World airliner census

200th EasyJet A320 Flybe Q400
 © Airbus
EasyJet's A320 fleet hit the 200 mark in May (left); and Flybe (right) flies 54 of the in-service Bombardier Dash 8/Q Series aircraft


Former Soviet types continued to dwindle from the global operating airliner population in 2011, as some 500 net airframes from the major Western manufacturers pushed up the overall world fleet by 1.7% to 25,783 aircraft.

Our annual worldwide airliner census starkly illustrated the difference between the two camps, as deliveries of 1,176 primarily Western-built types eclipsed the paltry contribution of just six airframes from the former Soviet states.

That contrasted with the retirement of over 120 ageing Russian and Ukrainian-built types - seven times the rate of their Western counterparts. Flightglobal's figures, compiled from its ACAS database, indicate that the Tupolev Tu-154 and Yakovlev Yak-40 fleets, in particular, have been whittled back heavily. But this pace is likely to increase, as Boeing and Airbus aircraft continue to replenish carriers' fleets in Russia and the CIS countries, while tighter ­internal Russian legislation appears set to speed the withdrawal of other mainstay types, including the Tupolev Tu-134 and certain ­Antonov turboprops.

Although the Sukhoi Superjet 100 and Antonov An-148 programmes have started generating serially-built aircraft and deliveries to customers, both remain at single-figure levels.

Despite the efforts of the Russian government to stir interest in domestic production, there is uncertainty over the prospects for the Tupolev Tu-204SM, while the Irkut MS-21 will not appear at least until 2014.

The number of idle Western jet aircraft retreated slightly in 2011, to about 2,900, but is yet to return to the levels seen before the 2008-09 economic crisis. With IATA figures pegging the price of jet fuel at $130 per barrel at the end of July - up by more than 50% on the level a year ago - less-efficient types appear unlikely to return to revenue service, especially given the parting-out of even relatively young aircraft.


Higher fuel prices, with less optimism over prospects of returning to sub-$100 levels, have driven interest in next-generation aircraft - notably the Airbus A320neo and re-engined Boeing 737 - on top of an underlying demand for both manufacturers' current lines.

By the end of July, Airbus had raised its backlog to more than 4,000 - a record for the airframer - after securing gross orders for 922 jets in the first seven months of 2011, buoyed by the strong interest in the A320neo. Boeing had listed a gross order total of 345 aircraft, including 244 737s, even without the benefit of being able to offer a modernised model.

Airbus and Boeing have each raised production rate targets to 42 aircraft per month with the potential of further increases, and fewer permanent retirements - the figure for Western-built types is down by 15%, at 323 - is further evidence of an increased capacity demand and gradual recovery from the depths of the downturn.

Korean Airlines A380
© Airbus
Airbus jets account for about a quarter of the global fleet, or nearly 6,000 aircraft, including this Korean Air A380 handed over in May


North America's mature air transport market means the Americas overall account for 39% of the global fleet, with nearly 10,100 aircraft between the continents. The similarly-mature European market has a 29% share.

But in terms of regional development, unsurprisingly the Asian continent continues to emerge as a powerful market, accounting - along with Australasia and the Middle East - for more than 25% of the world fleet, close to 6,600 aircraft. The growth in the Asia-Pacific arena is reflected in the order backlog, where the region dominates the figures, where its demand for 3,543 aircraft accounts for over 50% of the total - more than double that of Europe and the Americas, which have 21% and 23% respectively.

The regional backlog split between the two main airframers favours Airbus in Asia, but Boeing in the Americas.


Boeing's 737 family remains the most popular fleet, if all variants are included, with close to 5,000 aircraft across the globe. But the Airbus A320 family, with 4,390 aircraft, retains its top position - if the later-variant 737s, from the -600 upwards, are listed separately.

The older 737 'Classic' variants have fallen in number by nearly 2%, to fewer than 1,500, while their newer counterparts are approaching 3,500 with a 5.3% increase - a cut above that of the A320's 4.6%.

The US airframer dominates the overall Western fleet figures, with more than 10,000 aircraft - some 42% of the global total - although its total has fallen slightly, while Airbus experienced a marginal gain as its share approached 25%.

There was a strong rise in the Airbus A330 population to 6.3% - 765 aircraft, the twinjet demonstrating a continued popularity among operators. There was a 4% increase in the Boeing 777 fleet, to 928, and even the 767 - still being ordered by carriers as well as the US Air Force - saw a 1.8% rise to 840 airframes.

Between the 777 and 767, in fifth place, the 757 fleet of nearly 900 aircraft showed a slight rise as parked aircraft became active. It is also a market being vigorously ­pursued by Airbus with its A321neo - as ­illustrated by American Airlines' order for 130 in July.

Types falling out of favour included the Boeing MD-80, whose age and inability to match other twinjets' fuel performance are hastening its removal, while the in-service A340 fleet has also reduced to 332.

Turboprops headed the regional aircraft fleets of the 2011 census, with the Bombardier Q-series population increasing by 4.2% to 839, while the rival ATR 42 and 72 trailed with 776, up by 2.9%.

The increase in the turboprop fleets contrasted with the developments of the 50-seat jet sector, as the Embraer ERJ series declined by 1.9% to 766 - nevertheless holding third place in the ranking - and the 50-seat Bombardier CRJ fleet stayed largely flat. Fuel prices and poor yields have caused operators to turn away from 50-seat jets, and the preference for larger 70- to 90-seat jets is reflected in the census data, which shows a strong 6.2% rise in the Embraer E-Jet fleet, to 723 aircraft, and a more modest - but still positive - increase for the Bombardier CRJ700 and CRJ900.

Bombardier's regional jet population is lower than Embraer's, but its turboprop business enables the Canadian airframer to hold third place in the overall ranking for Western-built airframes, with 2,656 aircraft, with Brazil's Embraer in fourth with 1,764.

Flight International 16 August2011

Already 25,000-plus aircraft strong, the global commercial fleet edged up 1.7% over the past year, with the dominance of Airbus and Boeing sustained by rising narrowbody deliveries. In our annual world airliner census, we list all of the aircraft types in service, by operator and region.

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Free download: World airliner census 2011

World airliner census 2011