Airliner census of 2008
By Max Kingsley-Jones
The size of the world's airliner fleet has increased by 2.5% over the past year, with the expansion of Western-built aircraft driving growth as the count of Russia's ageing airliners declined further.
Compiled from Flight's ACAS database, this year's edition of our annual World Airliner Census comprises 26,675 aircraft - 663 more than a year ago.
The Western-built fleet totals 24,034 aircraft, having increased by 840 (a 3.6% rise) over the past 12 months. This growth is the highest for several years, surpassing the 2.9% in 2007, itself a marked increase on the previous census, when growth was less than 2%.
The overall fleet growth is partly offset by a decline in the Russia/CIS count, which has fallen by 177 aircraft to 2,641. The increasing availability of cheap pre-owned aircraft from the West - as well as new-build deliveries - is seeing the number of Russian/CIS types in service decline as they are replaced by European and North American-built airliners.
Altogether, 1,229 deliveries have been completed in the past 12 months - and unsurprisingly all but 16 of these are from Western manufacturers as Russian/CIS production runs at a trickle. Overall, deliveries were up by more than 15% on the previous 12 months, and despite their low tally, the Russian/CIS airframers recorded a major boost in output to 16 from just three deliveries during the preceding period.
With the number of aircraft operated by North/South American carriers remaining stable, the market leader by fleet distribution has seen its share decline to less than 41%. The big gain is with the Asian, Australasian and Middle East carriers, which have seen their fleets grow by 300 aircraft, pushing their share up by one percentage point to 22%.
African airlines again operate the oldest airliners on an average-age basis, with Europe having the youngest. The Middle East and South America have seen their airliners' average ages improve by a year since the 2007 census. The overall world fleet average age remains 14 years, as it was in 2007.
The top-10 airliner ranking is again led by the Airbus A320 family and 737 Next Generation models, between them accounting for almost 6,000 aircraft. The 737 is the single most populous type, with more than 4,760 -200s, Classics and NGs in service, while the latter family also recorded the single biggest fleet growth - at almost 14%.
While the Bombardier 50-seat jet family continues to head the regional ranking, the fleet has declined for the first time - to 950 aircraft. Meanwhile, the two in-production turboprop types - the ATR 42/72 and Bombardier Q Series - have seen another year of strong growth, with their fleets expanding by 7.9% and 6.8%, respectively, to 680 and 723 aircraft. Embraer's E-Jet family has made a dramatic entry in the top 10, with the fleet increasing by a whopping 63% to 390 aircraft, ranking it sixth (from 13th last year).
The big loser in the Russian/CIS top 10 is the Tupolev Tu-154 trijet, which has seen its fleet decline by more than 20% to 354 aircraft, dropping it to third in the rankings. Otherwise the listing is similar to last year's, with most types recording slight reductions in overall fleet counts. Two types have seen their fleet sizes increase (the An-12 and An-24), because aircraft previously with non-commercial operators have been switched to civil roles.
With record airliner sales in 2007, the world order backlog has risen by 25% to over 7,400 aircraft (commercial operators only). The bulk (6,268) are for Airbus and Boeing types.
The single biggest market is Asia, Australasia and the Middle East, which accounts for 43% of the total orders - up from 40% last year. In this sector Airbus has the lead share. North/South America - where Boeing is ahead - has seen its overall share decline by five percentage points from 28% last year to 23%. Europe - where Airbus leads - has also seen its share decline slightly, from 26% to 25%.
Despite continued dominance of the manufacturers' ranking with 10,900 units, Boeing's fleet growth has slowed this year to below 1%, compared with 2.3% last year. This is the result of the increasing number of retirements of the older types offsetting new deliveries.
Airbus, meanwhile, has seen its fleet grow by almost 9% to more than 4,840 aircraft and looks set to break the 5,000-aircraft threshold in 2009. Another big mover is fourth-placed Embraer - which has seen its fleet grow by 10%. ATR's fleet grew by almost 7% to 680 aircraft, enabling it to displace Fokker, which saw a 1% decline, in fifth place.