Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury believes that step-change production, design and propulsion technologies will converge in just over a decade to trigger the introduction of an all-new single-aisle airliner.
"I would consider the launch of a [single-aisle] programme in the second half of the next decade and entry into service in the early 2030s," said Faury at the Dubai air show.
"We are at a point of time where we see a number of major changes impacting aviation, and they will probably impact the single-aisle business first."
Automation of the production system is a key enabler, says Faury. "We are all working on this. We see [production] 'robot-isation' at the scale of those products close to being mature."
He says the next-generation airliner will have to be "DDMS" [digital design, manufacturing and services]: that is, full design, manufacturing and services in one digital backbone. This is not ready yet – not before the beginning or middle of the next decade."
Faury says another key enabler is the expansion of digital capabilities: "We want the next plane to be a digital native – the 'millennial' of the plane."
But "decarbonisation" is the biggest enabler for an all-new programme, he says.
"We are working with many partners to anticipate and prepare the technologies and propulsion systems of the future. It will be worth launching the development of a new single-aisle only when we have a combination of those technologies that make sense."
Faury says the aviation industry's commitment to the ICAO's global carbon offset scheme, CORSIA, that emissions will stabilise by 2035, despite the industry's growth, is feasible. "The big reduction will come from 2035 onwards because we see the entry into service of very new technologies on propulsion systems at scale in the early 2030s."