Airbus A320neo beats current Boeing versions with new orders for fuel efficient Jets

Airbus has landed a massive 180-aircraft order it’s calling a “launch order” for its A320neo, which can be expected to put pressure on Boeing to launch some definitive upgrade of its competing 737.

To be sure, the Indian airline IndiGo order is a “memorandum of understanding” and not a firm order, so it lacks the clout of the latter. The order includes 150 A320neos, which feature more efficient engines and winglets, as well as another 30 standard A320s.

In its release, Airbus calls this the “largest jet order” in commercial aviation industry. The order is worth $15.6 billion at list prices, according to reports.

Boeing’s largest-ever order was in 1985, when United Airlines ordered 101 737-300 classics, said Boeing spokesman Tom Brabant.

While he’s not convinced this also is the largest order by dollar value, given the relatively low value of narrow body aircraft versus larger wide body aircraft, industry analyst Scott Hamilton said the order is significant.

“The neo is no longer theoretical,” he said about the order. “It obviously launches a new equipment type…It puts pressure on Boeing to make a decision.”

Coincidentally, Hamilton Tuesday morning posted the opinion of Buckingham Research on his web site, that Boeing will in the next few years launch a new version of the 737, and then the 777.

“I have felt for a while that they were proceeding down the path of a new airplane,” Hamilton said about Boeing. “If they proceed with a replacement for 737, with entry into service by the end of this decade, that could put them well out ahead of Airbus, which is where they’d hoped to be with 787.”

The A320neo is to be available from 2016, and promises fuel efficiency savings of up to 15 percent.

Boeing will have to significantly beat that mileage improvement, or offer other significant improvements without significantly higher costs, to make an all-new aircraft worth it.

While Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh has spoken about “next-generation” composites justifying a new aircraft, some skeptics wonder how easy it will be for composite assembly techniques to meet the one-airplane a day rates that both Boeing and Airbus are achieving on the current production lines.

STEVE WILHELM covers manufacturing, aerospace and trade for the Puget Sound Business Journal. Phone: 206-876-5427 | Email: swilhelm@bizjournals.com | Twitter: stevewilhelm108

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