July 2, 2021, ©. Leeham News: It’s time to start our aircraft project, where we discuss aircraft development from preliminary planning to fleet support and look at how the certification rules influence our work.
The first part of any aircraft project should focus on understanding the market your project will enter. Our project idea is to develop a Green aircraft for the 19 seat passenger market.
The first that must be done is to understand the market you want to compete in. A lot of this work can be done before a formal project starts as it requires little manpower and thus cost.
There is non-cost market research available and you can get access to market fleet databases for a reasonable fee that details how the market’s existing airliners are used.
To give an example of market research for the 19 seater market, we will use the research from Japan Aircraft Development Corporation, JADC. It’s one of the few independent commercial aircraft market research organizations. Most other available data are from the OEMs, like Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, ATR, etc.
JADC is unique in breaking out the below 19 seat market as its own segment in its market forecast, Figure 2.
The research says the market had 1196 aircraft in use World-Wide in 2019. The expected delivery of newly produced aircraft from 2020 to 2040 is 632 aircraft, whereas 130 aircraft operating during 2019 will remain in the market.
This means 32 new aircraft per year enter the market to replace used aircraft. As the market goes from 1,196 19 seaters to 762 by 2040, we are entering a shrinking market, according to JADC. We must also understand where these will be sold and delivered.
Is the market in North America or Europe? Or is the dominant sales in the booming Asian market? This is not detailed on a seat segment basis in the JADC presentation, just the total of the above seat ranges per region. It’s likely JADC has this data, but it could demand a fee for such detailed information.
With a market of 32 new aircraft delivered per year, it’s essential to understand what competition is there and how this will change until you enter the market some six to eight years down the line.
To get this understanding we need to list the main competitors and their sales and usage. Below is an incomplete list we put together for this series:
In production aircraft:
Out of production types with sizeable production runs and aircraft still in the market;
When we look at the list of aircraft in production we see that these are utility-oriented non-pressurized aircraft ((Twin Otter, Do228), and the airline-oriented pressurized ones are out of production (Beech 1900, Jetstream 31).
For a new entrant into the market, it necessary to understand why the market has this division. This is where databases with usage statistics can help.
As an example, let’s look at the Beech 1900. It was produced in 695 units where the non-standing room 1900C covered the years 1984 to 1992. This earlier version, with a cabin derived from the Beech King Air 200 cross-section, is now primarily used as a freighter, Figure 4. The stand-up 1900D is 58% in use as a regional airliner, on the other hand, produced between 1984 to 2002. So we definitely need a standing room cabin for this segment if we go for the commuter segment.
We must also understand how simple, boxy aircraft like CASA C-212 can have production runs of over 500 units, whereas the more well-known feeder type, Jetstream 31, only was produced in 386 units.
Are there learnings to be drawn from this? One conclusion is the utility and third world transport market is larger than the classical feeder line market in this segment, at least historically.
This type of research must be done at an early stage of an aircraft project, even before the formal project starts with its Pre-launch phase.
With an understanding of the market one aims to compete in, putting down what type of aircraft to develop is the next step.
The worst thing one can do as a project is design one’s pet idea of an aircraft and then search for a market for it. This ends in money lost and no aircraft sold most of the time.
We go through the following steps in an aircraft program in the next Corner when we construct an overall program plan.