Boeing raises forecast of need for smaller jets

Boeing Co. officials upped their 20-year forecast for aircraft demand, predicting the world’s airlines will need 35,280 new jets valued at $4.8 trillion by 2032, compared to last year’s forecast of demand for 34,000 jetliners.

The company foresees a greater demand for single-aisle aircraft and slightly lower demand for wide-body jets like those built in Everett, compared to Boeing’s forecast last year.

Still, “there’s a big pent-up demand for wide-bodies,” said Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president for marketing.

That pent-up demand is partly due to delays in wide-body jet programs like the 787, which led Boeing and rival jet maker Airbus to deliver fewer twin-aisle aircraft in the past decade than in the previous one. The trend is beginning to change as Boeing increases production of the 787 and Airbus is poised to deliver the new A350 XWB next year.

Tinseth delivered his remarks as part of a Boeing briefing ahead of the Paris Air Show, which begins Monday. Boeing will have two 787s at the air show, with one flying daily. Airbus is preparing for the maiden flight of the A350, which could make a fly-by at the air show.

Boeing predicts airlines will need 7,830 new twin-aisle aircraft by 2032, compared to 7,950 in last year’s forecast. That doesn’t include “very large” wide-body jets like the 747 or A380. Chicago-based Boeing predicts a need for 760 of those biggest planes over the next 20 years, compared to last year’s forecast of 790.

The estimate for large aircraft need has continued to drop over the past few years. In April, Boeing announced it would slow production of the 747-8 due to declining demand. In Airbus’ 20-year forecast last year, the jet maker estimated a need for 1,710 very large jets.

Demand for single-aisle jets like the new 737 MAX and A320neo, meanwhile, has increased since last year, according to Boeing’s forecast. Airlines will need to buy 24,670 single-aisle aircraft between now and 2032, Boeing estimates. That’s substantially more single-aisle jets than the 19,520 Airbus predicted last year and slightly more than Boeing’s previous forecast of 23,240.

Airlines are looking for “the most efficient aircraft they can find,” Tinseth said.

In recent years, airlines have been flying increasingly fuller planes as passenger traffic has remained strong. Cargo traffic, which has been sluggish, is expected to grow 2 percent to 3 percent this year, Tinseth said.

Overall, Boeing believes the world’s aircraft fleet will double over the next 20 years.

As a result, “we’ll continue to see upward pressure on our production rates,” Tinseth said.

Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; mdunlop@heraldnet.com.

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