March 3, 2023, ©. Leeham News: We started a series last week that will look at what environmental and air traffic economy improvements we can get with traditional aeronautical technology developments.
Before we look at technology, we must define what air transport market has the highest impact from changes. Useful technology developments are not necessarily the same for Regional, Narrowbody, or Widebody aircraft.
When analyzing what new technology can bring in fuel consumption reduction, and thus Green-House-Gas (GHG) reduction, we must understand what market and type of aircraft brings the best return from investments.
In Figure 1, we look at the situation in 2019. How many flights were done at different range buckets, and what aircraft types flew these? The data is Available-Seat-Kilometers, ASK, i.e., how many flight seats were flying a specific range interval during a year.
We use the data from the well-respected JADC (Japan Aircraft Development Corporation) market surveys. We like to use these as they are of high quality and unaffiliated with any aircraft OEM. The OEMs also do and publicize this type of market research, but if independent research is available, we prefer it over OEM data.
We see that narrowbody ASK in the 1,000 to 2,000km (550 to 1100nm) range is up to six times higher in ASK than wideboy buckets where the distribution is around 200bn ASK from 6,000km and up to 10,000km (3,200 to 5,400nm).
We also see that regional and turboprop traffic is virtually nowhere regarding ASKs compared with the other types.
This is a yearly glimpse just before the Pandemic. How does it look going forward?
Figure 2 shows the expected new deliveries of different aircraft types during the next 20 years, from 2022 to 2041.
The dominant sector is Narrowbodies 171 to 230 seats, i.e., the market where Airbus A321 and Boeing MAX 10 represent the major share. The Narrowbodies deliveries outnumber the Wideboy deliveries by 3.5 times in this period.
Though Widebodies have more seats, their seating is not proportional to the aircraft’s increased size. The Widebody long-range seating takes more space, so fewer passengers are housed per square foot or meter in the plane. The differences are significant.
A typical A321neo that flies up to six-hour flights has around 200 seats for new deliveries. The Boeing 787-9 or Airbus A330-900 have about 290 seats, an increase of 45%. But should we equip these with the typical domestic seating of the A321/MAX 10, they would have 350 seats or 175% more.
We will focus our technology discussions on the segment described as Narrowbodies, and there, aircraft with 170 seats and up. It’s where technology changes will bring the most, both in term of GHG reductions and improvement in operating costs and, therefore, airfares. It doesn’t mean we will not look at twin-aisle aircraft for this segment. Is a single-aisle plane still the best choice when we pass 200 seats or is a small Widebody then a better plane? We will see.