Industry news out today trumpets a potential delivery shortfall by Airbus on their A320neo program, aiming specifically at those powered by the Pratt & Whitney GTF.  While the story doesn’t say anything about the source – we have reason to surmise the source is from India.  This is no surprise as India is the largest area of A320neo operations. Moreover, Indian airlines have been vocal in their complaints about aircraft.  Whether it was Air India and the 787, or the newer LCCs and their A320neos.  It’s just how they roll.

Perhaps it would help industry observers to take a look back, seven years ago, when then Airbus sales boss John Leahy presented the A320neo to the aviation industry media.  We videoed his presentation which was nearly 45 minutes.  It is a long one, but it provides a level of context people are forgetting about today.

The key takeaway here is that the A320neo has sold far better than even John Leahy hoped it would.  The engine makers built their own plans around the same numbers John Leahy had at the start of the program.   Industry demand for more of these aircraft caught everyone by surprise – the oil price spike added considerably to the momentum.

The pressure to deliver engines to match A320neo production was steep and grew steeper. Much steeper.  Demand exceeded supply from the start.  The engine makers were bringing cutting-edge technologies to the market.  The history of new aero engines has seen technology challenges time and again.  The push for improved fuel burn and lower noise requires a lot of specialized engineering.  People may have forgotten the engine challenges when the 747 first came out.  What is happening with the A320neo program is nothing new.

John Leahy (15.30) in the video speaks about the crucial role engines bring to the program.  Have the engine makes covered themselves in glory? No. But they are charting new waters with these new engines. It would be naive to think the development of these new engines was going to be without hiccups.

The context to the possible delivery shortfall is that both engine markers on the A320neo program have been scrambling to deliver engines. Even Boeing’s MAX program has some “gliders” waiting for engines.  The delivery delays should not be a surprise – or even news.  The engine makers are struggling mightily to get their new technology solutions on the wing as fast as they can.  Their efforts have not been perfect.  But they have been doing a pretty good job, for example, when the engines are flying, they are delivering the substantial performance improvements promised. The current slower deliveries are not a shock.  The engine technology updates needed should also not be a surprise.

 

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