Andrzej Jeziorski/SINGAPORE


Airbus Industrie is predicting that Asia's airlines will order 4,300 passenger aircraft worth $450 billion over the next two decades as the Far East renews its economic growth. Adam Brown, Airbus vice-president, forecasting and strategic planning, says signs of recovery in the Asia-Pacific market will appear by the second half of this year, with full regional and domestic recovery expected by 2001.

US rival Boeing predicts an Asia-Pacific market for 4,508 aircraft, valued at $417 billion, over the same period, and says it expects a full recovery in the region only by about 2003 - although it agrees that the area will be "the leading market for new aeroplanes".

Airbus expects Asian fleet renewal and growth to account for about a quarter of forecast world demand. "We predict that the 52 largest airlines in the region will lead the world in terms of overall growth in capacity in the next 20 years, to the point where they will be flying as many seats as the airlines of Europe by 2018," says Brown.

Of the 4,300 total, he adds, a projected increase in seating demand from 442,000 to 1.22 million will require 2,400 new aircraft, while replacements will be required for most of the 1,900 aircraft in service with Asia-Pacific carriers.

Airbus predicts that Asia-Pacific passenger traffic will grow by an average 6.1% a year over the next two decades - a more downbeat forecast than a year ago, when the estimate was 6.5%, but still above the forecast global average of 5%.

Boeing believes regional growth will average 6.3%, with China growing at 9.3% per annum. The Chinese aircraft market alone should be worth $119 billion up to 2018, says the US aircraft builder.

Airbus says average aircraft size in the region - 234 seats at the end of 1998, compared with 180 globally - will rise to 283 seats by 2018. The manufacturer says long-range A340 demand will be especially strong, with the aircraft "uniquely placed to develop new non-stop transpacific and transpolar services -without the restrictions applicable to twin engine types".

Brown says Asia-Pacific will remain the main driver behind development of the planned 480/650-seat A3XX family, with a regional requirement for over 660 aircraft "larger than anything flying today" up to 2018 - representing a little over half the anticipated global market for the period. Eight of the top 10 large aircraft routes expected in 2018 will be to Asia-Pacific destinations, says Airbus.

Source: Flight International