Boeing confirmed yesterday that the case for the 797X as it’s already unofficially named, but remains the NMA (New Mid-market Aircraft) to the company, is growing stronger.
Boeing has two classes of project in its unofficial lexicon. One of them is Moon Shot – something totally new, never been done before and a ground up design project. That was the 787, which you might find hard to appreciate, was first revealed in 2004!
That programme while now successful, saw the first 500 aircraft sold at a loss and cost the company vastly more than it intended. They have no intention of repeating a project like that in the foreseeable future.
So the new aircraft is almost certain to incorporate much of the technology and construction methodology gained from the 787. It’s aimed at replacing the 757 and the 767 – although you could argue that the 788 was meant to replace the later. And it will almost certainly be a small twin aisle.
It has to beat the A321neoLR and any possible Airbus reaction; the already touted A321XLR. Airbus say the NMA is just a catch up, but they need to watch out, a superior product to the ancient A321 platform no matter how modernised and extended, could prove a serious challenge.
David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue, the new airline Moxy, promoter and part owner of TAP Portugal and Brazilian airline Azul, says he’s been briefed on the new aircraft and remains very positive about it. The feeling is it could offer a big shift in the economics of flying between medium and small airports over longer ranges.
Boeing has decided the business case for the aircraft, working with airlines and determining what is commercially saleable and viable, is the only deciding factor on whether or not to proceed.
It would decide that this year, possibly at the Paris show. Concepts would be shown and the aircraft presented as a public business proposition to gauge exactly how it goes down. Then, in early 2020, following feedback and adjustments to the concept, an “authority to launch” would be issued by Boeing’s board, probably with the announcement of initial orders.
Bearing in mind that right now it’s the only new ground-up aircraft in the pipeline for both Airbus and Boeing not already in test or production – it’s a big deal. Another interesting take from it – Boeing suggested that it would eventually lead to a narrow body replacement for the 737.