Airbus SE may unveil a larger version of its A220 single-aisle jetliner as soon as next month, according to analysts at Bank of America, bolstering its lineup against Boeing Co. in the best-selling category of commercial aircraft.
The world’s largest planemaker has long said that building an A220-500, a stretched version of its smallest commercial jet, is a matter of when, not if. The larger variant would bring the aircraft into direct competition with Boeing hottest seller, the 737 Max 8. An announcement could come at the Paris Air Show taking place in mid-June, according to analysts led by Benjamin Heelan.
“The A220-100 and -300 are the priority and we’re not launching a new product in the current environment,” Toulouse, France-based Airbus said in an emailed statement.
With newer technology, a larger A220 would have a weight advantage over the Max and Airbus’s A320 — both older designs — giving it better fuel economy which would save airline customers operating costs. Still, there are numerous hurdles to overcome, including costs, engine choice and whether to act now and sacrifice range, a big selling point for the current versions.
Airbus would likely introduce a second engine choice, adding the Leap model from the CFM International venture of General Electric Co. and Safran SA, the analysts said. Currently, the A220’s two versions are powered by the Geared Turbofan unit supplied by Raytheon Co.’s Pratt & Whitney.
The European planemaker would also need to improve cost efficiency building the A220’s carbon-fiber composite wings, the analysts said, suggesting Airbus’s in-development “Wings of Tomorrow” may be more suitable to high-volume production.