As aviation opens up, GE bets on India’s wide-body aircraft market

The slot constraint in Indian airports is also going to play a role in pushing airlines to have wide bodies.

Aircraft engine maker GE is bullish that Indian airlines will order more wide-body aircraft as the industry revives from the Covid pandemic.

GE engines currently power all aircraft operated by Air India and Vistara.

“If you look at mature aviation markets like China or the US, which have around 4,000 aircraft, the ratio of wide bodies is around 20-25 per cent. By that same parameter, India — with a fleet of 700 aircraft — should have around 140 wide bodies. By 2027, when we are supposed to have 1,000 aircraft, and even with a conservative estimate, India should have around 150-200 wide bodies. I believe the next phase of growth in India will be wide bodies,” said Vikram Rai, country head, GE Aviation.

Rai said that the slot constraint in Indian airports is also going to play a role in pushing airlines to have wide bodies.

“Airlines will need bigger aircraft to tide over the slot constraint problem,” he said.

Today, every Indian airline is a customer of GE or its joint venture CFM with around 600 aircraft using GE engines.

IndiGo, India’s largest airline in 2019 and 2021, signed deals for CFM LEAP-1A engines for a total of 590 A320 and A321 aircraft. A growth in the number of wide body planes bodes well for the US aerospace giant as it manufactures the Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft.

All 45 wide bodies in Indian airlines’ fleet use GE engines.  “We are talking to all airlines to convince them that a wide body is the future. I believe that the airlines will choose GE as engine provider,” Rai said, adding that it will grow to 2,000 plus engines.

“This is more than 3x growth in the next five years,” he added. On whether growth in GE’s aviation business will lead to more localisation of components by the manufacturer, Rai said it will depend on the volume of business.

He pointed out that the company already has multiple initiatives for R&D as well as manufacturing in India.

GE has developed a supply chain network that feeds into the requirements of the company’s business at the global level.

There is a multimodal factory in Pune where it makes engine components for the GE9x engine.  In partnership with the Tata group, GE also manufactures engine components for the LEAP 1A engine.

GE’s centre in Bengaluru has close to 1,000 engineers and also works on future engines, which will be commercially produced from 2030. The engine manufacturer is also a key player in the global aviation industry’s attempt to bring in sustainability.

“Sustainability is our north star. The LEAP engine has a 15 per cent better fuel burn than its predecessor. The GEnX engine has a 15 per cent lower emission than its older model.  We have developed a foam wash programme for the 787 fleet of Air India, which helps in lowering emissions,” Rai said.

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