Scholl’s vision is building Overture, a supersonic commercial jet powered by eco-friendly fuel.
Spirit AeroSystems unveiled new production methods for carbon fiber composite materials that promise lower costs and higher production volumes for future aircraft components, demonstrated in its Advanced Structures Technology and Revolutionary Architectures (ASTRA) fuselage panel.
Spirit AeroSystems Senior Director of Research and Technology Eric Hein notes, “Our integrated sheet stringer, an internal fuselage support component, can be formed in place, eliminating many of the processes used today. This includes a separate stringer forming line and elimination of multiple tools.”
Seamless sheet stringer and skin provide smooth, continuous surfaces for attaching frames and other hardware. Weight savings are achieved by more efficient application of composite fiber tape placement. Non-vented bladder systems used in the aerostructures manufacturing process improve quality, and low-cost production tooling reduces overall new program costs.