Boeing has made some significant revisions to its long-term forecast philosophy this year, which has resulted in a downward shift in the number of aircraft needed for growth and a lower demand expectation for regional jets.

This year's Current Market Outlook (CMO) forecasts demand for 29,390 new airliners over the next 20 years (2008-27) worth $3,200 billion, a 3% increase in units over the 2007 CMO. However, Boeing expects environmental and fuel price pressures to take a greater toll on the in-service fleet, meaning that significantly more aircraft will be retired over the 20-year period than previously forecast. This results in the proportion of new aircraft being used as replacements increasing from 36% to 43% (or from 29% to 35% of total fleet), and the overall size of the world fleet at the end of 20 years being slightly smaller than predicted last year (35,800 versus 36,400). "Most of these [retired aircraft] will come out in the first 10 years of the forecast," says Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice-president marketing, Randy Tinseth.

"Upgauging" is another factor that will come into play, says Tinseth, with larger aircraft replacing smaller ones. "This means that we have fewer airplanes carrying more passengers on the growth side, so we see a slightly smaller 'growth fleet', even though the growth rates are approximately the same as last year."

Boeing's forecast for the number of aircraft that will cover market growth has declined by 7% on last year's forecast to 16,900.

The "upgauging" has also prompted a major rethink of Boeing's regional jet forecast and has declined from 3,700 deliveries in last year's CMO to 2,500 this year. Tinseth predicts that the regional jet fleet will "shrink" from 17% of the overall market (3,160 aircraft) today to 7% (2,630 aircraft) in 2027. Meanwhile, both the single-aisle and twin-aisle market will more than double in size over the next 20 years.

"We see some changes in the distribution of flights because of the pressures of infrastructure, high fuel costs and environmental issues, meaning that 50- and 70-seat regional jets will become a less significant part of the market."

For the long-term forecast, Boeing assumes that the fuel price will continue to be "high and volatile in the next two to three years, but will moderate over time and be priced more at the marginal rate of production - ie $70-80 a barrel".

Source: Flight International