Pontifications: Only time will tell

By Scott Hamilton

June 20, 2023, © Leeham News: Here at the Paris Air Show in what is the first normalized show after the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic, the sense of excitement is almost tangible.

There are predictions by some that when this week is over, more than 2,000 commercial airplane orders could be announced. This would match the heyday of orders in the 2010 decade.

Clearly, there is pent-up demand for new airplanes. Aging aircraft are part of the reason. A push toward more fuel efficient, and therefore more environmentally friendly airplanes is another reason. Full order positions, dating to 2026 for the Boeing 737 and to 2029 for the Airbus A320 is prompting some orders to “get in line.” Even widebody aircraft delivery slots are sold out for the next several years. So is the Airbus A220.

Embraer pulls up the rear with its E-Jet E2. Sales are hampered because the E-Jet family serves a shrinking market, the regional airlines. But Embraer, too, has had a flurry of recent orders.

Airbus and Boeing are talking openly about the next new airplane—Boeing more openly than Airbus. Their confidence is clear.

Alternative energy also takes a front seat at the show. Fuels, batteries, UAMs, eVTOLs, and more vie for attention.

Cautionary notes

To be sure, there are a number of cautionary notes being sounded. Number one is the inability of the supply chain to support demand. Labor, parts and production shortages plague the supply chain all the way down to the Tier 3, 4 and 5 companies. All it takes is the weakest link to break the chain and production can ground to a halt. These are residuals from the pandemic.

Achieving the lofty goal of net zero carbon by 2050, with some ambitious milestones in between, are challenging. Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) remains expensive, feedstock is a problem, production is in its infancy and costs are high. Hydrogen is similarly constrained, coupled with the need for entirely new infrastructure on top.

Some skepticism

It is, of course, the talk about new airplanes that tickles the fancy. But even here, a note of skepticism is in order.

Stan Deal, the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, gave the strongest indication Sunday that Boeing is moving down the path toward its next new airplane in the form of the Transonic Truss Braced Wing (TTBW) design. David Calhoun, the CEO of The Boeing Co., in November and again last month pointed in this direction. But this remains a research project with NASA as Boeing and NASA convert an out0of-production MD-90 into a demonstrator project. This plane is due to fly in 2028.

Deal said Boeing is talking to CFM International, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce about an engine for the TTBW. He also said that at this time, customers indicate they’d like a choice of engines. CFM is pursuing the Open Fan RISE engine. PW and RR are pursuing conventional engines. If their claims are taken at face value, the Open Fan will have about a 5% fuel burn advantage over the other two. But the Open Fan technology still has its doubters.

Boeing historically, and famously, always works on parallel projects in case one doesn’t pan out. But nothing has been said by officials about a parallel conventional design. LNA doesn’t doubt there is such a project, however.

So, what will be the outcome? Only time will tell.

Airbus’ developments

Airbus officials are open that they are developing new wing concepts (plural) and already have demonstrators on small aircraft. But they are coy about what these might go on. Publicly, their focus is on a hydrogen-powered airliner with a 2035 entry into service target date. But this will be a niche airplane, not a mass-produced aircraft that can succeed the A320neo and the Boeing 737 MAX. So, from this standpoint, the H2 aircraft is not a broad-based Next Airbus Airplane.

Officials have been public about a stretched version of the A220. Commonly called the A220-500, which may not be the final name, officials say it’s when, not if, this airplane arrives. They did say it won’t be at this week’s air show, however.

But what will the plane be? Will it be a “simple stretch,” trading range for more capacity like the Boeing 7270-200 (standard) and 737-900 (standard)? This would have a revised engine, but not a new one. Or will it be something with a new wing and a new PW GTF engine and a choice with the CFM LEAP? Within Airbus, opinions are split.

What will be the answer? Only time will tell.

And so it goes with each new aircraft concept. There’s lots of excitement. But what will be real and what will fade by the wayside?

Only time will tell.

58 Comments on “Pontifications: Only time will tell

  1. Bit difficult to see how the order tally at the PAS could hit 2000.
    Who’s going to be ordering the other 1500, after IndiGo’s 500 units yesterday?

    Viva Aerobus (Mexico) apparently has an order for 100 A320 neos in the pipeline for announcement during the show, but who else?

    Turkish has said that its order (600 units) will be delayed by two months.
    Riyadh is similarly holding off on a narrowbody order of 150 units, preferring instead to “focus on enhancing the airline’s future network”.
    Emirates appears to be in no particular hurry with a new order…and it probably won’t be more than 50-100 units.
    Delta may place an order for widebodies, but that will hardly exceed 100.

    Any other candidates?





  2. For Airbus to get the cost in line from suppliers on the A220 they need a new version to force all suppliers to the table. Most likely PWA will be one engine option and either RR or GE the other. They need trans continental range and 20-30 more pax that sounds like a new wing that might go onto the A220-300 as well. Still is a 180 seat single class aircraft too small or should they open more A321XLR Final Assembly Lines where the market is?

    • They need to reduce costs not increase them with a new wing and a second engine option for A220.
      No plane needs a new wing after a dozen years in service for only 5 extra seat rows. Consider that it’s potential was considered right back during preliminary design process.
      I think we can rule that path out completely

      • The present carbon wing is not cost optimal, hence lots of parts will be replaced to cheaper ones if they decide to go ahead with the robotic built MD-80 of the 2030’s…

        • Plus: a new wing could be produced in-house, thus reducing reliance on Spirit in Belfast.

          • The UK government has put money into that one so not that easy to replace, but Belfast can with Airbus help get the right robots lined up and produce the new one as well if the UK puts more money into it. One can wonder if not Dassault could be the new Airbus wing design/production robotic center placed at each FAL. Lots of old ties in Germany, UK and Spain has to be uprooted for that to happen.

          • Replacing the A220 wing is a hoot. A very optimized wing (aerodynamic wise) AND lock in agreements on production in return for risk sharing with Spirit going into the build and risks and costs

            Yes they will clean up any efficiency of build but they sure are not replacing it.

          • What cheaper and faster ?

            Any WoT would be based on the type of carbon fibre production process pioneered/patented at Shorts Belfast
            Dry fibre placement and then resin infusion instead of the old style pre-preg used by others

            As it said its a non starter to design certify and industrialise a different wing for a few extra rows, the wing already near max span for the C gates.
            Did they build a new wing for the XLR ….. even with 500 orders before production. Point proved

      • I go with Duke fully on this one.

        The now A220 is an oddball fit and more so for Airbus than Boeing who has MAX, 767, 777CEO and 777X and the 787 all with some differences and in the case of MAX and 767, huge differences. The C Series would have slotted in with Boeing in that regard in lack of commonality.

        There is also a question of its market. The LCA market keeps moving up and the question becomes, if the A320 is not going to be a mainstay of the future, the A220 is going to be limited production with the heavy production being the A321.

        Airbus in turn looses scale with lower A220 sales and the assumption the A320 diminishes.

        And what engine mfg is going to throw their hat into that ring with a new engine? RR does not have anything in the arena, LEAP is too big and only PW plays.

        PW will get its problems cleaned up and then you try to break into a 100% PW market? Airbus was frankly lucky PW came out with the GTF as the V2500 was not going to be replaced.

        So is Airbus going to dump a lot of money into the A220 when they have not even achieved break even? I don’t think so.

        PW had a unique opportunity to get into 3 programs with the GTF (4 with the defunct MC-21). The GTF scaled and they built the various sizes into the operation from the start.

        Dumbing down a LEAP? I don’t see it. CFM has 100% of the MAX market, it has something around the A320 series market and it has the residual of whatever production number the C919 has (well maybe, Chinese engine on the way and then dump LEAP).

        C919 is not remotely a commercial program, its a full on Government program with other goals (not realistic but that never stopped programs like that).

        Any supplier to the C919 has to be looking at getting cut out at any time and its not much of a market with its strung out history and low build numbers into the future. Why would any mfg put any upgrade time into any of the parts or systems? It goes one of two ways, China replaces them or they get low numbers.

        The A380 was not founded on any commercial principles, it was a Ego project. Boeing response with the 747-8 was the same.

        Much like the A220 market. Airbus will have some success there but I don’t see two aircraft in that segment.

        • Hahaha. Both 787 and 777x are profitable commercial programs! I kid you not. 🤣

          Bet Larry knows much better than our poster here.

    • @Claes

      I think the trick is to get to just under 150 seats in a two class configuration.

      It will keep the stew count to three.

      • So it has to be stretched like by three row and over 100″. Is it doable? What’s the range (w/o aux. tank)? Should/(Can) AB go for 160 seat like 737-800 (e.g. DAL)?

        • Something around 3200 mile range. Short of Trans Con US due to the various factors Bjorn has written about (routes not direct, getting out of an airport area and into your route, approach and the alternatives as well as fuel planning for adverse aspects of a flight that come up after you plan)

          A one class -500 would have around 180 passengers. No one does one class (well few do, AK, Delta, American etc do not)

          One range solution is an IGW beyond just the stretch and it almost certainly can be Trans Con US (just the way it is, US is the biggest market and sets the standard).

          Like I said before, a very nice adjunct to Airbus but it has its drawbacks in lack of commonality Airbus set its hat on (and well done for that). Sure you can do a mixed fleet but not as cost efficient with a common standard. Boeing is common across its MAX line with a very nice glass cockpit with a fine alert system (no computer screens to scroll through).

    • Yes, some logic into that, in the Mumbai harbor to copy Mobile setup to snap fully stuffed sections together especially if Indigo selects the majority of one type like A321neo. It is easier to setup a shop for a “one trick pony”

    • And here we go, just as expected:

      “‘The time is ripe’ for Airbus and Boeing to look at India in terms of setting up facilities to manufacture commercial aircraft, Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Tuesday. His comments came a day after IndiGo placed the world’s largest-ever single-tranche plane order with Airbus.”


      BA probably won’t do it, of course, because it’s skittish about having FALs outside of the US (national security, and all that hot air…).

      • Yes, another FAL in India makes perfect sense for Airbus; that large order might have been
        contingent on something like that.

        • Dang, a FAL right next door to China when you can just fly em over the hump?

          Unfortunately India is a mess of Bureaucracy and infrastructure issues.

          Indigo is not the Indian Government. And clearly Airbus did not have to put in an FAL to get sales as sales are not mandated by the Indian Government unlike China.

          At the time Airbus was trying to break Boeing high percentage of the Chinese market and obviously the Chinese government has rewarded them.

          FAL in Mobile was a political decision that was based on A330producion and then morphed to wanting to neutralize the Boeing advantage in the US market (and succeeded)

          Sometimes you FAL into these things and sometimes you plan them.

          Charleston was not planned, it was a series of trips and stumbles and then Boeing management saw an opportunity to break the union.

          If the board had seen what the Charleston sunk costs were going to be upfront it would never have occurred (but if Boeing had seen the cost of the 787 it too would not have occurred)

  3. Oh-oh…
    “New Saudi airline shows off at Paris Air show, but fears mount over Boeing order”

    “However, Riyadh Air boss Tony Douglas has raised concern over Boeing’s delivery delay woes, emphasising that the new airline needs its first jets on schedule in early 2025.

    ““If [Boeing is] late with us, it’s not as if we can extend leases, and it’s not as if we can slow down the network expansion,” he said ahead of the show on Sunday, “that is a commitment that Boeing has got into.””


    Looks like Tony didn’t talk to Tim before he ordered.

    It’s interesting to note that the recent Riyadh Air order hasn’t yet been added to the BA order book…

    • Haha. What happened to Akasa? AA, WN, LH and EK …. to name just a few.

        • Ever considered posting substantive comments rather than just deriding others?

          Go on — try and post something of substance, e.g. about today’s Avolon order, or BA’s SAF monitoring scheme, or even just the weather in Paris…

  4. @Scott

    Did Stan explain how a TTBW fit into current terminal gates for 737/A320?

    • He didn’t but that’s where folding wings come into play. There is at least one image that may be found via Google images.

  5. Lessor Avolon has ordered 40 MAXs at the PAS:



    Air Algerie signed an MOU for 8 MAXs (+ 2 P2Fs) at the PAS:



    BA announced at the PAS that a previous order for eight 787s from an “undisclosed customer” was, in fact, from China Airlines (Taiwan):


  6. Interesting:
    “Airbus hopes to certify A321XLR by the end of 2023”

    “Airbus is hopeful that the A321XLR, powered by the CFM International LEAP-1A, will be certified by the end of 2023.

    “The manufacturer‘s Executive Vice President Programmes & Services Philippe Mhun told FlightGlobal that Airbus and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have an agreement on the technical specifications of the aircraft type, including the rear center tank, which was at the center of discussions between Airbus and regulators.

    “Currently, three A321XLRs are participating in the certification program, with aircraft powered by both engine variants, namely the CFM International LEAP-1A and the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G.

    “Mhun said that the LEAP-1A-powered A321XLR would be certified first, with the PW1100G-powered A321noe variant being certified later. The first deliveries are scheduled for Q2 2024.”


    • @Bryce
      You make it sound like 10-abreast is a good thing.on an A350 …
      10 abreast on a 777 is a bit of a squeeze on 10 plus hour flights..
      Why would it be any more comfortable on a cabin width nearly a foot narrower???
      I know AB tweeked the A350 interior to eek out a few extra inches…
      Still not even close to the 777’s ..

      • “You make it sound like 10-abreast is a good thing.on an A350 …”

        Maybe it “sounds” that way to you…I simply reported a development in a neutral manner and without sentiment.

        Further: you need to look at the internal cabin width…not the fuselage width:
        777: 5.87m
        A350 (original): 5.61m
        A350 (new): 5.72m

        15cm is not a foot…

        • “You make it sound like 10-abreast is a good thing.on an A350 …”

          Maybe it “sounds” that way to you…I simply reported a development in a neutral manner and without sentiment.

          Further: you need to look at the internal cabin width…not the fuselage width:
          777: 5.87m
          A350 (original): 5.61m
          A350 (new): 5.72m

          11cm is not a foot…

          Further: I don’t find 10-abreast 777s to be a squeeze…I find 9-abreast 787s to be far more of a squeeze, but that’s a well-known comfort issue:


          • First off ; ,I’m shocked you actually said something positive about Boeing..and second,;
            Most normal sized adults would welcome the extra inches the 777 provides..no matter how small you seem to make it.
            The upcoming -9 only adds to the comfort standard with a very generous 5.96m cabin width…You can’t sugarcoat any AB offering that can come close to matching that .
            The gap only widens over the competition ..Thankfully so !!!!!!

          • “The upcoming -9 only adds to the comfort standard with a very generous 5.96m cabin width…”

            The economy class seat width is still 0.5″ less than those (18″) in standard cabin of the A350 (say CX)!! 🤣

          • @Robert L

            There’s nothing wrong with the legacy 777 — I like flying in it.
            Then again, it’s the last BA plane that was put on the market before the merger turned Boeing into the corner-cutting mess that it has since become.

            If the “extra inches” are between the seat and the sidewall, or in the aisle, the average passenger won’t notice it.
            The seat width is 17″ in both the current 777 and the higher-density A-350.

            I’ll wait for the “upcoming -9” to be actually certified and delivered before discussing its cabin in detail 😉

    • @Bryce
      “Looks like we’ll soon be seeing what 10-abreast seating looks like in PAL A350’s”!…..
      Coming from a nation that squeezes 460 seats in an A330.!!
      Like what are your expectations ..😆😆

  7. Air India has finally formalized its big aircraft order from months ago.
    It managed to arrange financing for $3B in order deposits just last week.


    The airline has already started receiving A321neos from a lessor.


    • I think the ones from the lessor are in addition to the ones that have just been ordered though.

    • They may be getting a couple of A350’s fairly soon as well as they appear to have taken on at least two frames that were originally built for Aeroflot.
      I’d be interested to find out how these frames are priced – are they at a discount as Airbus just want them off their premises or are they at a premium as other airlines (such as Turkish) may be willing to take them on as well so there’s a bidding war?

      • That’s a good question.
        They weren’t long in storage, so there weren’t any big “de-mothballing” costs, in contrast to the 737s/787s from inventory.

    • Do try to keep up Pedro..
      We were talking 10-abreast seating ,..
      Nice try comparing it with standard class A350 seating.. ofcourse 9 -abreast!!!

      • A350 is being made 10 abreast seating capable from cabin ring ‘frame sculpting which gives 4 in more internal width- copied from Boeing

        Its really a major upgrade under the NPS programe , gives 36 in more internal floor length and payload increase as well

      • Current BA 777 in ten-abreast offers 17.2″ economy seat width only. Haha.

        • Don’t forget economy seat in 787 also has 17″ seat width (e.g. AC)

      • @ Robert L

        Actually, we’re ultimately talking about seat width and cabin density — not specifically about “10-abreast seating”. After all, the 787 doesn’t have 10-abreast seating, and it was also mentioned in the thread above, wasn’t it?

        The point of the new A350 cabin design was to “lower the standard” to the seat width currently being offered on the 777, which then allows up to 30 seats to be added — bringing the nominal capacity to within 10 seats of that of the 777-9. The huge OEW difference for such a small seat-count difference then becomes even more striking.

        At the end of the day, it’s just an option for the A350 — not an obligation.
        The same applies to the 787 — though no airline anymore goes for 8-abreast in that frame.

        • Hi Bryce
          AFAIK ANA (mainline) is an exception: eight abreast 787 (partly because they were the early customer 😄).

  8. Unless there are some dramatic events later this week, Airbus have really won this one, with most of the Boeing orders being re-hashes of previously announced ones; the Airbus ones, though expected, have not previously been announced as firm orders.

    • Indeed.
      And there’s still a 100-unit Viva Aerobus (Mexico) order in the pipeline for AB.

      IndiGo may yet surprise with a widebody order, though it will be small.

      But, at the end of the day, does it really matter? An order is an order — regardless of when it comes…though there is a certain “pzazz” associated with air show orders…

      • I’m just a few miles away from the ‘other’ major European airshow at Farnborough. Last year’s show was disappointing for orders, but it was so soon after Covid that I suppose a lot of airlines weren’t sure which path to take. Boeing announced 176 orders, Airbus 85, ATR 58 and Embraer 30.
        Now things are settling down we’re having a bit of a mad rush.
        It’ll probably settle down even more by next year’s Farnborough.

    • Not at the airshow but it will happen.

      Airbus has a bit of a tiger by the tail, they need it to succeed and that means more sales which means getting up into the A320 and MAX-8 area.

  9. Developing the concept for a new commercial airplane starts with a bundle of activities and applications. Pure greenfield or blank sheet is a non-starter. The concept has to consider the full scale engineering development (FSED) approach, including how integration and inhouse design will mesh with whatever is pulled from the supply chains. Assembly requires a plan for managing the learning curve so one can contain the development costs within a reasonable accounting block, which needs to be shrinking for new programs. For example, a proposal for a 600 plane accounting block as a part of a board authorization program pitch is a non-starter. My guess would be that board authorization is now a two step process, with authorization to offer a new concept for sale being preliminary with much lower deposits matched to an understanding that final authorization to go ahead with the program is contingent on getting enough initial orders – probably in the range of at least half of the accounting block, this all being due to the 787 experience.

    Also, the concept would need to be evaluated against a verified list of metrics that operators and leasing customers care about including such things as cost to refurb after lease return, gate turns, range flexibility (think TUI), ease of freighter conversion at mid-life, and diluted seat/mile costs (think of this in terms of the hangar queen ratio for a fleet and how it would change as the average age of a fleet grows). Another big issue that was hinted at by @Pedro with his gate compatibility question, is the whole long list of facilities compatibilities, including production facilities, runways, paint and maintenance hangars, and other “do be discovered” clearance issues whenever the wingspan is significantly increased.

    Things like bended wings and transonic truss braced wing concepts invariably ignore more than half of the stuff on this list, which is partial and only hits the biggies. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that such concepts are impossible, but they are often indicative of either a need for some sort of song and dance routine when one has nothing to show, or worse, a concept team that doesn’t understand the basics of their business.

    This industry has seen plenty examples of both of these situations over the years, especially when a company has been significantly depleted of the resources that built it Someone with a skeptical or cynical streak might even call such a pitch the first tolling of the bell (apologies to John Donne).

  10. With today’s announcement, the inability of everyone involved in the KC-46 to simply be honest with themselves about the complete incompetency of Boeing’s leadership, program management and unworkability of the RVS has finally cost Boeing the future of the tanker business. Let’s call that the second tolling of the bell (again, apologies to John Donne).

    The reference comes from “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII” https://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/meditation17.php
    Reading the full text may be instructive to holders of Boeing stock who somehow have managed to convince themselves that a company whole equity section went negative with the release of the 2018 financials, even though the weren’t GAAP, and a restatement of the years before that, writing off the 787 accounting block as GAAP would require, are somehow doing anything other than chasing the greater fool approach to _____ (investing – or is it gambling?).

    Donne’s bell also tolls for thee.

    Boeing was once a great engineering company that was trusted by all of its customers to deliver top quality, on time, and at a fair price. And in the relatively uncommon event that something didn’t work out, the company would be open about that and make things right. Well, that company disappeared the minute they hung that damn swoosh next to its name.

    It’s a crying shame that the ability to walk into a court someplace and force this issue is precluded by the thoroughly corrupt incorporation and lack of corporate governance oversight scam run by the State of Delaware, which shelters money launderers, human trafficker’s, and other organized criminals around the globe. Their scam has unfortunately also sheltered the decapitalization of Boeing with no recourse available.

    Well, it was a great company while it lasted.

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