August 2012

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(R)eady (S)et Go!

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One largely unreported story from Dubai is beginning to gain a bit of clarity:

Green aircraft to replace 737
By Ivan Gale, Staff Reporter

In the next 18 months, Boeing expects to arrive at a design template for the 737 replacement, with "notional entry into service" around the middle of the next decade.

"The technology to create an airplane that could economically obsolete the 737 and Airbus 320 class of airplanes looks to us to be around 2015, give or take," Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Scott Carson told Gulf News.

So how much business is at stake over the next twenty years in the single aisle market? Both Airbus and Boeing agree that there is no less than $1 trillion available between now and 2026. If you average delivery forecast from both manufacturers you have more than 16,000 new single aisle aircraft rolling off the assembly lines in the next two decades.

However, for the first time in a long time, this $1 trillion single aisle market likely won't be split between between just the two manufacturers. The market will be a crowded one with a Canadian offering in the Bombardier C-Series, which has made no secret of its desire to get in on the replacement market. With plans firming up for a 2013 EIS, the Bombardier aircraft could potentially be a force in the market if the launch comes together after its initially hesitant start. Embraer has also indicated its interest in throwing its own hat in the ring, however, structurally the launch of a new product range wouldn't be happening until the middle of the next decade well after both American and European plans have gained clarity.

Look for Airbus and Boeing try to preserve their duopoly on this market by partnering with other manufacturers of create a dedicated product.

Ultimately, if a 2015 EIS firms up for 737RS, then a flight test program would coincide with flight testing of the A350-1000 in 2014. This timeline puts Airbus in a corner by trying to gain certification on two entirely new products within eighteen to twenty four months of one another. Airbus won't be able to benefit from the eight years of composite experience Boeing is set to gain between 787 and 737RS production. If the development of the A350 is any guide, the A320 replacement absolutely cannot be a warmed over version with new engines. This is one market that Airbus does not have the luxury to wait on with a solid offering.

If nothing else, 2008 and 2009 will provide answers to a lot of questions about the future of the single aisle market. This battle has barley just begun.

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