Airbus believes that any all-new single-aisle replacement is unlikely to arrive before the very end of the next decade, but is playing its cards close to its chest as to how it aims to keep its existing A320 family competitive in the interim.
The European airframer and rival Boeing have progressively pushed back their service-entry forecast for their all-new narrowbodies, which a few years ago was expected by the second half of the next decade. Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy says he does not expect such an aircraft to become available before "2020".
In the meantime Airbus is evaluating a series of measures to improve its current single-aisle family, but does not yet feel pressured to respond to the threat of the Pratt & Whitney GTF geared turbofan-powered 110/130-seat Bombardier CSeries family, says Leahy: "The market speaks for itself. Despite an awful lot of pushing, Bombardier has had a resounding failure to sell the CSeries, so we're not overly concerned by it commercially."
Flight-testing is under way of the Aviation Partners-designed winglet on the A320 development aircraft, and Leahy says the target is to gain "about a 5%" performance improvement from the upgrade.
Airbus has just completed a flight-trial of the GTF demonstrator engine on its A340 flying testbed, but is still to evaluate the results before deciding on its next step. "We're interested in checking out the possibility of various new engine configurations and the GTF is one of them," says Airbus chief executive Tom Enders. "Either this month or next month we want to discuss the results with the management and then we'll see."
Leahy says that it is "hard to see" if a GTF-powered A320 would work in the marketplace as it would be a "mid-life update" rather than all-new. "It's a whole new engine, which would mean that changes would have to be made to the aircraft [to accommodate it]."
Industry sources say that while the GTF would fit under the wing of an A320, its greater weight would require a redesigned wingbox and strengthening.