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John Leahy, Airbus COO Customers, April 5 showed just how confident Airbus is in its single aisle family. He said: “We see an open market of 12,000 Single Aisle aircraft by 2030. I expect to sell at least 6,000 neo which would be 50 percent.” Claiming that the NEO is so good, the company expects to sell A320s of all types (Legacy and NEO) to 2030.  This is quite remarkable because by 2030 it is generally believed that new designs will be ready to replace current single aisle airliners. Boeing has mentioned they might have something ready by 2020.

The 2030 period could see the A320 being produced for over 40 years.  Indeed, it would seem that with spending under $2bn Airbus virtually re-invents its successful A320.  Boeing might not be able to avoid doing a “re-engine” even though continued comment from the company indicates they are leaning towards a new design.  Such a project could run close to $10bn.

Mr Leahy mentioned that were Airbus to start with a clean sheet today, they would in all likelihood end with something that looks like an A320neo.  So they are confident this is the right decision.  He went on to say that he believes Boeing will end up doing a re-engine on the 737.  This echoes similar comments heard at the recent ISTAT conference.

The A320 design being much newer lends itself to the re-engine idea more easily than does the 737.  Mr Leahy noted that Boeing got the 737NG common-rated with the 737 Classic even though the NG was clearly a more than 50% new airplane.  Therefore the NEO, which is more than 90% common with the A320 is a great idea, he says – a pilot needs two hours of self training via a computer to switch from A320 to NEO.  Offering current customers a real easy upgrade path that ensures better performance over the next two decades.

Airbus says the A320neo is a “minimum change maximum benefit” for them. A 737RE looks good for Boeing too – certainly a lower risk, lower cost and exploits the existing customer base than an all new airplane. How will Seattle react?

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