- Boeing and Airbus have dominated the commercial airliner market in recent years – effectively turning it into a duopoly.
- However, a slew of new rivals from China, Russia, and Japan are set to challenge Airbus and Boeing for supremacy.
- Bombardier and Embraer were once thought to be potential rivals for the dominant duo, but that hasn’t quite materialized.
Embraer delivered the first of its next-generation E-Jet E2 airliners to Norwegian regional carrier Wideroe on Wednesday. The E-Jet E2 was once seen as a potential rival for smaller aircraft in Airbus‘ and Boeing‘s lineups. However, with Embraer in merger talks with Boeing, the E2 may actually end up being a complementary aircraft as opposed to a challenger.
The market for commercial jetliners is the most lucrative and arguably the most hotly contested segment in the aviation business. But for the past 15 years, that white-hot competition has almost exclusively been between two companies: Airbus and Boeing.
However, in recent years, a slew of new rivals has arrived on the scene with plans to take on Airbus and Boeing.
But before we get to the challengers, let’s take a look at the next-generation offerings from Airbus and Boeing.
Airbus A320neo family
The Airbus A320neo family of airplanes are updated versions of the company’s original A320-family with new-generation engines and optimized aerodynamics.
The lineup of medium-range airliners includes a trio of models: the 160-seat A319neo, the 189-seat A320neo, and the 240-seat A321neo. All three variants can be equipped with modern CFM LEAP-1A or Pratt & Whitney PW1100G turbofan engines.
Thus far, Airbus has roughly 7,800 orders for the various versions of the A320neo. The first A320neos entered service in early 2016.
The Airbus A350 XWB or Extra Wide Body is a family of next-generation long-haul widebody airliners. More than 70% of the aircraft is built using carbon composites, titanium, and advanced aluminum alloys. As a result, Airbus claims the A350 delivers 25% lower operating costs, fuel burn, and C02 emissions.
For increased passenger comfort, the cabin of the aircraft is pressurized to 6,000 feet of altitude.
The A350 can be had in three different versions: the 280-seat Dash 800, the 325-seat Dash 900, and the 366-seat Dash 1000. All versions of the A350 are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB turbofan engines. The A350 has a maximum range of more than 11,000 miles.
The A330neo or New Engine Option is an upgraded version of the existing Airbus A330 with next fuel-efficient engines, a new wing design, and avionics. The A330neo can be had with 257 seats or 287 seats.
All versions of the A330neo will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 turbofan engines. Through the end of February, Airbus has 214 orders for the A330neo.
Boeing 737 MAX-Series
Like the A320neo, the 737 MAX is the latest version of Boeing’s long-serving short-to-medium-range airliner that it has been selling for 50 years.
For MAX duty, Boeing gave its 737 new engines, wings, avionics, and a slew of other updates. The 737 MAX series is made up of four different variants: the 149-seat 737 MAX7, the 189-seat MAX8, the 200-seat MAX200, and the 220-seat MAX9.
The updated 737 is available with new CFM LEAP-1B turbofan engines. Boeing has more than 4,300 orders for the 737MAX, which entered service in 2017.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The 787 Dreamliner is a family of next-generation, long-range widebody airliners. The carbon-composite Dreamliner is available in three guises: the 242-seat Dash 8, the 290-seat Dash 9, and the 330-seat Dash 10.
The Boeing 787 is capable of delivering more than 8,700 miles of range while coddling passengers in a cabin optimized for more comfort and reduced jetlag.
Boeing Dreamliners are powered by either General Electric GENx-1B or Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.
Through March, Boeing has roughly 1,300 orders for the Dreamliner.
The Boeing 777X is the latest development of the company’s wildly successful 777 family of airliners. Still under development, the 777X is expected to replace not only existing versions of the 777 but also Boeing’s iconic 747 jumbo jet.
The 777X is available in two versions ranging from 350 to 425 seats and will be powered by General Electric GE9X engines. According to industry analysts, the 777X is expected to deliver unit costs lower than that of the Airbus A380 superjumbo.
Through March, Boeing has 326 orders for the 777X.
For much of the past decade, the Bombardier C-Series was Airbus’ and Boeing’s most prominent rival. Although Bombardier has long been a major player in regional airliners, the C-Series is the first time the Canadian company has had to compete against the US and European titans.
However, that competition has not and will likely never materialize in spite of the critical acclaim the plane has garnered over the years for its performance, fuel efficiency, and design.
First, The C Series sales campaign has struggled to net orders. Second, Bombardier has ceded control of the C Series program to Airbus. As a result, sales and manufacturing of the plane will now be done under the management of Airbus.
The C-Series lineup consists of two variants of the plane: the 133-seat CS100 and the 160-seat CS300. In the marketplace, the C-Series competes against the Boeing 737MAX7 and, in theory, the Airbus A319neo.
Like the A320neo, the C-Series is powered by a version of Pratt & Whitney’s revolutionary geared turbofan engines: the PW1500G. The Bombardier C-Series entered commercial service in 2016 and has more than 300 firm orders for the plane.
Embraer E-Jet E2
- REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Like Bombardier, Embraer is also a major regional airliner powerhouse that’s working on a tie-up with one of the big two. Embraer’s contender is the second generation of the company’s E-Jet, called the E2. Even though the first-generation airplane made a living mostly with regional airlines, Embraer is marketing the second generation as a smaller alternative to the A319 and the MAX7.
However, with a Boeing merger in the works, the likelihood of the E2 posing a threat to Boeing may also fizzle out.
The E2 lineup comprises three variants: the 88-seat E175-E2, the 106-seat E190-E2, and the 132-seat E195-E2.
The E2 is powered by two versions of Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan engine.
The Embraer E-Jet E2 is set to enter service in 2018. The Brazilian airplane maker currently has more than 200 orders for its latest jet.
The Mitsubishi MRJ is Japan’s first native commercial airliner in 50 years. The MRJ or Mitsubishi Regional Jet lineup is made up of the 80-seat MRJ70 and the 92-seat MRJ90. Although the MRJ variants are much smaller any of the offerings from Airbus or Boeing, the plane represents a domestic alternative for a country whose airlines have long been one of Boeing’s most loyal customers.
The MRJ will also be powered by Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan engine. The company currently has more than 220 orders for the MRJ. However, the program has been beset by a series of delays that has pushed delivery of the first production variant back to mid-2020.
The COMAC ARJ21 is China’s first modern airliner. COMAC or Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, was founded in 2008 to design and produce indigenous airplanes for the country’s burgeoning airline industry.
According to Boeing, Chinese airlines are expected to order more than 6,300 airplanes over the next 20 years with a total value topping $1 trillion.
The ARJ21 is a 90-seat regional airliner designed for short-to-medium-range duty. It’s powered by a pair of General Electric CF34-10A engines. The Chinese government-owned company currently has almost 350 orders for the plane, mostly from domestic airlines and leasing companies. The ARJ21 entered service in late 2015 .
The C919 is COMAC‘s first mainline jet designed to go head-to-head with the A320neo and the 737 MAX. The 168-seat jet is expected to be powered by a pair of CFM LEAP-1C engines.
Thus far, COMAC has 517 orders for the C919 with almost all of them from Chinese operators. The Shanghai-built airliner is expected to make its first flight next year and enter service sometime after 2020.
The C919 made its maiden flight in May 2017.
The Irkut MC-21 is the latest airliner to emerge from the Russian aviation industry. The MC-21 will be available in two versions: the 165-seat MC-21-200 and the 211-seat MC-21-300. The MC-21 is available with two engine options: the Russian Aviadvigatel PD14 and the American Pratt & Whitney PW1440G geared turbofan.
Irkut currently has 175 orders of the MC-21 – made almost exclusively by Russian airlines and leasing companies.
Although Irkut does not have a track record in the commercial aviation space, the company and its Yakovlev subsidiary have a long history building some of the world’s elite military aircraft.
In addition, Irkut also manufactures components for the rival Airbus A320.
- China Daily/via REUTERS
China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corporation, or CRAIC, has been set up to develop an aircraft capable of breaking up Airbus’ and Boeing’s duopoly in the widebody airliner market.
CRAIC is the product of a joint venture agreement signed by COMAC and UAC in June 2016 with the blessing of Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The JV will be will be based in Shanghai near COMAC’s existing facilities and will also produce its future aircraft in the Chinese city.
The Sino-Russian jetliner remains unnamed, however, it has commonly been referred to as the 929. Little is know about the aircraft, however, CRAIC is aiming for a 280-seat widebody with a range of more than 7,500 miles. The 929 is expected to take roughly a decade to develop.