Could Boeing Launch The NMA & FSA Together?

Now that Boeing has decided to do a total rethink of its future aircraft plans, will this mean that a future replacement for the 737 MAX and the next 797 design might come out at the same time? Could Boeing, essentially, design a one fits all aircraft? Let’s explore.

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Boeing might have a chance to rebuild their short-haul aircraft line with a fresh design.  Photo: Getty Images

What are the details?

Boeing recently put its plans for the New Midsize Airplane (NMA), also dubbed the 797, on ice. The new CEO of Boeing stepped in and paused the design process of the new airframe, a design that was essentially ready for market, and sent it back to the drawing board.

Boeing believes that the market has moved on from its original need for the Boeing 797, and they may be right. The ‘superior’ Airbus A321XLR has been released and has quickly snapped up orders. Now, there may no longer be as many Boeing 797 customers.

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A321XLR infographic
The Airbus A321XLR. Photo: Airbus

Additionally, Boeing needs to figure out a replacement aircraft for the Boeing 737 MAX. Without getting into the specifics, the Boeing 737 MAX is the latest iteration of a 1960s aircraft design. Some features that were needed back in the 1960s have become flaws, for example, keeping the aircraft low to allow stairs to be used. Now, they are limiting any further improvements to the design, such as more powerful engines.

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Boeing now has a good excuse and opportunity to go back to the drawing board with both designs and come up with something new.

What could Boeing do?

“We’re going to start with a clean sheet of paper again; I’m looking forward to that,”Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said to Reuters. 

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Interestingly, most of the effort that went into the Boeing 797 design was not for the plane itself, but the production systems to build the next generation of Boeing aircraft. Boeing had originally planned to roll out the 797 and then start to work on the new FSA concept (Future Small Airplane).

Boeing is looking at around 5-7 years to redesign a new aircraft to bring to market, and in this timeframe it can better understand the competition and how to meet it.

Ryanair, Buzz, Boeing 737 MAX
Boeing 737 MAX might be the last version of the Boeing 737. Photo: Boeing

Likely Boeing will be looking at building a new 170-270 seater aircraft, that can fly around 5,000 nautical miles. It can take the best bits of the Airbus A321XLR (its range) and incorporate it with the current market gap (no current replacement for the Boeing 767). At the same time, if it can hit the market on an effective short-haul concept (perhaps a shrink of the 797) they might be able to kill two birds with one stone.

In effect, the Boeing 797 could be scaled to meet both the ‘middle of the market’ gap and replace the Boeing 737, much like the Airbus A320neo airframe. All on one single production line.

What do you think? Is this an effective plan for Boeing? Let us know in the comments.

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Gary

Boeing needs to design an aircraft similar to the A320 and 757 with longer legs.
So in the future can reengine it with updated and bigger engines.
Without having the same problem like 737 MAX had.
Could even tweak the old 757 design as well.
With composite materials and the latest engines and a full glass cockpit.
Wander what a 757 would be like with the 737 MAX sharklet wing tips.
And how much less fuel burn would it give.

Frank

The problem with designing something to fit everything, is that shrinks rarely work. There is extra weight carried around because the commonality you try to design into the airframe needs to be strong enough for a larger aircraft. Airbus has 2 aircraft covering the single aisle market; A220 & A320Neo Any Boeing offering would have to beat out either of those two models in their niche, in order to make it worthwhile for an airline to purchase it. Airbus is even waiting on rolling out the A220-500 so it doesn’t steal from the A320Neo, which would probably be the definitive… Read more »

Alex

The A321XLR seems to be selling better than anyone anticipated. The NMA may be targeting a niche that is too small. Boeing has used the same narrowbody cross-section since the 50s. At this point the FSA should take priority. Narrowbody with 180-240 seats with up to 4,500nm range, larger cabin cross-section than the A321 and larger use of composites should give it a competitive edge. The 787 will cover anything above this, and the Embraer E2 anything below. NMA was a good idea, but it may be too late for it.

Frank

Except the E2 does not cover the ‘below’. It’s a regional jet and that’s pretty much where it will stay, unless a major redesign is on the way. If Boeing did this, they would leave everything from 100-180 seats up to Airbus.

John

I think the A220-500/700 would be a better fit rather than the Embraer?

Paul Bellinger

I think Boeing has too many issues and credibility to deal with,
A variant of the 738 max and 797 could be the answer. Steal bits of the 321 Airbus technology and you might just make Boeing great again but don’t rush anything.

JFP

All this talk is just that. Talk. Developing any new aircraft is going to cost billions that Boeing doesn’t have, thanks to the PC grounding of the 737 MAX. Boeing should take their development case to the Brazilian government and seek their “assistance” in the development of an aircraft that will take Embraser into the “big leagues” of manufacturing large airliners. The “assistance” wouldn’t have to be directly “financial”. It would be historic in being not just the first Boeing aircraft solely manufactured outside of the U.S., but the first major airliner built in what used to be called a… Read more »

TonytTDK

“Success-shaming” You’re having a great big laugh aren’t you.? In order to shame Boeing for their success, they have to actually be successful as a business. The ‘old’ B777 is & always has been a great success……. after that it all gets a bit thin, really quickly. The B777X might be edging closer to certification, but there’s still a good chance that it’ll explosively decompress the first time it encounters any serious turbulence. The B787 has STILL not paid-off it’s development costs & according to most it NEVER will, so Boeing will NEVER make a bean from that model. The… Read more »

TonytTDK

JFP,
I agree completely with everything you said….. right up until the guff you’re started talking about EASA, PC & giving the B757 “longer-legs”.!!!

Paul Liriano

You mad bro?

Trent

This NEEDS to happen!

The 757 and the 767 share a common type rating, and Boeing needs to swing for the fence and do this for FSA/NMA. This would allow Boeing to design FSA a little on the smaller side, think 737-700 (which is most of SWA fleet contrary to popular belief by far), size to better compete with the A220 and still compete with the A320, and allow NMA to not worry about the A321 and go be a happy widebody.

Max

Except the 787 already is Boeing’s “happy widebody”…

janj

This can be done ideally with the same set of fuselage and have different wings (and engines) for a high and low-end variant. This will save them production wise and commonality on cockpit. Also developing a all-composite aircraft would be counterproductive as this will spike the unit cost of each plane so it would be better to maintain a metallic fuselage and improve production of composite wings since technology will be quite mature for one. GTF would be mature by that time so it would be good that they offer 2 engine options as this will potentially snap out some… Read more »

mohave

As the 737 goes the way of the 727, it is more economical to have just one assembly line. Building fuselages in Wichita and shipping by rail to WA is inefficient. Boeing could continue a joint venture with Spirit, but build all the 737 replacement in Wichita. It is inevitable for aerospace to move from states with a bad business climate to states with better. The best location for the 737 replacement line is Texas, the state with the best business climate. It is a safe bet that the 737 replacement will not be built in California. Moving to Texas… Read more »

JFP

Regulatory climate would be make Brazil attractive for production

Jason Dykstra

They should just build the 7J7.

Here2go

I read the Wikipedia article on the 7J7. Interesting. To think if they had this aircraft in lieu of the 737 with a rear mounted engine, the clearance problems that have made the 737 Max a disaster wouldn't have existed

TonytTDK

The major problems with those ‘propfan’ engines is that they ‘scream’ because of the rotor blade tips being close to supersonic speeds without a sound-ducting outer casing AND that in the event of a rotor-failure there is no casing to contain the parts when they fly-off.
That’s why the engine’s are always mounted behind the cabin, but also means that in the event of a catastrophic engine failure, it could result in a significant, possibly total loss of control due to tail, rudder & aileron damage.

TonytTDK

I’d suggest that this is plausible idea for a concept, but it still wouldn’t be cheap……. though definitely cheaper than 2 all new designs. IMO, Boeing could design a narrowbody fuselage, similar in width to the B757, but brand new, including composites in the construction & the latest in CAD developments. The cockpit and possibly tail sections could be identical too, BUT, that would be about it……. The wings would absolutely need to be completely different, as they’d need to do a different kind of job, generate different levels of lift & support different weights of engines & landing gear.!!!… Read more »

Anonymous

The 767-X would have been a good idea before the A321XLR came. It’s probably already too late to fill the MoM gap in the market, as many airlines have already ordered the XLR.

Alex

Great idea. Build a single aisle plane that can vary in size from 150 to 300 passengers. Then it can compete with the a220 300,500,700,900 and maybe the 1000 too. No point in letting airbus have the whole single aisle market. Development cost would be spread out over many varients which would keep the costs down. They could also launch planes incrementally too. The 737 Max is not likely to be getting many new orders, especially not in 5-7 years time.

Alex

Great idea. Build a single aisle plane that can vary in size from 150 to 300 passengers. Then it can compete with the a220 300,500,700,900 and maybe the 1000 too. No point in letting airbus have the whole single aisle market. Development cost would be spread out over many varients which would keep the costs down. They could also launch planes incrementally too. The 737 Max is not likely to be getting many new orders, especially not in 5-10 years time. Its an old dated design and whilst it’s bad reputation will fade after years of flying safely in the… Read more »

john

Any plan that scraps the 737 once and for all is a good idea given the disaster it has become with the MAX. Maybe Calhoun is considering a plane to compete with both the 321XLR and the A220-500?

Antz

I’ve been thinking along these lines for a while, that they should be able to replace the 737,757 and 767 with a single concept. There would be huge benefits for airlines if they can pull this off. It seems a very sensible way forward. Add that the E2 may be catering to the smaller end of the market and may have scope to push into 737 size territory and your new concept can be designed around larger capacities. I don’t have any expertise other than being a designer but it makes sense if it is possible.

Michael F

Am I missing something but isn’t everyone missing the fact that the NMA (797) has always been proposed as a twin aisle aircraft? Few people like flying 6-7+ hours on a single aisle and I would also try to avoid booking this.

Jim

Just curious, why don't you like single aisle for longer flights?

Trent

Make the planes a common type rating.

FSA: Standard 3×3

NMA: 2x3x2

Syd

Why don’t boeing just buy or build under license the mc-21, modify it here and there for the larger version?