New Pilots

New Narrowbody Airliners Vie For Top Spot

2016 02 02

Single-aisle airliners occupy perhaps the most dynamic and active segment in all of commercial aviation, with no fewer than five new competitors vying for the attention of the world’s fleet planners. While the Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320neo have taken the majority of new orders, upstarts in the form of the Bombardier CSeries, Comac C919 and Irkut MC-21 have crowded the field and, in the estimate of the newcomers’ manufacturers, threaten to upset an unhealthy duopoly in the mainline airline business. Meanwhile, new aircraft such as the Mitsubishi MRJ and the next generation of E-Jets called the E2s stand to redefine the limits of regional jet operations, where a relative newcomer in the form of the Sukhoi Superjet now commands a limited presence and the Comac ARJ-21 enters service with its first Chinese operator. 

The first of the new narrowbody models poised to enter the market–the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-powered Airbus A320neo–gained its joint FAA-EASA certification on November 24, after the company had to redistribute certification work among its flight-test aircraft to recoup time lost on the first aircraft, grounded by a defect in one of the geared turbofan engines in April and again in late September by a separate problem the company described as “minor.”

Development schedules call for the Pratt geared-turbofan-powered version of the family’s stretch variant, theA321neo, to gain certification late this year and the smallest model, the A319neo, before the middle of next year. In January last year Airbus launched a long-range version of the A321neo designed to carry 206 passengers 4,000 nm. Expected to win certification in 2019, the so-called A321neo 97t now ranks as the longest-range single-aisle airliner on the market, capable of flying transatlantic routes and potentially opening long-haul markets inaccessible by any other single-aisle airplane in production or in development.