New small widebodies needed next decade: Udvar-Hazy

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Airbus and Boeing will need to develop smaller, medium-haul twin-aisle aircraft to meet a “big product gap” in their ranges next decade, says Steven Udvar-Hazy, chief executive of Air Lease Corporation.

With the widebody segment “gravitating towards larger gauge” aircraft, there is a growing space between the largest A320neo and 737 Max narrowbodies and the manufacturers’ twin-aisle ranges, Udvar-Hazy told the ISTAT Americas convention in San Diego.

While neither airframer is “poised to launch in the near future”, aircraft capable of carrying between 200 and 250 passengers and flying up to transatlantic distances will be needed “towards the end of the 2020s and into the 2030s and 2040s” because of of airport and air traffic control limitations.

Udvar-Hazy also suggests that Airbus will abandon its slow-selling A350-800 in favour of a re-engined A330, or A330neo, adding that it is not “rational” for Airbus to do both. “There are airlines that are receptive to an A330neo that aren’t going to order the -800,” he says. “Some of them have been converted to the [A350] -900, but the Neo is getting more attention and we will have to see what happens.”

The leasing veteran remains bullish about prospects for the Asian airline market, but says that double digit rates of industry growth there are unlikely to continue. “To grow 10% today might be the equivalent of 40% growth several years ago in numbers of people flying,” he says.

He is sceptical about the prospects of some of the home-grown leasing companies springing up in China and other Asian markets. While they have access to capital “they do not have relationships with end users or experience of buying aircraft in bulk on the global market at competitive rates,” he says. “They have a long way to go in terms of key capabilities”.