Aircraft market forecasts accuracy

In a previous post I wrote about how the predicted average aircraft size by Boeing in 1990 did not match the actual evolution of that average size since then. In a more general context, how accurate are these aircraft market forecasts? Especially taking into account that they forecast along a 20-year period.

I dug in the archives and found an article in Flight International‘s issue of 10-16 March 1993 which compared Airbus’ GMF and Boeing’s CMO (you can find 2012 comparison here). Some excerpts from that article:

  • “Boeing is projecting deliveries of 12,005 aircraft, worth $815 billion at current values, from 1993 to 2010.”
  • (Boeing) “The trend towards larger aircraft will accelerate so that, although single-aisle types will account for about two-thirds of all deliveries, they will comprise 74% of those up to 2000 and only 60% beyond.”
  • “Airbus Industrie has released an upbeat forecast, predicting market demand for 11,653 new jet airliners to be delivered during 1992-2011, up from the 11,500 deliveries predicted in 1991.”
  • (Airbus) “The manufacturer foresees an accelerating demand for widebodied aircraft, driving average airliner size from today’s 176 seats to 255 seats in 20 years.”
  • (Airbus) “The global jet-airliner fleet will grow to 10,000 by 1998 and to almost 15,000 by 2011.

Now, let’s see what was the fleet at the end of 2011. Seeing Airbus’ Global Market Forecast from 2012, the departing numbers are those of 2011 fleet.

  • Passenger aircraft: 15,556 a/c.
  • Freighter aircraft: 1,615 a/c.

Thus, 17,171 a/c at the end 0f 2011. The GMF from 1992 underestimated the 20-year market by slightly above 2,100 or nearly 15% error. Not a bad shot taking into account the time span used.

Let’s take a more recent example, this time from Boeing. In the CMO from 1997, we find the following chart showing Boeing’s forecasted fleet size and distribution for 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016 year-ends.

1997 Boeing CMO year-end fleet forecasts for 2001, 2006, 2011 & 2016.

In 2012 CMO, Boeing offered figures of 2011 year-end fleet.

Fleet at year end 2011 according to Boeing 2012 CMO.

We can make a quick comparison:

Comparison of aircraft fleet at year-end 2011: 1997 forecast vs. actual (sources: Boeing CMO 1997 and 2012).

Some reflections:

  • The total fleet figure was missed only by 1%.
  • The single-aisle figure was missed only by 2%, though less larger single-aisle were acquired than expected.
  • Where the forecast is off mark is in both regional jets (underestimated) and twin-aisle, where there are almost 1,800 less aircraft in the current fleet than forecasted… another reason for Boeing to play down on A380 segment.


NOTE: Figures of current fleet from Boeing and Airbus differ. Some causes: Airbus does not include figures for regional jets, and definitions between large aircraft and twin-aisle vary from one company to the other. Other than that, figures for freighters are similar, 1,615 (A) vs. 1,740 (B), as they are for passenger single-aisles, 12,161 (A) vs 12,030 (B).


Filed under Aerospace & Defence

3 responses to “Aircraft market forecasts accuracy

  1. Pingback: Odds and Ends: 20 year forecasts; Roll ‘em down; Canada v America & Romney « Leeham News and Comment

  2. Pingback: Airliner Jets

  3. Pingback: Aircraft market forecasts accuracy (update 2014) | The Blog by Javier

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