Airbus doesn’t appear to be concerned at news that Boeing is planning to ‘adopt’ one of the engine types it is using on its new technology A320NEO family in order to claw back the lead the European consortium has taken in the high volume and highly lucrative single aisle airliner market.
According to Reuters, Boeing is studying a 737 MAX 10 version which would use a larger diameter CFM LEAP engine than it can fit on the rest of its ground hugging 737 line in order to head off the success of the A321 NEO, which at the highest end of the single aisle spectrum, is outselling the American jet by a ratio of four to one.
Asked at its annual Innovation Days briefings in Hamburg, if he was more ‘flattered than annoyed’ at the reports, the head of the Airbus A320 program Klaus Roewe said , “They are going to have to do a lot more than just use that engine to fill the gap.”
He said Boeing would have to invest significant money in lifting the struggling 737 MAX 9 higher off the ground to fit a wider and more efficient version of the engine under its wing than is currently possible.
It would also need the engine to wing connection redesigned to make it work, and it would destroy the commonality between the potential MAX 10 version and the three models of the 737 MAX family currently on offer.
Airbus also said in its progress report on the A320 NEO family that problems with the alternative Pratt & Whitney geared turbo-fan design would soon be resolved with its beginning to take deliveries of what Tom Williams, the consortium’ s Chief Operating Officer, described as “the good [Pratt & Whitney] engines”.
Problems with the first versions of that engine have seen the limited number of A320NEOs delivered to Lufthansa and India carrier Indigo, required to run the engines on the ground for up to four minutes before taxying to their take off point, with at times dire effects on scheduling and utilisation.
Airbus has at the moment been building A320 NEOs without engines pending the P & W problem being solved, and the alterative, the CFM LEAP engine completing its certification trials.
“We’ve been building [A320NEO] gliders since early in the year, Mr Williams said, “but by the first of summer we will be getting good engines, thank God. “
He said he was completely confident Airbus would double A320 family production rates to 60 units a month by 2019, even though there had been a procession of people to his office “telling me that this was contrary to the laws of physics and that the whole place will explode.”
Mr Williams said there were challenges in meeting a delivery target of 50A350-900s by the end of December with the ninth for the year just being taken by Cathay Pacific but was also confident of the outcome, with the medium term goal being ten a month by the end of 2018.
“Fifty deliveries this year is a huge step up on last year, but my sense of this is that we are looking good. “
The prototype of the larger model A350, the -1000, was on track for first flight in September of this year and entry into service in the second half of next year.
He said he expected A380 production to be stable at two a month until the growth in the need for large capacity jets led to more sales in the next decade, as well as the creation of new very large hub airports, as predicted by Airbus for some time.