By Scott Hamilton
Jan. 18, 2023, © Leeham News: Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer has been open: it is a matter of “when,” not “if” Airbus proceeds with a stretched A220-500.
A220-500. Credit: Leeham News.
The A220-500 would be the third member of the A220 family. The A220-100 is a 110-seat airplane in a typical two-class configuration. The A220-300 seats 135 passengers. The A220-500 would seat around 157, competing head-on with the Airbus A320neo at 152 and the Boeing 737-8 at 164.
The -500 was projected by Bombardier as the CS500. Bombardier focused its commercial aviation future on the C Series. In doing so, it neglected sales efforts on the CRJ and Q400 regional jet and turboprop. Development of the C Series, like programs at Airbus and Boeing, ran billions of dollars over budget. Developed concurrently with two corporate jet programs that also ran well over budget, Bombardier was on a path toward bankruptcy.
Airbus purchased a controlling interest in the CSeries program in 2017 and now owns 75% of the program. But so far, Airbus hasn’t stemmed the losses that began under Bombardier. Without the heft of Airbus’ buying power, Bombardier entered costly contracts with suppliers. Airbus has been renegotiating the contracts, with some success, but not enough. Ramping production up to 14 a month by 2025 from the current 6/mo is a key goal. Demand is there and the higher rate will lower costs.
But the A220-500 will compete with Airbus’ own A320neo. So, the plan to launch the A220-500 has this cloud over the decision.
Some believe that the A220-500 will be so much more efficient than the 737-8 that it will “kill” Boeing’s backbone airplane. LNA doesn’t agree.
This article is the first of three that analyzes the A220’s position in the market and the economics of a potential A220-500 vis-à-vis the A320neo and 737-8 MAX.