PARIS -- During the Airbus concluding show press conference with CEO Tom Enders and COO Customers John Leahy, I posed the following question to press conference. Here's the interchange:
FlightBlogger: In the time period between 2017 when you have the A350-1000 entering service and the 2025-2030 A30X, what is your planned technology road map look like between those two aircraft?Enders: I think we have a very good technology road map, but we're not going to share the details for this road map. Let me just say we're working obviously on engine makers, we focus on the aerodynamics, we focus on wings we focus on flight management systems. And particularly we are focusing on reliability and maintainability of any new single aisle aircraft in the future, bringing the cost down for composites, all that kind of stuff. So that in broad brush is a very comprehensive, and not inexpensive [research and technology] roadmap for the future.FB: And does that imply that on some levels you guys are actually looking at an A330neo, based on the success you've had with the A320neo?Enders: [Laughing] That's a bright idea, why haven't we thought about that?Leahy: You've been talking to (AirAsia CEO) Tony Fernandes? That's one of his ideas.Enders: I think we have enough on our plate right now, thank you very much.
On a tactical level, the seemingly rapid decline in interest to pursue A350-800, also suffering a two year delay, would leave a hole in the Airbus product lineup to compete against Boeing's 787-9 and -10X. A re-engined A330-200 or -300 may offer significant range and fuel burn improvements as the long-range twin benefits from continuing evolution in engine technology on GEnx, Trent and PurePower engines later in the decade, while allowing for an aircraft to compete on cost with the comparatively low investment that preserves the customer base.
On a strategic level, the period between 2015 and 2025 fits within the Airbus methodology of incrementally evolving platforms to de-risk and improve aircraft of their life, as seen in the first part of Ender's answer about small changes in technology.
Applying Piepenbrock's Red-Blue, which we also know as Toward a Theory of the Evolution of Business Ecosystems, which balances maximum benefit at a given cost and minimum disruption, emphasizes incremental "red" developments rather than large "blue" step changes that have become more and more expensive to achieve with each successive iteration. As it is unfolding now, Airbus' is likely to see this lesson again up close with the leap in technology it's taking on the development of the clean sheet, majority composite A350.
An A330neo would follow the same strategic technology roadmap that saw the A320 become the A320neo and the A300 fuselage serve as the basis for the A310, A330 and A340, and initially the original A350 - a re-winged, re-engined A330. It might not be close at hand, but the A330neo is in Airbus's DNA.