Toulouse - According to John Leahy, chief operating officer - customers at Airbus, the A320neo should not have a successor before 2030 because of the lack of technology available to develop a much better aircraft.

John Leahy, who will retire in a few weeks, gave an interview at Leeham News in late December. The man, who has more than 16,000 orders for Airbus aircraft concluded under his direction, raised many topics during the interview.

The A320neo is at the top of commercial aircraft sales. Airbus has a 60% market share in the single-aisle segment. But Boeing also has plans for an NMA (New Midmarket Aircraft), an intermediate device between single-aisle and wide-body aircraft, or even an NSA (New Single-aisle Aircraft) that Airbus may have to respond.

John Leahy - unsurprisingly - does not believe in the value of Boeing's plans for an NMA. And according to him, launching a brand new single-aisle today does not make sense economically. A new game changer aircraft would require new types of engines, but the technology is not yet available yet for such an engine, he explains.

The NEO variants are 15% to 20% better than the current generation of A320. An entirely new device will have to be 15 to 20% better than the current variants, which requires real technological breakthroughs such as a non-faired fan
said John Leahy.

You can not spend $15 billion on a brand new single-aisle aircraft and take a current technology engine to hang it under the wing. The plane would only be 5% better than today,
he added.

The new engines mentioned by John Leahy are now being studied by engine manufacturers. In particular, CFM International, a joint venture between American General Electric and French Safran Aircraft Engines, is working on two projects: a high-rate Ultra-High Bypass Ratio (UHBR) engine and a non-faired engine equipped with two counter-rotating propellers (Open Rotor). But these new engines are not expected to be available until 2025/2030.

Meanwhile, John Leahy has hinted that if Boeing launches its own program for an NMA, Airbus could respond it by upgrading its A321neo, an A321-Plus, for instance, in the not-too-distant future, in 2022, 2023, or 2024.