The next decade’s commercial aircraft deliveries in Eastern Europe look set to be dominated by mostly Western-built single-aisle aircraft, with narrowbody twins accounting for half of all the region’s deliveries through 2022 and some 30% of the delivered fleet likely to be regional aircraft.
According to Aviation Week’s latest Commercial Aircraft Fleet and MRO Forecast, some 445 single-aisle commercial aircraft are expected to be delivered to the Eastern European region during the next decade, along with 257 regional aircraft, jet and turboprop. That is nearly 70% of the 889 aircraft projected to be delivered to the region through 2022.
Five aircraft types’ fleets are seen expanding at the highest rate during the next decade: the Superjet 100, the Boeing 787-8/9, 777-300ER and 747-8F and the Viking-built Twin Otter 400. But newer aircraft—all Airbus—will begin to arrive in significant numbers beginning in 2018. Among the fastest-growing fleets then will be the A320NEO and the A350-800 and -900. While the two main Russian-built types, the Irkut MS-21 and the Sukhoi Superjet 100, are expected to grow at relatively high rates, in absolute terms they still are expected to account for only a sliver of the overall population of commercial aircraft in Eastern Europe, roughly 10%.
Eastern Europe also can expect a somewhat larger share of turboprops through 2022, while Western Europe will lean a bit more towards jets during the period. The forecast projects 12% of all aircraft delivered in Eastern Europe will be turboprop powered—103 turboprops compared with 786 turbofan-powered aircraft—compared with only 4% of all deliveries in Western Europe.
After accounting for retirements—especially of older, Russian-built types—the region’s total in-service fleet is seen growing by a net 330 aircraft, but by 2020, deliveries are projected to flatten while retirements continue to hold steady, dramatically reducing fleet growth rates. In fact, in 2020, retirements are forecast to outpace deliveries by 20 aircraft.
The retirement picture in Eastern Europe in many ways mirrors the fuel- and technology-driven early retirement phenomenon being seen across aviation generally, but some factors are more acute in this region. In Eastern Europe, the Aviation Week forecast projects that the share of aircraft less than seven years old will rise from 28% last year to about a third in 2022.
Four factors are driving the change in Eastern European fleet composition: safety, noise, technology and fuel prices. Equipping older Russian-origin types, such as Antonov An-24s, with acceptably modern navigation gear can cost more than the residual value of the aircraft itself, but without that retrofit, the aircraft are restricted from operations in international airspace. Noise has a similar effect; the European Union banned the Ilyushin Il-76 from its airspace unless the aircraft are fitted with engines that are at least Stage 3 compliant, and most of the Middle East’s big freight hubs have barred Antonov An-8s and An-12s. And of course, higher fuel prices and the need for modernized passenger amenities also play a role.
Leasing also is expected to pick up in Eastern Europe, as a shortcut to getting Western-built types into service quickly.
“One example of a trend for more leasing is Air Baltic” in Latvia, notes Nigel Prevett, Aviation Week’s Fleets Database manager and a fleet analyst. That carrier had a fleet of eight Bombardier Q400s originally purchased in 2010, “with delays to the later ones as financing struggled to come together,” but then all eight were sold to Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC) in December 2010 and leased back, Prevett says. “Recently, NAC, not Air Baltic, ordered the next batch of four for lease from the get-go.” The first of those aircraft was ferried to Riga International Airport earlier this month.