Aerospace giant Boeing Co. predicted Tuesday the number of commercial aircraft in operation globally will double in the next two decades, with the bulk of some 35,000 new planes going to Asia.
Speaking ahead of the Bourget international air show in Paris, Randy Tinseth, Boeing's vice president of marketing, said rising oil prices are forcing carriers to think harder about efficiency, and that means smaller planes burning less fuel.
It also means design changes, streamlined air traffic control and improved navigation to shave miles off each flight.
The demand for fuel efficiency has eaten away at orders for the widebody long-haul craft that are major profit-drivers for Boeing and Airbus, the world's two biggest aircraft manufacturers. Boeing predicted 24,670 of the 35,000 new airplanes would be single-aisle jets, seating between 90 and 230 passengers. Just 760 were expected to be large widebody airliners, seating 400 or more passengers.
The 20-year forecast, which Boeing puts out annually, predicts 60 percent of the demand for aircraft will come from Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, the rest from carriers in Europe and North America.
The commercial fleet today stands at 20,310 aircraft, Boeing said. Counting the withdrawal of older planes, the fleet is forecast to grow to 41,240 by 2032.
Boeing had a tough start this year, when its flagship 787 was grounded worldwide because of smoldering batteries on two planes. U.S. regulators have since cleared the plane to fly again. Airbus, meanwhile, is introducing a new plane -- the company said the A350 will fly for the first time Friday, taking off from an airport near Paris.
The A350 will compete with the 787 and Boeing's 777. Both the 787 and the A350 are more fuel-efficient than previous long-haul aircraft. -- AP