ANALYSIS: How narrowbody sector is set for more competition

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Analyst Rob Morris outlines Ascend’s long-term forecast, which projects increased competition in the narrowbody sector

Single-aisle airliners dominate the latest Flightglobal Fleet Forecast, but the usual suspects are not predicted to have it all their own way. The report, which covers the 20-year period from 2013 to 2032, has been produced by Flightglobal’s advisory arm Ascend.

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More than 60% of the 34,450 new commercial aircraft forecast for delivery to cargo and passenger airlines will be single-aisles. The Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families will continue to dominate the market for the next 20 years, as they have the last two decades. Through the next 20 years, the two aircraft manufacturers’ narowbody families will account for more than 18,200 deliveries (85% of the total single-aisle market), worth an estimated $940 billion (at 2013 values).

But Ascend predicts Bombardier, COMAC and Irkut will all make their mark as the sector’s competitive landscape evolves. Their respective CSeries, C919 and MC-21 programmes are forecast to deliver more than 3,200 aircraft at a value of around $150 billion.

Although their global market share is expected to be relatively small, the impact of the emerging programmes remains significant. They are expected to drive the incumbent OEMs to seek continued efficiencies for their current and future programmes in order to protect their market share.

The shape of the competitive scenario towards the end of the forecast period is increasingly uncertain. Although the A320neo and 737 Max are predicted to remain in production through 2032 in the base scenario, there is potential for all-new single-aisle programmes from either or both OEMs, which would replace their production.

The pace of development of a new single-aisle will be driven by fuel price evolution and the pace of new engine technology development. Substantial uncertainty surrounds both of these drivers. There is a risk that some element of deliveries forecast towards the end of the period, which average in excess of 1,000 aircraft annually between the two programmes, could be for one or more new aircraft type(s).

By the end of the forecast period in 2032, around 24,400 single-aisle passenger aircraft are ­predicted to be in service. Again the A320 and 737 families are ­expected to remain dominant with around 87% of the installed base to be variants of these two aircraft types.

Although the newer variants – the A320neo and 737 Max – are likely to represent the majority of these aircraft in service, there are still predicted to be more than 7,000 of the current generation A320ceo and 737NG variants remaining in service 20 years from now.

By contrast, the earlier 737 Classic family is expected to be almost completely removed from passenger service, although around 200 aircraft are forecast to remain in service in their converted freighter role.

The A320 P2F cargo conversion programme is also expected to be revived and around 150 A320 and A321 aircraft converted to freighters through the forecast period. A 737NG conversion programme is also likely to replace the current successful 737 Classic programme. Twice as many NG conversions are projected as current operators of 737 Classic freighters are expected to prefer the Boeing product.

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The Flightglobal Fleet Forecast is the product of a model developed by Ascend. It leverages more than 60 years of combined industry experience and expertise, allied with Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database resource, to deliver a deep insight into the future outlook for the commercial aviation industry.

The forecast uses a demand-based model which estimates future fleet, retirements and deliveries of commercial turboprop and jet aircraft in the passenger and cargo sectors. This is based on a detailed analysis of historical trends and developments across the whole market.

More on our forecast report and download a summary here