Airbus aims to crush CSeries with A320 'NEO'

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Airbus aims destroy the business case of the Bombardier CSeries with its proposed A320 'new engine option' (NEO), but will not make fundamental changes to the twinjet other than adopting advanced turbofans.

Speaking at an event at its Broughton, UK plant, the airframer's executive vice-president for programmes, Tom Williams, recognised the threat of emerging competition from Bombardier, China and Russia, but made it clear that he saw the 110- to 149-seat CSeries as the greatest danger to its single-aisle family.

Although the size of the Canadian twinjet pitches it more directly at the 100- to 130-seat A318/319 models, Williams says that Airbus "must not be complacent and sit back" assuming Bombardier is "just going to attack" smaller A320 variants.

"Once they've establish a beachhead, I'd imagine they'd want to roll-up the rest of the products," he says.

Williams says Airbus will react "very strongly" to the threat to ensure Bombardier is not able to build a significant market penetration: "That's what we're doing with our re-engining programme. We'd bring an aircraft with a lot more capacity, a lot more range and exactly the same economics, so there will be no business case left for the CSeries."

He says that Airbus is evaluating the CFM International Leap-X and Pratt & Whitney's geared turbofan, which would be offered as optional powerplants on the proposed A320 NEO.

As it works to finalise the business case for the proposed re-engining - with the target of a decision by year-end - Williams says that Airbus must avoid succumbing to the temptation of introducing a raft of other upgrades to the A320 as it would threaten the 2015 service-entry target and risk missing the "window of market opportunity" ahead of an all-new single aisle arriving around 2025.