A revamped Airbus A320neo takes to the skies on its maiden voyage as Airbus raises its 20-year forecast for jet demand. As Ciara Lee reports it says it's responding to growth in emerging markets, with China on the brink of becoming the world's aviation powerhouse.
Revamped and more fuel efficient - the Airbus A320neo. The new version of the company's most popular single aisle passenger jet takes to the skies above Toulouse for its maiden voyage. It's not just the plane aiming high, Airbus has raised its 20-year forecast thanks to growth in emerging markets. China is now poised to replace North America as the world's largest domestic aviation market within a decade. Airbus expects passenger air travel to increase by 4 and a half percent in that time. And strong demand for more fuel efficient short-haul planes is booming. Airbus and U.S. rival Boeing are both accelerating production in a bid to win new orders. But both manufacturers are opting to upgrade and add new more economical engines - rather than designing new models. Pierre-Henri Brousse is Chief Engineer on the A320neo. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AIRBUS A320NEO CHIEF ENGINEER PIERRE-HENRI BROUSSE, SAYING: "These engines are large. They are much larger than the engines we had in the past. So in terms of integration that was a challenge for the engineering teams. To make this integration to optimise the performance of the airplane." Airbus is also considering bringing in a revamped A330neo and A350 earlier than planned. And it sees airlines buying more of its larger A321neo. Overall, it's expects to deliver 22,000 single-aisle jets in the next 20 years - 9% more than previously forecast.