NEO is out!

The time of the "unknown unknowns" is over! Airbus just this morning officially announced that starting in Spring 2016 the new "NEO" version of the A320 family can be delivered to the customers. Airlines (and others who can afford) then have the choice between four engines with the CFM LEAP-X and the PW1100G being the new choices - I guess this is a "first time" in aviation history; although not a really important one, as my guess would be that there will be only a few who will opt for the old engines (CFM56 and V2500).
Airbus claims that the NEO versions, which will also feature the sharklets, will have a 15% advantage in fuel burn versus today's aircraft. To explain, why it is only 15%, although CFM and PW both talk about a 15% SFC advantage for their engines (vs. CFM56 and V2500) and Airbus said that the sharklets lead to a fuel burn reduction up to 3.5%, we have to remember:
  • that the new engines will be heavier than the old ones,
  • will have a larger fan diameter, thus produce more drag
  • there will be additional weight in the wings and pylons to accommodate the heavier engines
These three points are taking something away from the 15% SFC (uninstalled) advantage +3.5% fuel burn advantage, leading to (approximately) 15% fuel burn reduction.

Now - as Airbus came forward today: what is the rest of the (aviation) world doing?

A320NEO - picture taken from the Airbus website


The most important question of course is, what the other "big one" will do:
My guess is that this is hinging on what the two most important customers for the B737, Southwest and Ryanair, will have to say.
In the last weeks both airlines talked up the reengining, saying that "doing" nothing" would be no option. A new 737 would of course be the solution they prefer, but Southwest was skeptical, that Boeing would be able to deliver a 737 successor in the 2020 timeframe.
And the 737 is not the only battlefield for Boeing. The 777 has to be (at least) updated and this should be done in the same timeframe as the A350-1000 comes to market - whenever this will be. Probably this will not happen exactly in 2015. If Airbus decides to please Emirates they might opt to alter the -1000 design to a -1100ER, meaning that the airplane gets larger and gets a little bit more range. But the thrust has to rise into the 100klbf range then, and I doubt that the core of the Trent XWB would not be capable of that. As suggested that would open the door for a GE90 variant - an article in Aviation Week suggested that it would just be a downrated version of today's GE90-115B, but the SFC would not meet the requirements, so there would be some technology infusion from GEnx required. But the same engine then could be used by Boeing for their 777 update/successor.
So the path regarding the 777 seems more obvious than that on the 737. At the last quarterly call Boeing kind of negated the possibility to do both programmes at the same time. The question is: what will be first:
  • If the 737 is first, Boeing's only choice would be to do a reengining - which would be more costly (if a significant fuel burn saving should be achieved) than for Airbus. A clean-sheet design would not be that much better than the A320NEO (as they would have to work with the same engine technology) to justify the $10billion+ investment.
  • If the 777 is first, they will probably loose some market share to Airbus in the narrowbody market for a couple of years.


As we all know, also Embraer is thinking, along other options, about reengining their EJet-Family. With Airbus launching the NEO this option becomes more likely. Bombardier eating into their market with the CS100, Sukhoi having a low cost option with the Superjet and Airbus with a A319NEO having an aircraft with probably not much higher trip costs but more seats than the E195 would make a reengining (maybe with the CSeries GTF?) a good option as I explained earlier.


Well, Bombardier was leasing the pack with the CSeries. Without the CSeries, there would not be -NEO launch today (or anytime soon). The A319NEO will eat into the CS300 cake. Question is if Bombardier can react to it and if yes: how?
Could they stretch the CS300 a little bit to reach in between the A319 and the A320. Could they launch a CS500 that would maybe come to market in 2016? And if yes, would they use the same engine (PW1524G) and the same wing, thus compromising range, but optimizing trip and seat costs for typically flown trips around 1000nm. Or can they even hang the same engine under the (strengthened) wing without enlarging the main landing gear?

Bottom line: the first "unknown unknowns" is away - but now there are many others out there...good for us bloggers!