Airbus is studying a further increase in production of single-aisle aircraft as the manufacturer seeks ways to accommodate continued strong demand for the A320neo family.

“There is no conclusion yet, but at some point we will be able to make a further communication,” Eric Schulz, Executive Vice-President Sales, Marketing and Contracts said on the first day of the Singapore Airshow. “Studies are ongoing,” he said. “The success of the product forces us to look at further opportunities.”

Airbus is currently on its way to increase single-aisle output to 60 aircraft, a target it wants to reach by the middle of 2019. Last year, Airbus put out 558 single-aisle aircraft, which translates into an average monthly rate 46, although that has been accelerating in the second half of the year.

The company has been debating the move beyond 60 for some time. Schulz’ predecessor John Leahy, who retired at the end of January, has been pushing the manufacturer to raise output further, but Airbus Commercial Aircraft President Fabrice Bregier has chosen to take a more cautious approach. Bregier is also leaving the company and is replaced by Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury.

As recently as May 2016 Airbus stated that it did not consider any move beyond rate 60. “There is no real serious work going into anything beyond that,” Chief Operating Officer Tom Williams said at the time. The change of mind comes after a surprisingly strong 2017 in which Airbus booked 1,055 net orders for its single-aisle products.

Airbus is benefiting especially from the ongoing boom in Asia’s air transport industry. It delivered 367 aircraft or 51% of its 2017 production to customers in Asia, Schulz said. The company expects airlines in the region to take delivery of around 10,000 narrowbodies in the next 20 years, in addition to 4,000 twin-engine widebodies and 650 very large aircraft. According to Schulz, Airbus has 65% of the single-aisle backlog in Asia and 60% of outstanding widebody deliveries.

Schulz dismissed concerns about constraints in its supply chain. “The industry has changed dramatically,” he said. “The supply chain will continue to be able to cope so that we will be able to raise rates as needed.”

The new Airbus sales chief believes that big orders for the A350-1000, its latest widebody, are near. “I have always been convinced that the A350-1000 will be a great success,” he said. “The market is likely moving to a decision point in massive campaigns from large customers,” Schulz predicted.  Airbus will deliver the first -1000 to Qatar Airways “in the coming weeks”. It has taken one of its flight test aircraft on a three-week tour through the Asia-Pacific region, and is now on display at the Singapore Airshow.

He argued that the aviation boom in India “will translate into widebodies at some point.” Airlines in the country have primarily ordered narrowbodies. Also, Schulz said that the “next big boom in the region could be long-haul low-cost airlines.”

Schulz argued that the recent Emirates order for up to 36 more A380s enables Airbus to keep the production line running at an “industrially viable” rate of six aircraft per year. However, “a couple of customers” are still interested in placing orders for the type for use in specific markets. Airbus is also “looking at a few improvements.” The company proposed the A380plus development study at last year’s Paris Air Show, but it generated little interest. Even Emirates’ latest order is for the current version of the aircraft and not the A380plus.

Schulz said it is unlikely that Airbus would have a good use for a new engine proposed for Boeing’s new mid-market airplane (NMA) that could reach close to 50,000 lb of thrust. “Potentially, maybe, but I don’t have personal visibility of the need for it at Airbus.” The manufacturer is considering a further stretch of the A321neo to counter the NMA should that aircraft be launched. Depending on how extensive the modifications to the aircraft will be, a more powerful engine could be needed. Pratt & Whitney’s PW1133G is the family’s currently most powerful engine at a thrust of 33,000 lb.