Suppliers can call it “crazy” to even discuss right now (and they have a point), but it is inevitable: single-aisle production rates for Airbus and Boeing will continue to grow.
By 2021, it now seems assured that the combined output of A320s and 737s will rise to six new aircraft every working day, or 126 aircraft per month. Both jets may be single-aisles, but they are not small aircraft. Such a delivery rate in the narrowbody market category implies an industrial effort never seen before in the jet age.
And that does not count the output of similarly-sized aircraft from new entrants, such as Comac and Irkut.
It seems like a bad time to raise the idea of a further rate increase. Spirit AeroSystems is behind schedule on shipping 737 fuselages to Boeing, and engine suppliers CFM International and Pratt & Whitney are, for different reasons, struggling to keep production on track.
That explains why some suppliers’ chiefs, such as Safran boss Philippe Petitcolin, want to tap the brakes – at least for another few months.
Boeing’s official production rate for the 737 is currently 47 per month, after increasing output from 42 last year. But Renton’s three final assembly lines delivered only 132 aircraft in the first quarter – an average rate of 44 per month. Airbus’ official target for A320 production is currently 50 per month, but it delivered aircraft at an average monthly rate of 40 up to 31 March, or 121 in total.
The industry is growing, but it is clear that it is not immune from the associated pains. However, the outlook remains bright. The supplier shortages and technical glitches are being managed and, if the big two are believed, could become merely a painful memory after the third quarter. Demand for single-aisle aircraft remains strong.
Although a combined 253 single-aisles were delivered in the first quarter, 208 total new orders for 737s or A320-family aircraft were added, during what is typically a weak period for demand. The combined backlog for both product lines stood at a huge 9,730 aircraft at the end of March. As “crazy” as it sounds to increase production at this moment, sitting on such a backlog may be an even stranger response.
But there are costs. Airbus reportedly has dropped plans to develop an “A322neo”. Boeing has pushed back the arrival of any New Mid-market Airplane. To meet the world’s insatiable appetite for single-aisle aircraft, the focus on any other product must suffer.
Source: Flight International