Several people have made reference to the increasing costs of HMVs as an airplane ages. My response: so what? Its still several tens of millions of dollars less than a new airplane and the engines/fuel burn are essentially unchanged comoared to a new CFM56 powered variant. I find myself wondering what makes 30 years a magic number for retirement? Until civil aviation airplane design advances, why not fly them indefinitely, or at least out to the cycles/hour limit?
Imho the A320 was the crowning achievement of Airbus and has defined tbe company. And I was not initally a fan, I was win over.
So what is one more factor in the replacement decision. An A320NEO burns $135,000 less fuel per month, but has a $300,000 lease payment. (My $100k is vs. a new CEO). A HMV already costs about $4.5 million. For these old airframes, they just aren't as reliable as a new. For new aircraft, For new aircraft, one has a ready standby 5% to 6% if the fleet. For 30 year old aircraft, double the number if standby aircraft. In fact, these are usually kept as the standby aircraft if cheap enough.
Then consider the added fuel burn (Sharklets cannot be retrofitted to the older line numbers, I have a list delineating the phases of A320s).
If you look at cost per flight, the maximum hours per day these older aircraft are economical us about 6.5 hours. There is a reason Allegiant isn't buying older than 14 years for their 7.7 hour per day utilization.
If major cracking or corrosion is found, forget it. That takes six months to fix and $8 million plus. The business case switches to buying newer aircraft.
Also remember these aircraft are worth a minimum of $8 million in scrap value. So not scrapping them is forfeiting a nice payout. One must take the cost of new and subtract scrap value, cost of the HMV, cost of delayed flights (reliability), cost if inability to surge to higher flight hours, cost if added care and attention, cost of not being able to fly longer missions, and cost of fuel.
The higher the daily utilization, they earlier the replacement time. There us a reason EasyJet leases and replaces typically at 12 to 14 years. If one looks at LH, DL, AA, UA, G4, and Vistara, one sees these aircraft sitting on off days (Tuesday, Wednesday, September) and flying reduced duty or sitting as the backup aircraft.
One of the most facinating lessons I've learned while on a.net is the 3 tiers of aircraft utilization.
1. Top tier, 10+ hours per day. Aircraft usually rotated out of this duty by 10 years of age.
2. Mid tier, 8 to 10 hours of duty per day. Airlines like DL buy end if line 739s or A320 CEOs for this duty (or anything else sold at a bargain) or hand me down older aircraft. This is new build freighters (hint, they aren't as profitable to sell or support).
3. Low tier. < 8 hours per day Think Allegiant, Volotea, or DL's MD-80s. Always older aircraft, but prior to the max grounding younger A319s and as young as 12 year old A320s.
The issue is you are comparing 30 year old, deep in the low tier of utilization to new. AA isn't buying new A319s for this duty, they buy at scrap value planes that are only 12-15 years old. Other airlines use hand me down aircraft.
There is a well established second hand market in aircraft. A we'll run airline looks at a multitude of factors that makes few aircraft reliable enough to consider past 20 years. The fact the A320 has enough continuous improvement to make it to 30 is outstanding.
Even the vaunted MD-80 has trouble at 30 years. You do realize the latest A320CEOs and all NEOs have predictive maintenance built in far more advanced than the pre 2010 A320s? To fully acheive the reliability of new avionics requires:
1. Updating cockpit, about $4 million
2. Replacing the fadacs, not possible on pre-2000 engines (note, I'm estimating the year, anyone know a better number?) at $2 million per aircraft.
3. Replacing the actuators and aircraft wiring. Ouch, this is about $7 million. There is a reason I rarely see this done.
Dispatch misses have a cost. The A320 early birds had some good FBW. Today's predictive maintenance cannot be run on the limited few hundred thousand lines of code the old avionics is limited to. The rule of thumb is that to receive a perceived 2x improvement in software capability, 10x the code must be run which requires 10x the capability.
The 787 predictive maintenance is now working excellently. Yes, it had a rough start, but now instead of the 777 being the benchmark, it is the 787.
I'm not saying CEOs and NGs do not have a future. But once about 5,000 NEOs, MAXes, A220s, and E2s are in service, they will be rightfully looked at like the MD-80s were.
Winter is coming.