The booming international commercial aviation sector continues to be a bright light leading the future of the aerospace industry.

With a range of up to 8200 nmi, for long-haul passengers the comfort of the A380 has created a loyal following. The large capacity has also brought down the operating costs per seat-mile so that where traffic levels can justify such a big aircraft, the A380 can be a generous profit-maker for its operators. With built-in provision for a future capacity stretch, the A380 is well placed for the day when global air traffic will demand more ultra-large jets to avoid saturation of airport facilities and air corridors. In this respect it is still ahead of its time.

Pictured here inside a paint hangar at Boeing Field in Seattle is the 7500th 737, which was manufactured for Malaysia-based Malindo Air.
Boeing, the other giant of the commercial aviation sector, has also been clocking up record orders for its family of jets. Last year it brought home 1432 new sales, most contracts (1104 net) being for the legendary Boeing 737 family, now into its fourth-generation upgrade. Monthly production is running in the high 40s and is planned to rise even further as the company gears up for the new re-engined 737 Max family, powered by CFM LEAP-1B powerplants.

The Max brings a 20% reduction in fuel cost per seat and 40% noise footprint reduction. Revised aerodynamics, with an extended tail cone and thickened rear fuselage plus new winglets, have reduced drag and together with the new engines and cockpit (which still retains much commonality with Next Gen 737s) offer yet another worthwhile upgrade to an aircraft that first emerged from the Boeing works in the 1960s. The rebirth success of this aircraft is astonishing. The latest 737 Max seems set to take production well into the second 50 years of its history, making it the best-selling commercial jet ever.

Artist’s rendering of the 737 MAX flight deck with four new large-format displays.
Boeing's second most popular model is the wide-body 777, which is being assembled at a rate of around eight each month. Net orders for 283 were received during 2014. The company needs to keep new orders coming in for the next two-three years to bridge the production gap until the 777-X enters flight development.

The 777-X will be powered by new GE9X engines and will feature an all-new longer wing design with greatly enhanced aerodynamics and raked outer sections that can be folded on the ground to allow compatibility with existing airport stand facilities. It will be the largest twin engine jetliner in service and Emirates Airlines showed its confidence in the new aircraft with an order for 150.


Boeing and Ryanair have finalized orders for 175 Next-Generation 737s.
>Many of the attractive cabin design features of the Boeing 787 will be incorporated including bigger windows and revised useable cabin width offering more passenger space and seat layout options. With the 787 well established in service and production flows increasing, the 737 Max coming forward as a priority program and a new 777-X entering the development phase, Boeing will have a competitive and balanced family lineup to face Airbus in the coming decade.

The one unknown issue is whether the company will decide to add another new model in the 200-250 seat category to replace outgoing 757s and 767s. The global market and business case for an all-new program is far from clear, though the company will be watching Airbus closely to see if significant airline interest emerges for the long-range A321, which might become a default 757 replacement if there is no rival Boeing product.