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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.