Boeing Still Showing Interest In New Midsized Aircraft

At the beginning of last year, the highly-anticipated Boeing New Midsize Airplane (NMA) was shelved. However, during an earning’s call yesterday, the manufacturer’s chief executive officer, David Calhoun hinted that plans for this segment are still in the works.

Boeing Livery
While the 777X takes precedence for Boeing in the short-term, could a middle of the market aircraft be introduced over the next decade or so? Photo: Getty Images

Changing plans

Boeing previously decided to rethink its approach for its future aircraft and go back to the drawing board after the significant impact of the 737 MAX grounding. Leadership announced that the NMA project would no longer go ahead in the way it was. Notably, the US-based outfit shared that it would start again with a fresh piece of paper.

However, in October, reports emerged that Boeing was in early talks with its supply chain about work on a new commercial plane. This project would consist of single-aisle units with advanced engines and could potentially hold between 200 and 250 passengers. The capacity would place the aircraft between the largest 737 MAX narrowbody and the 787 Dreamliner widebody. However, talks were allegedly at a very early stage and a Boeing spokesperson shared that the company is naturally regularly in contact with its suppliers about prospective programs.

FAA Chief Steve Dickson Pilots Boeing 737 MAX Test Flight
The Boeing 737 MAX grounding had put a spanner in the works for Boeing. Photo: Getty Images

Leaning towards the middle

Nonetheless, during the company’s Q4 2020 earning call on January 27th, CEO David Calhoun spoke about his thoughts on the middle of the market segment. Doug Harned, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein asked the executive how his firm would compete against the likes of the A321XLR, which has a better range than the 737 MAX. Calhoun replied by sharing that plans for this market are not ruled out and that his team is taking its time when it comes to the development of such a model.

“Well, over the near term, it is what it is. And again, I think about a portfolio of airplanes, not just any one. And while we take all of the faceoffs that we go through in order and in those routes that you described for the 321, I get it completely, so does our team. Broadly speaking and on balance across the portfolio, we like where our portfolio plays with the MAX at the lower end and the 87 at the higher end and very successful airplanes. Calhoun said in the earnings call.

“I think you’re pretty much in the right space with respect to where next development efforts lean. But I don’t want to call it out just yet. We are really progressing well on our engineering and manufacturing forward technology development so that we’re ready when that moment comes to offer a really differentiated product. So I’m sure it’s not a lot of rocket science for you to add up and guess where things end up. But we’re not going to call out that point design. This isn’t the moment. We’re going to take a little time, and we don’t feel significantly disadvantaged with our portfolio versus their portfolio.”

Analyzing the market

When prompted about the timeframe of such a program, Calhoun mentioned that engines may play a factor. However, a key aspect is airframe technology.

A321XLR
Boeing is not in ant rush to introduce another potential rival to the A321XLR. Photo: Airbus

Overall, Boeing doesn’t feel that one year or two years more in the market to learn more about modern advancements going to hold it back in any way. The company notes that there isn’t any pressure from airlines amid the current climate to rush a new aircraft. Therefore, the firm has the luxury to take things slower in this field. After it is satisfied with proven technologies, it will start to take things to the next level.

It’s highly unlikely that the next Boeing jet will be powered by hydrogen. Boeing feels that there is a while to go before commercial aircraft technology surrounding this element is mature enough to introduce successfully. The company is primarily focused on sustainable jet fuels, which it believes is the 15-year answer to 2050 sustainability guidelines.

What are your thoughts about the potential of Boeing’s next aircraft? What do you think will be the key features of the plane? Let us know what you think of the prospects in the comment section.

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