The Airbus and Boeing Competition’s Journey


Airbus and Boeing are the two largest aircraft manufacturers today controlling most of the market share in passenger aircraft or known as airliners.


The competition between these two manufacturers occurs in each of their products in the sense that one of the main reasons for the birth of a product from one of them is an answer to the product of its competitor who first produced it.


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This competition does not only occur on commercial flights but also on business jet flights where Airbus comes with Airbus Corporate Jets while Boeing with its Boeing Business Jets. In military aviation, the second competition only involved one aircraft model, namely Airbus with the A-330 300 and Boeing with the B-767 for military tanker aircraft.


Since when is the rivalry between the two of them and what is the background of this seemingly endless rivalry between the two?


Usually, before making an aircraft, aircraft manufacturers will first conduct research and see developments that occur in commercial flights from various sources, including from airlines as users of their products, but at Airbus and Boeing, in general, to compete with competing products that were first present.


Competition between aircraft models at these two manufacturers will refer to the following three things:

1. Size

Because these two manufacturers both produce jet-engined passenger planes, the plane sizes are divided into two, namely Narrow Body and Wide Body.


Narrow-body aircraft have a diameter of 3-4 meters and only provide one aisle (single-aisle) while the wide-body has a diameter of 5-6 meters so that it is possible to provide more than one aisle. This Wide Body aircraft can be mid-size or medium which is smaller in size than a wide body in general and don’t forget the Jumbo size for sure.


In narrow-body aircraft, the manufacturer Airbus has narrow-body aircraft in the A-320 family and was added to the A-220 after Airbus acquired a 50.01% stake in the Bombardier CSeries program in July 2018, while Boeing owns the B-737 and B-757 families which replaced the B. -727 which is no longer in production.


For the wide-body, Airbus has the A-330, A-340, and A-350 families and the A-380 as the Super Jumbo, while Boeing has the B-777, B-767, B-787, and B-747 Jumbo families.


2. Capacity

The size of the diameter and length of the aircraft will affect the amount of aircraft capacity which can be reflected in the number of seats per row, on a narrow body usually the number of seats per row is 3-6 seats and can accommodate between 160-260 passengers while the wide-body number of seats per row can be totaling up to 10 seats per row with two aisles so that it can accommodate up to 480 passengers. This amount is based on a single deck instead of a double-deck as on the B-747 and A-380.


3. Roaming Power or Range

The cruising range of a passenger aircraft will represent the aircraft’s ability to fly without refueling and this will categorize the aircraft based on the distance or duration of flight into three categories, namely short, medium and long flights.


The criteria for each vary in determining it, but what is commonly used is in terms of distance and in terms of time or length of the flight.


For short-distance flights with a distance of under 1,500 km or up to 3 hours of flight, for medium distances between 1,500-2,200 km or 3-6 hours, while long distances of more than 2,200 km or 6-12 hours, but now there are ultra-long flights with longer durations. of 12 hours.


These three things will make it easier for us to understand this competition because all aircraft are produced based on several considerations by airlines as users related to these three things.


On this basis, aircraft manufacturers issue variants of the basic aircraft model to remain able to answer the airline’s requests apart from the application of the latest technology.


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We know the basic models such as the A-320 and B-737 but technological developments and passenger growth have resulted in many variants on these two aircraft models such as the A-320 with the A-318, A-319 (short version), and A-321 (long version) variants. ), while the B-737 from the 100 series to the Max. Each variant on each aircraft indicates changes made based on the application of technology as well as to compete with each other.


The opening of the competition between the two manufacturers can be said to have been created when Airbus released its first commercial aircraft product, the A-300B2, which is the world’s first wide-body aircraft for medium-haul flights. This aircraft has a capacity of up to 250 seats and can serve medium and long-haul flights where Air France became the first airline to operate this aircraft in May 1974.


Boeing at that time had just gained the success of their passenger jet product B-747 wide-body (jumbo) for long-distance flights where PanAm became the first airline to operate this aircraft, previously Boeing also had success with the B-707 and had the production of narrow-body aircraft. B-727 and B-737.


However, at that time Boeing also still had to face two other rivals, namely Lockheed and McDonnel Douglas who succeeded in filling the capacity gap between the B-707 and B-747 with their Lockheed L-1011 Tristar and McDonnel Douglas DC-10 products.


Several airlines at that time needed an aircraft with a size no larger than the B-747 and which had a flight cruising range of no less than the B-747, Boeing then produced a variant of the B-747, namely the B-747 SP with a smaller size and 14 meters more. short but has a range exceeding the B-747.


However, this happened when the two rivals had already arrived and managed to fill the gap. On the other hand, Boeing did not have a wide-body aircraft product on medium-haul flights which was also needed by the airlines at that time.


Boeing then started their program, namely 7X7 and 7N7 which later became their two products, namely the B-757 and B-767 200 where United Airlines became the first airline to fly the B-767 200 in September 1982 or eight years after the Airbus A-300B2. . In other words, Airbus first filled the market needs for wide-body aircraft for medium-haul flights with a capacity of up to 250 seats.


Airbus then produced a continuation of their A-300 with the A-300B4 600 or better known as the A-300 600 which entered commercial operation in July 1983, this aircraft will be more able to compete with the B-767 200 on long-haul flights.


In terms of cruising range, the A-300B4 600 can fly as far as 7,500 km, while the B-767 200 can fly as far as 12,200 km.


Both manufacturers continue to compete in this class by continuing to issue variants, Boeing issued the B-767 300, 300ER, and 400ER while Airbus issued the A-300B10 or known as the A-310 in two series, namely the 200 series for medium-haul flights and the 300 series for flights long distance.


At that time, Airbus did not have narrow-body aircraft for short/medium-haul flights and wide-body aircraft for long-haul flights. At that time, Boeing had filled narrow-body aircraft for short/medium distance flights with B-737 and Douglas DC-9, while for long distances there were already B-707, B-747, and aircraft from other manufacturers, namely Lockheed L-1011 Tristar and McDonnell Douglas DC-10.


In 1977 Airbus began developing narrow-body aircraft for short and medium distances to fill the short and medium-range narrow-body aircraft market with their product A-320 in April 1988 with Air France as its first user airline.


As for the Wide Body aircraft for special long-distance flights, Airbus issued two aircraft simultaneously, namely the A-300B9 or known as the A-330 and the A-300B11 or known as the A-340, where in addition to filling the market for long-haul aircraft, Airbus is determined to replace the dominance of aircraft at this long-distance which is almost said to have started to age, namely the B-707, L-1011 Tristar, DC-8 and DC-10 aircraft.


At first, Airbus would only produce two-engine aircraft for this long-distance, but Airbus saw the tendency of airlines in Asia to prefer four-engine aircraft while in America it was more likely to use two-engine aircraft, so Airbus decided to produce both simultaneously.


Subsequent developments made the competition on passenger jets reinforce the competition between Boeing and Airbus. In July 1997 Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas and with Lockheed’s withdrawal from passenger aircraft products and concentrating on defense products, at that time the competition in passenger jet aircraft left only two manufacturers (duopoly).


Technological developments have an impact on aircraft capabilities and capabilities, the emergence of aircraft engines not only has an impact on fuel efficiency but also has an impact on cruising range. In this area, Airbus seems to have the upper hand.


Narrow-body aircraft are now able to fly farther, not only for short and medium-distance flights but also long distances, as we can see on the A-321 XLR aircraft, which is scheduled to start operating in 2023. The A-321 aircraft is a stretched version or has a length that is longer than the main model A-320.


Long-haul flights are usually served by wide-bodied aircraft to accommodate more passengers and provide comfort but Airbus has changed that with a much larger aircraft where the A-320 family is basically for short and medium-haul flights.


To sum it up, the competition between the two occurs in every category of flight duration, be it short, medium, and long, as well as in size, be it Narrow Body or Wide Body.


The author believes that the B-737 and A-320 aircraft are the fiercest competition between the two, this can be seen from the many variants of the two models when compared to other models.


In addition to competition on narrow-body aircraft, Airbus and Boeing are also still competing on wide-body aircraft, namely the Airbus A-350 with the Boeing B-787 and the B-777 8/9 which is ready to compete with the Airbus A-350 900/1000.

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