As Africa looks to increased recovery from the pandemic, Mr. Randy Heisey, Managing Director, Africa and Middle East, Boeing,assures of Boeing’s readiness to strengthen partnership with airlines in Africa. He says Boeing sees long-term commercial airplane fleet growing to 1,560in Africa by 2040, and Boeing has adopted flexible strategy to increase support to Africa, as he also makes heartwarming revelations on the B737MAX, in this exclusive interview with Aviation & Allied Business Journal.
Q: The Africa region is generallyseen as having strong potential despite the challenges of the COVID-19, how do you assess the recovery so far in the African airline and aircraft market?
A: The 2021 Commercial Market Outlook, released in Sept. 2021, shows global as well as regional forecasts including Africa are playing out largely as Boeing projected in 2020: demand for domestic air travel is leading the recovery, with intra-regional markets expected to follow as health and travel restrictions ease, followed by long-haul travel’s return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023 to 2024.
Q: Boeing projects Africa’s commercial airplane fleet to grow to 1,560 over the next 20 years, how much of this emerging African aircraft market is Boeing looking at capturing?
A: Our forecast shows expected demand across all manufacturers. While we don’t predict market share, Boeing’s family of airplanes provides the efficiency, sustainability and versatility that we believe our customers value.
Q: The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) tend to be focusing attention on intra-Africa air transport and trade; how is Boeing positioned to play in the emerging intra-African regional market where aircraft competition is increasing?
A: Single-aisle jets are expected to account for more than 70% of commercial deliveries in Africa by 2040, with 740 new planes mainly supporting domestic and inter-regional demand.
Boeing serves the single-aisle market with the 737 MAX family, designed to offer our customers the greatest flexibility, reliability and efficiency. Every 737 MAX features the Boeing Sky Interior, highlighted by modern sculpted sidewalls and window reveals, LED lighting that enhances the sense of spaciousness and larger pivoting overhead storage bins. All 737 MAX airplanes incorporate environmental improvements, cutting carbon emissions by 14 percent and reducing noise by 50 percent compared to the airplanes it replaces.
Q: The emphasis on environmental protection intensifies by the day, how is Boeing looking to supporting African airlines to contain emissions?
A: Boeing supports the net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 industry commitment. We are actively engaged in backing a number of initiatives and partnerships to pursue a multi-faceted approach to decarbonizing aviation.
New airplanes such as the 737 MAX, 787 and 777X provide significant efficiency gains – each generation reduces fuel use and emissions 15-25%. Fully deploying the latest generation airplanes is the most significant contribution to CO2 emissions reduction available over the next decade. Boeing has invested more than $60 billion over the last 10 years in key strategic areas to improve environmental efficiency.
This includes investing in innovative technologies such as the digital thread,
carbon composite materials and advanced high bypass-ratio engine designs as well as other aerodynamic improvements such as natural laminar flow that reduce drag.
Q: New airlines are springing up in Africa, while most African airlines face the challenge of difficult access to newer aircraft, how do you think this challenge can be resolved?
A: Due to increasing rates of urbanization, working age population growth, middle-class upward mobility, and propensity to travel, Boeing predicts that Africa will have the third highest traffic growth rate by 2040. Boeing looks forward to serving the needs of new and established carriers that seek to capture this demand.
In terms of aircraft financing, a number of options are available to airline operators and financiers, particularly as they explore and develop post-pandemic strategies. Financing pathways, including lease solutions alongside various Export Credit Agency (ECA) options, will continue to play a role. Boeing Capital Corporation (BCC) continually works with Boeing customers and industry financiers to help determine the best solution for their particular situation. This on-going transaction support has proven instrumental in offering customers and financiers a better understanding of market nuances.
Q: There is still some apathy or antipathy over the 737MAX believed to have the potential to deliver remarkable value to the industry, how do you hope to engage the support of the potential flyers and operators in Africa?
A: We will never forget the lives lost in the Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accidents. We are implementing the hard lessons learned from this chapter in our history and focused on ensuring the highest standards of safety, quality, integrity and transparency in all that we do, every day. We’re rebuilding trust one airplane, one action, one engagement at a time.
We’ve made important progress in safely returning the 737 MAX to service worldwide. Since the FAA’s ungrounding in Nov. 2020, more than 175 out of 195 global regulators have opened their airspace to the 737 MAX. More than 30 airlines have returned their fleets to service and those airlines have safely flown over 215,000 commercial flights, totaling more than 525,000 flight hours. The fleet has a schedule reliability rate of more than 99%, and airlines are operating over 1,200 revenue flights daily.
This year through October, we have sold more than 580 737 MAX across each of the models from the 737-7 to the 737-10, reflecting the value of versatility and commonality in the 737 family. In addition, please see the announcement Air Tanzania made during the Dubai Airshow here, on its purchase of Boeing airplanes including the 737 MAX.
Q: Aircraft maintenance cost and related challenges are still a nightmare for most African airlines, how much is Boeing looking at providing increased support in the African region in this regard?
A: Boeing forecasts that Africa’s airlines will require aftermarket services such as maintenance and repair worth $235 billion, enabling growth for air travel and economies across the continent.
We have changed our focus to become more flexible in the services we provide by offering a suite of engineering services with targeted solutions. We’re helping customers improve technical reliability and reduce repair costs by providing customized predictive and prescriptive analytics solutions for their maintenance needs. We’re supporting customers as the need for fleet flexibility increases and airlines move aircraft around their network as well as in and out of their fleet.
Q: Since the COVID-19 period, aircraft freighter conversions have become more popular, what has been Boeing’s experience and how much were African operators involved in this regard?
A: Boeing has seen more than double the orders and commitments for its Boeing Converted Freighters this year compared to pre-pandemic levels/years as we continue to see strong demand from our global customers.
We anticipate continued demand for our freighter conversions offerings, with 1,720 converted freighters needed over the next 20 years to accommodate future growth. Of that demand, 8 percent will come from African and Middle Eastern carriers.
Q: What is your strongest encouragement in the African aviation market, and what is your outlook for Boeing over the next 10 years in Africa?
A: Boeing forecasts that Africa’s airlines will require 1,030 new airplanes by 2040 valued at $160 billion, enabling growth for air travel and economies across the continent. Africa’s strong, long-term growth prospects for commercial aviation are closely tied to the continent’s projected 3% annual economic growth over the next 20 years.
The continent has healthy opportunities to expand travel and tourism, coinciding with increasing urbanization and rising incomes. African carriers are well-positioned to support inter-regional traffic growth and capture market share by offering services that efficiently connect passengers and enable commerce within the continent.