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The two most successful commercial jet aircraft in history, Boeing’s B737 family and Airbus’ A320 family are not only the lynchpins of each manufacturer’s commercial performance, but the backbone of the commercial aviation industry. Between them, the two aircraft families account for more than 10,000 aircraft built over the past 40 years, with more than half of those manufactured in the last decade. The two families of medium-range, narrowbody aircraft can accommodate anywhere from 110 passengers in low density configurations to 220 passengers in high density, single-class layout. Each are currently produced in four variants (A318/A319/A320/A321 from Airbus and B737-600/700/800/900ER from Boeing). Production backlogs for both types stretch back more than five years.
With the A320 family in its third decade of service and the B737 Next Generation entering its second (with the original B737 debuting in 1968), pressure is mounting on Airbus and Boeing to offer all-new replacement aircraft or enhanced versions with next generation engines. Direct threats to the dominance of the two aircraft in the narrowbody market have emerged over the past five years, with Bombardier offering its two member CSeries family of 110-130 seat aircraft and Irkut and COMAC launching development of their three member MS-21 and C919 narrobody families, all of which will feature next generation engines. Airbus and Boeing are now faced with the decision of refitting their existing airframes with new engines, or the more expensive and risky option of moving the development of new narrobodies forward from their preferred 2020-2025 timeframe.
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