Want major new aircraft designs? Wait until 2030.

Airbus' A330neo, a new take on an old design, effectively replaces its all-new A350-800 XWB.
Airbus’ A330neo is a new take on an old design. Airbus

FARNBOROUGH, UK — Over the last century, the aviation industry has steadily pushed ahead with bold new designs. But with a shift toward more incremental improvements, the airplanes of tomorrow will look a lot like the airplanes of today.

At the Farnborough International Airshow here last week, top aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus announced new passenger jets. But the difficulties of designing all-new aircraft, combined with strong airline demand, mean the two companies have begun relying more on updates to existing products rather than ground-up redesigns.

The airlines aren’t standing still, but are refitting older craft with new fuel-efficient engines, updated wings, and other improvements.

“You do not need to do a new program to develop these new technologies,” Ray Conner, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in an interview. “You’re able to take the things you create and bring them to other aircraft, to develop a really good airplane that meets the market needs.”

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