The U.S. aircraft manufacturer’s latest commercial outlook spanning from 2020 to 2039, is rather sobering, particularly when it comes to orders of passenger jetliners in the near term for those airlines focusing on fleet renewals. From the mid-twenties onwards, the order book situation looks a little brighter as demand for new aircraft picks up again. Long term, Boeing forecasts that carriers will concentrate on building versatile fleets, with narrow body orders dominating. This is contrasted by a freighter demand that will thrive over the entire 20-year period.
Cargo aircraft have become Boeing’s ray of hope, following the debacle with B737 MAX, and the COVID-19 crisis leading to orders for new aircraft dropping to almost zero. In its latest forecast, the manufacturer expects the value of freighters to increase massively, predominantly driven by the growth from e-commerce and pharmaceuticals. This will drive new opportunities for air cargo, as only freighters can provide the security, speed, and safety needed to transport high-value and time-sensitive commodities to serve those market segments, its analysis reads. That said, Boeing forecasts that the air cargo market will grow at an annual average rate of 4%, primarily led by the robust markets in Far East. This will increase the demand for all-cargo aircraft, which is expected to grow from 2,010 freighters today, to 3,260 by 2039. Hence, 2,430 new or P2F converted freighters will be put into service, of which 930 units will be widebody freighters, and 1,500 passenger aircraft conversions.
Retro rather than Nouveau
Since last March, airlines' moves to cancel or delay the delivery of new jets in the face of the industry's crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, has forced Boeing to greatly reduce its production plans, at least for the next several years. As a consequence of this lack of orders for newly built passenger aircraft, Boeing intends to shift its focus to retrofits and replacements, because existing jetliners will tend to be phased out or given a longer lifespan. In this context, the company says nothing about the future of the B737 MAX, as the perspective of this troublesome plane is becoming increasingly uncertain. Boeing had continued to build this variant, its formerly best-selling jet, even after it was grounded in March 2019, following two fatal crashes that killed 346 people. It produced more than 400 jets which it was unable to deliver before halting production in January, in the face of continued delays in getting approval for it to fly again.
Struggling to shift the MAX, while Airbus grows
Now there is light at the end of the dark MAX tunnel for the recertification of the aircraft by the aviation authorities. The jet meets important safety requirements, Patrick Ky, the chief of the European Aviation Authority (EASA), told Bloomberg. The decision of the agency will most probably be published this November. Yet, even then, there is little to no market demand for the jetliner as global travel demand remains on at a low level.
Meanwhile, archrival Airbus is preparing for a production increase of its A320 family as of next summer. Suppliers can expect that A320 manufacturing numbers will rise from currently 40 to 47 per month, the manufacturer announced.
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