On December 14, 2016 mid-range narrow-body Bombardier SC300 belonging to AirBaltic made its first commercial flight from Riga to Amsterdam. And this is only the beginning of the turmoil for the civil aircraft monopolists: in the next two years it will be even densier among mid-range narrow-body planes, since the Chinese C919 and Russian MS-21-200 will debut.
Today, the main driving force of the global civil aviation are medium-range single-aisle aircrafts. Evolution of the civil aircrafts brought up a new high-demand generation: aircrafts, capable of flying at a distance of up to 6,000 km without refueling, carry up to 160 passengers, climbing to an altitude of 12.5 km, which saves fuel due to less air resistance. Before, only business jets flew so high. Today, this type of aircraft account for 78% of aircraft passenger traffic. Compared to the wide-body aircrafts, typified by, for example, the famous Boeing 747 and Russian IL-96, single-aisle transportation per passenger is much cheaper within the continent.
Just as Republicans and Democrats, the Tories and Whigs, civil passengers were divided between Boeing and Airbus until this winter. Boeing is rightfully older: 737 is the recognized record bearer for the number of passenger transportations in the history of civil aviation; it has been flying since 1968. Now there are more than 8,000 aircrafts of this brand in 10 different versions in the sky. Every 5 seconds, there's a landing and take off of Boeing 737 around the world. Another 4,000 are waiting to be manufactured, and soon Boeing 737 MAX 7s will be launched into production.
European consortium Airbus S.A.S with its A320 family is 20 years younger than Boeing 737. Since the late 1980s, it has produced more than 7,000 aircrafts. The most advanced model of the series is Airbus A319Neo with new engines; Lufthansa was the first to buy them in January 2016.
And in December 2016, AirBaltic made a surprise move: it chose ultra-modern, but a little-known to ordinary passengers Canadian Bombardier as its main plane. The Baltic low-coster has an iron argument: Boeing 737 means improved technologies of the 1960s, the Airbus was the development of the 1980s, and Bombardier possesses the ideas and technologies of the 21st century. The Bombardier SC300 body has 46% composites and 24% aluminum-lithium alloys that make it nearly 4 tons lighter than its Boeing and Airbus rivals. Accordingly, the new Bombardier consumes 20% less fuel. Its service ceiling reaches 12.5 km, 1000 m higher than that of the Boeing 737 Classic. Innovative design reduces pre-flight preperation time. Thus, the Canadian plane is 15% cheaper in operation as compared to its competitors.
All the benefits of new technologies can be felt not only by the airlines that accept CS300 in the operation, but also by their passengers. Interior of the new Bombardier can accommodate up to 145 people, and the distance between the seats and their width (48 cm instead of 43 cm in the classic Boeing 737) allows you to accommodate all passengers with business-class comfort. Nice detail: the size of the windows at the Bombardier CS300 is twice more than that of Airbus and a quarter than the Boeing.
And, perhaps most importantly for passengers, is that the noise in the CS300 cabin is four times weaker than that of its competitors. The creators of the plane established a new benchmark of environmental standards: CO2 and NOX emissions are reduced by 20% and 50%, respectively. And it is not only concern for the environment, but also an important competitive advantage. Airlines updating their fleets are oriented not only on the technical and economic characteristics, but also on the long-term environmental standards of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).
However, the obvious superiority of Bombardier will be short-lived. In 2017, the single-aisle aircraft market will see another player from the lower leagues. Russian Irkut Corporation produces new MS-21-200 aircraft, which is the main hope of Russian civil aviation industry; its declared parameters are ahead of most modern competitors/ This model resembles the Bombardier SS300, but is more capacious: there are 176 passenger seats in Irkut. Just as the Canadian aircraft, the Russian one was built according to the cutting-edge technologies with the use of composite materials and with the same engines, Pratt & Whitney (the Russian PD-14 engine will be installed on these planes in the near future). Efficient engines and lightweight body make it possible to save up to 13% fuel compared with Boeing and Airbus. Irkut is planning to sell the MS-21 to the Russian airlines, the CIS countries, but the main goal are the promising Asian markets, which are growing by 7-15% per year.
But in Asia they will have a serious rival. In 2018, Chinese will come to the market oe medium-haul aircrafts. Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) announced the launch of the C919 aircraft, which will be the product of cooperation with aircraft manufacturers around the world. C919 is designed primarily for operation in "their" airliners, where the state can force the companies to purchase "their own" aircrafts. And if all goes according to plan, COMAC will compete with the largest global manufacturers.