The Boeing NLT – A Competitior To The Airbus A321XLR?

A recent article from The Air Current has brought to light a new direction for Boeing. Could it be considering revitalizing its older ‘NLT’ concept – the Boeing New Light Twin.

Boeing FSA
Boeing already did a study into a new twin widebody aircraft. Photo: Getty

What is the NLT?

The New Light Twin is the ‘twin’ or sister project to the Boeing NMA. It is the equivalent replacement for the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 (The NMA was conceived as a replacement for the Boeing 737 and 757), with the difference between the two studies hovering around the passenger capacity of the Boeing 757-200 (200-250 passengers).

Boeing needs these two concepts in motion rather than just one, because of the fabled widebody/narrowbody ‘cross-over’ point:

“Many elements go into that cross-over point, depending on how much comfort you put into the airplane,” Kourosh Hadi, director of product development at Boeing speaking to Leeham News in 2005. 

“The number of doors, the arrangement, the level of technology drives the different cross-overs. We know that single-aisle has limitations. You can go as high as a 757-300. The cross-over is probably somewhere around the 757-200, around 180-200 seats.”

Boeing 787-3
Boeing has also thought about bringing back plans for a Boeing 787-3 instead of the 797. Photo: Getty

What is interesting about this concept is that Boeing already has all the plans and concept work completed. This is especially useful now that they have decided to go back to the drawing board with the Boeing 797.

The Air Current explained the concept in more detail. The NLT is an aircraft that can carry 220-240 passengers with two aisles (such as in a 2-3-2 configuration in economy) to a range of 5,000 nautical miles. Whilst it doesn’t have the economics of a narrowbody, the widebody configuration allows more passengers onboard with a shorter turnaround time at the airport. This would be useful for high-density commuter routes like Sydney to Melbourne.

Essentially, it would be a wide and fat short-haul plane. Using technology from the Boeing 787 and engines derived form the 777X, Boeing could build a super high-tech people mover. This would put the aircraft squarely in the sights of Airbus and its very successful Airbus A321XLR.

Could the NLT be the answer to the XLR?

Both Airbus and Boeing are aware that the short-haul narrowbody market is limited, with a sales figure of only around 1,200 aircraft. This is not enough to design an aircraft completely for it, hence why Airbus decided to push one of their narrowbody aircraft (the A321XLR) up into the category.

The A321XLR has a 4,700nm range. Image: Airbus

Boeing has a chance now to approach the problem of the market, and to rival Airbus’ solution with their own clean sheet design. We know from recent comments that Boeing intends to not follow in the XLR’s footsteps (presumably increasing the range of a Boeing 737 to match) and thus that logically leaves the NLT study as the next best option.

A widebody short-haul aircraft that can also do the distance would suit the big three carriers in the US (American, United, and Delta) well, but would be a hard sell to others like Alaskan and Southwest, who focus on short-haul routes.

A combination of an NLT and a new NMA to replace the Boeing 737 would be the best bet, giving airlines options for either and satisfying all customers… and keeping their shapeshifting A321XLR rival Airbus at bay.

What do you think? Could the NLT study be the answer? Let us know in the comments.