Airbus concentrated heavily on the demand for passenger aircraft in its 2011-30 market forecast, but insisted that this did not indicate a lack of interest in the freighter market.

The European airframer estimated that 927 new-build freighters would be needed over the next 20 years - a figure which is broadly consistent with competitor Boeing's figure of 970.

Freighters barely warranted a mention in the detailed breakdown, but Airbus's head of market forecast, Chris Emerson, stressed there was "no change of focus" for the airframer.

Boeing 777f
A330-200F, ©Airbus
 © Top Boeing, bottom Airbus
Both Airbus and Boeing broadly agree on the requirement for new-build freighters over the next 20 years

The freight market's dynamics were different, he said, and the sector was a "more complex topic", which Airbus planned to address in a separate forecast.

Airbus's only new-build freighter, the A330-200F, has not sold well, compared with the Boeing 777F. The 777F has topped 100 orders, including 25 this year, against the A330F's total of 57.

Chief operating officer for customers John Leahy also gave the first formal indication that deeper problems have affected Airbus's efforts to start an A320 freighter conversion line in Russia.

He said the joint venture with Russian manufacturer Irkut "wasn't working out well" before it was dissolved, adding: "They hadn't sold many of the conversions."

Leahy said the A320 conversion scheme had been "put aside for a while", but added: "It doesn't mean we won't be back in the single-aisle freight market in the future."

Some 10,500 of the 26,900 new passenger aircraft deliveries over the forecast period will go towards replacing current airframes.

Airbus expects nearly 2,200 of those replaced aircraft to be subsequently converted to freighters, while just over 1,400 current freighters will be among the 9,700 airframes permanently retired by 2030.

Source: Flight International