Boeing trims 20-year forecast for commerical plane market

Boeing Co. has lowered its 20-year forecast for the commercial airplane market for the first time in at least a decade, citing the global recession, declining passenger and cargo traffic, and unpredictable fuel prices.

The world's second-largest airplane maker said Thursday it expects a market for 29,000 new passenger and cargo jets valued at $3.2 trillion over the next two decades. That's down 1.4 percent from a forecast last year of 29,400 planes, also valued at $3.2 trillion. The dollar value is unchanged due to anticipated price inflation.

Chicago-based Boeing and European rival Airbus SA, the world's largest plane manufacturer, have been grappling with falling orders as the world economic crisis forces airlines to cancel or delay plans to buy new planes. Tight credit markets have made it more difficult for potential customers to secure financing, though Boeing has said it expects to provide up to $1 billion this year.

Boeing nonetheless maintains a record backlog of more than 3,500 orders, including 866 for its forthcoming 787, a long-delayed but highly popular new aircraft built for fuel-efficiency with lightweight carbon composite parts.

In its latest forecast, Boeing said air traffic growth, which has averaged more than 5 percent annually over the past 30 years, is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.9 percent over the next 20 years.

Despite current difficulties, the commercial airplane market will stabilize and economic growth will return over time, Boeing said in a statement.

"While the commercial aviation industry is facing a significant downturn, it is cyclic and has a long history of declines and upturns," said Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing's commercial airplane division.