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Covid-19 Will Limit Aviation’s Growth For 10 Years, New Data Shows

The aviation industry is entering a decade of uncertainty, considerable financial pressures, and smaller than expected fleets. Fewer aircraft means less aircraft manufacturing and less maintenance.



By 2031, there will still be fewer <a class=aircraft flying than if Covid-19 hadn’t happened.” data-height=”2471″ data-width=”3588″>

By 2031, there will still be fewer aircraft flying than if Covid-19 hadn’t happened. Photo by Alex … [+] Bona/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

By Tom Cooper

Tom is a vice president at Oliver Wyman who advises aerospace companies, including providers in the maintenance, repair, and overhaul aftermarket.

By 2031, the global aviation fleet will include over 36,500 aircraft. While higher than the currently depressed total of 23,700, it still falls 2,500 planes short of the 39,000 it was projected to reach in 2030 — that is, before Covid-19 sent the aviation industry into a tailspin.

While vaccines may help get Covid-19 under control over the next year or two, the aftermath of the disease that so far killed two million people worldwide will continue to curb growth for industries like aviation for the next 10. Airlines, aircraft manufacturing, and maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) providers are now entering a decade of uncertainty, considerable financial pressure, and smaller than expected fleets because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a vicious cycle of less travel requiring smaller fleets, which in turn means that fewer aircraft need to be manufactured, and fewer planes repaired.

According to the latest Oliver Wyman Fleet & Global MRO Forecast 2021-2031, released today, preservation of cash will continue to be a top priority for all segments of the industry over the next few years. While most demand will recover before the middle of the decade, there are indications that some portions of travel may not fully get back on track even after that.

Except for airlines in China, where domestic travel returned to pre-pandemic levels by November 2020, global carriers will still burn millions in cash daily for much of the year — but probably not all of it. Some will face the unsettling prospect of restructuring and consolidation. In 2020, the International Air Transport Association estimated that global airlines would lose more than $118 billion that year and close to another $40 billion in 2021. Dozens of airlines sought bankruptcy protection or stopped flying entirely in the first year of Covid.

How the fleet will grow over the next decade

How the fleet will grow over the next decade

Oliver Wyman

Aircraft backlog to work through `

In 2020, Covid-related pressure on airline cash flow and reduced demand for air travel led global carriers to put thousands of aircraft into storage, retire twice as many as normal, convert some into cargo planes, and cancel or defer some deliveries of new planes. Given the inventory backlog, more aircraft will be delivered to airlines over the next several years than will be produced by aerospace manufacturers. While production and deliveries are closely aligned in normal years, the imbalance reflects conflicting pressures on airframe manufacturers to balance the realities of lower market demand with needs of key suppliers to maintain enough production.

Other aerospace revenue also may be in jeopardy. The early retirement of planes may reduce aerospace sales of new parts because of increased competition from the surge in supply of used components and green-time engines harvested from retired aircraft. It will take as much as three years to work through the excess of used serviceable material.

For MRO companies, a smaller fleet translates into less work. Demand is expected to be 33%, or $60 billion, below combined pre-Covid projections for 2020 and 2021. While the market is beginning to recover, the long-term MRO growth trend is now roughly half of pre‑Covid expectations. Cumulatively, MRO demand is expected to be $95 billion lower over the forecast period.

Opportunities for growth

Despite the reduced expectations for MRO, the compound annual growth of the sector between 2019 and 2031 is projected at three percent. The combination of near-term lower demand and long-term growth prospects has created an attractive environment for private equity investors, and interest in MRO is high.

The popularity of narrowbody aircraft is also on the rise. For years, the narrowbody share of the total fleet has increased as the improving range capability and attractive seat mile efficiency of the class have made the aircraft the choice of low-cost carriers. This trend is expected to continue as more airlines align fleets to the demand realities of Covid-19.

While forecasts for narrowbody production are 40% below 2018 levels for 2021, we expect the aircraft class to recover to within 10% of our original pre-Covid projections for the final years of the forecast period. One bright spot has been sales of A321LR, which remain strong even in the face of the pandemic. The aircraft offers sufficient range to serve routes that were previously flown with Boeing BA 757s or widebody aircraft, as well as providing airlines increased flexibility in their scheduling.

Deliveries of narrowbodies in 2021 will also be bolstered by decisions from the Federal Aviation Administration and European Union Air Safety Agency to recertify the Boeing 737 MAX for commercial service. Other regulators are expected to follow suit. More than 20 737s have already made it into carrier fleets since the recertification, but there are 400 to 450 more MAX aircraft that were built in 2020 and sit in Boeing’s inventory waiting to be delivered or sold. In addition, the number of narrowbodies in the fleet will be expanded by the almost 400 737s that airlines have had in storage since the plane’s grounding in March 2019.

The impact of less business and international travel

In contrast, widebody aircraft production has seen a significant decline because of Covid-19’s impact on long-haul travel demand. Over the forecast period, we expect widebody production to be as much as 40% below pre-pandemic expectations unless there’s a faster-than-expected recovery in long-haul routes.

International travel — which accounts for the bulk of long-haul — evaporated in the early days of Covid-19 and continues to be hard-hit, which has had implications for widebodies. Over the last year, nations around the world have been tightly regulating cross-border travel in an effort to keep out or at least contain the pandemic. Border closings and sudden requirements to quarantine for 14 days have discouraged travel between countries, with passengers fearful of being stranded or unable to get home. Under a new executive order from President Joe Biden, travelers entering the United States must provide proof of a recent negative Covid-19 test prior to entry — a requirement that already exists in some other countries.

Contributing to the decline in international long-haul travel has been the fall in business travel, the most profitable category for airlines. This is especially true on long-haul flights, on which executives often opt for premium seating.

Videoconferencing and teleconferencing have become attractive substitutes that allow companies to cut travel budgets, particularly for intracompany trips. Covid-19 has also forced many business conferences and trade shows to go virtual or be canceled entirely, eliminating another reason for executive travel. While most of this travel will eventually return as more people get Covid-19 vaccinations, it is unlikely to recover fully over the midterm.

Regional jet delays

Meanwhile, the regional jet class is facing multiyear delays for some of its latest models as new platforms encounter development problems and as clauses in US pilot contracts limit their use. Given that many regional jets will reach typical retirement age or cumulative utilization during the forecast period, we expect many to end up flying beyond historical thresholds to cover some of the demand for smaller commercial aircraft.

It’s no exaggeration to say that modern commercial aviation has never faced such a long list of challenges as Covid-19 has created. It will likely take several years to adjust the fleet to new realities, and even then, the industry will not regain over the next 10 years all that it has lost with the pandemic.

Ian Reagan, Chad Porter, Carlo Franzoni, and Faith Lee — all of Oliver Wyman — contributed invaluable insights and research to this article.

According to the latest Oliver Wyman Fleet & Global MRO Forecast 2021-2031, released today, preservation of cash will continue to be a top priority for all segments of the industry over the next few years. While most demand will recover before the middle of the decade, there are indications that some portions of travel may not fully get back on track even after that.



Second Dassault Falcon 6X Joins Flight-test Campaign

With two flying Falcon 6x twinjets, Dassault expects to add a third fully completed copy to the flight program by this summer, on pace for a 2022 TC.



Less than two months after Dassault Aviation’s first Falcon 6X widebody twinjet took to the skies, a second aircraft has joined the flight-test campaign. Flight-test aircraft S/N 2 completed its inaugural flight on April 30, flying for two hours, climbing to FL400, and reaching a cruise speed of Mach 0.85.

The initial flight-test vehicle flew for the first time on March 10 and the third, which will have a finished interior, is expected to join the program in the third quarter. That latter aircraft will test cabin systems and amenities, galley equipment, flight entertainment systems, and options such as high-speed Ka-band Internet capability. The first production aircraft, S/N 4, will be completed to a typical customer configuration and sent on a global tour.

“We are very pleased with the progress of the Falcon 6X test program and remain confident of meeting its target 2022 certification date,” said Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Eric Trappier, adding that both 6X flying test aircraft are “performing as expected and showing a high level of systems maturity for this phase of the program.” Several Dassault test pilots have now flown the Falcon 6X, he added. “All are extremely satisfied with its performance and handling characteristics.”

Announcement of the second 6X first flight comes as Dassault is set to unveil its next Falcon model, with a virtual launch scheduled for tomorrow 11 a.m. EDT.


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US aviation body wants more Boeing 737 electrical data: Report

Following nearly two-year grounding, Boeing faces new questions about electrical systems in its 737 MAX planes.



Following nearly two-year grounding, Boeing faces new questions about electrical systems in its 737 MAX planes.

Air safety officials in the United States have asked Boeing Co to supply fresh analysis and documentation showing that numerous subsystems in its 737 MAX planes would not be affected by electrical grounding issues first flagged in three areas of the jet in April, two people familiar with the matter have told the Reuters news agency.

The extra analysis injects new uncertainty over the timing of when Boeing’s best-selling plane would be cleared to fly by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported Reuters on Tuesday.

The electrical problems have suspended nearly a quarter of its 737 MAX fleet.

US airlines have said they had expected Boeing to release service bulletins as soon as this week that would have allowed them to make fixes and soon return the planes to service, but this latest issue will likely push that timeline back.

“We continue to work closely with the FAA and our customers to address the ground path issue in affected 737s,” a Boeing spokeswoman said.

Asked about the status of the planes, an FAA spokesman said “we are continuing to work with Boeing.”

The cockpit of a Lion Air Boeing Co 737 Max 8 aircraft [File: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg]

Airlines pulled dozens of 737 MAX jets from service early last month after Boeing warned of a production-related electrical grounding problem in a backup power control unit situated in the cockpit on some recently built aeroplanes.

The problem, which also halted deliveries of new planes, was then found in two other places on the flight deck, including the storage rack where the affected control unit is kept and the instrument panel facing the pilots.

The glitch is the latest issue to beset the 737 MAX, which was grounded for nearly two years starting in 2019 after two fatal crashes.

The slew of questions over a relatively straightforward electrical issue illustrates the tougher regulatory posture facing the US’s largest exporter as it tries to emerge from the 737 MAX crisis and the overlapping coronavirus pandemic.

A not-so-quick fix

Late last week, Boeing submitted service bulletins to the FAA for its approval advising airlines on how to fix the problems with grounding, or the electrical paths designed to maintain safety in the event of a surge of voltage, the two people said.

The FAA approved the service bulletins but then, in ongoing discussions with Boeing, asked for additional analysis over whether other jet subsystems would be affected by the grounding issue, one of the sources said. The FAA will review Boeing’s analysis and any necessary revisions to the service bulletins before they can be sent to airlines.

Boeing has proposed adding a bonding strap or cable that workers screw onto two different surfaces creating a grounding path, two people said.

Boeing had initially told airlines a fix could take hours or a few days per jet.

The electrical grounding issue emerged after Boeing changed a manufacturing method as it worked to speed up the production of the airliner, a third person said. A fourth person said the change improved a hole-drilling process.

The FAA issued a new airworthiness directive last week requiring a fix before the jets resume flight, saying the issue affects 109 in-service planes worldwide. Sources said it affects more than 300 planes in Boeing’s inventory.

US airlines have said they had expected Boeing to release service bulletins as soon as this week that would have allowed them to make fixes and soon return the planes to service, but this latest issue will likely push that timeline back.


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A Legacy of Training Innovation

For seven decades, FlightSafety International has been at the forefront of training technology and innovation.



For seven decades, FlightSafety International has been at the forefront of training technology and innovation. Starting with its first manufacturer-approved training devices that captured the flight operations of countless aircraft, FlightSafety has continually expanded and refined the technological resources that aviation professionals depend on.

As the training needs of pilots and technicians evolve, FlightSafety is developing more ways to interact with them virtually and remotely. FlightSafety Customers trust they’re receiving the most advanced training possible, as the company combines its technological advantages with its highly experienced and knowledgeable instructors. The result is a unique training experience that promotes and enhances proficiency and safety.

FlightSafety leverages its years of flight training experience and world-class design and engineering to provide a powerful suite of training products and solutions that meet real-world needs. Here are some of the ways FlightSafety is building on its 70-year legacy of innovation.

The FS1000 Full Flight Simulator and MATRIX

Developed and tested by highly qualified engineers, instructors and subject matter experts, FlightSafety’s mission-ready devices enhance training at every level. That begins with the FlightSafety-developed and manufactured FS1000 full flight simulator. Its lightweight and highly robust modular design offers configuration flexibility and ease of systems integration.

The Level D-qualified simulators support advanced audio, motion and visual capabilities, all built to the industry’s highest standards and approved by OEMs for their compatibility. Built at a state-of-the-art, 375,000-square-foot facility in Oklahoma, FlightSafety simulators are also in the training facilities of airline and government customers, allowing them to offer highly effective, cost-efficient training to their flight crews.

The simulator is part of a larger FlightSafety training experience – the MATRIX integrated learning system. MATRIX brings the realities of the simulator experience into the classroom and to other training devices.

Driven by the same powerful software that drives the FS1000, MATRIX creates a consistent progression of training via its integrated desktop simulator, courseware and graphical flight-deck simulator.

FlightSafety also offers the MissionFit interactive training system, a mobile and modular flight training device engineered to be deployed in almost any location for maximum training accessibility.

VITAL 1150 Visual System and CrewView Display

FlightSafety’s VITAL visual system provides pilots with simulator training that features realistic, detailed, high-resolution views designed to enhance safety. Powered by the VITAL 1150 image generator and the CrewView collimated glass mirror display, FlightSafety provides unprecedented training realism and resolution.

VITAL features industry-leading low-latency host transfer rates, up to 8K resolution and refresh rates up to 120Hz. The result is the highest fidelity for any visual system available.

CrewView is the most crisp, clear, consistent, and dependable display solution available today, offering fields of view in excess of 60 degrees vertical and 300 degrees horizontal. It offers distortion-free, true and consistent images. This superior optical performance is crucial to achieve today’s flight training needs.

The CrewView glass mirror display provides superior optical performance and sharper image clarity with significant advances in fidelity. CrewView fills the entire aircraft window, eliminating ground rush distortions and allowing the greatest level of effectiveness in training.

Online Instructor-Led LiveLearning

Already a leader in online and self-paced instruction, FlightSafety expanded its digital offerings in 2020 to reach customers who were unable to travel due to the pandemic. With instructor-led LiveLearning, pilots and technicians train with industry-leading subject matter experts from their own sites.

These classes offer real-time engagement with peers and instructors, allowing for complex training at a distance. LiveLearning curriculum is designed for online delivery, developed and perfected to maximize the impact of the online training experience.

LiveLearning allows pilots to begin their recurrent training remotely, then complete it in the simulator within 90 days to meet regulatory approval requirements. The courses include live class surveys, recordings, videos, and interactive demonstrations, all optimized for multi-platform compatibility including desktops, tablets and laptops. LiveLearning courses also include general training subjects, in addition to a growing library of type-specific pilot and maintenance training.

3D Virtual Aircraft and Mixed Reality

Beginning with training for Pilatus aircraft, FlightSafety is launching Virtual Aircraft, an immersive 3D learning experience aimed to assist pilots and instructors in exploring the aircraft within the classroom as if they were out on the flight line.

With Virtual Aircraft, students are situated within a real-life contextual environment with the aircraft appropriately scaled in both size and depth. Their interactions with the aircraft’s various components are true to life and happening in real time. This immersive media leads to greater levels of knowledge retention and an increase in transferable skill, building confidence and competency in operation.

Maintenance technicians also benefit from FlightSafety’s new Virtual Engine Trainers, real-time, interactive and animated models of Pratt & Whitney Canada engines. Virtual Engine Trainers allow instructors and students to view the engine and the many individual components in any position or system grouping and even conduct practical maintenance procedures such as part replacement. X-ray and move functionality further enables students to view dynamic cross-sections into nearly every engine part. Borescope inspection training is also available with typical wear and tear simulated throughout the engine, allowing students to practice damage assessment and engine dispatchability. EASA has approved Virtual Engine Training as a method of assessment in up to 50 percent of practical engine training.

FlightSafety has also developed virtual reality training in its Mixed Reality Flight system, which has been utilized by government and defense customers.

The Future of Training

FlightSafety continues to expand its high-tech training offerings to meet the needs of aviation everywhere. Its advances in simulation technology have significantly improved the effectiveness and reduced the cost of training in multiple ways. Trust FlightSafety to continue to lead the way in cutting-edge technology and superior training equipment.


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