The recent moves by Airbus and Boeing away from all-new programs signify a distinct trend – new airplane designs are very expensive and complicated. They are high-risk projects that are better avoided until technologies offer much greater deltas between the current and potential economics. The A380, 787, and CSeries delay experiences created a perception of increased risk, the reality is that engine technology drives aircraft economics, and that capital costs are increasingly important to airlines in today’s environment.
That is why we see the A330neo, the A320neo from Airbus, the E2 from Embraer, the 737MAX and the 747-8 and 777X (that are really 747MAX and 777MAX) from Boeing. Tweaking basic designs offers much lower risk and the potential to still significantly improve economics. Airlines clamored for winglets and these only provided between 3-5% better economics. The re-engined and re-winged aircraft (neo & MAX) offer double digit improvements. Orders have flowed in as airlines endorse the low risk solutions.