Boeing edges away from NMA, United looking elsewhere…

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Buried in the depths of the commentary around Boeing’s quarterly results, which is a massive report and backed up with wordy puff, was a hint that the New Mid-Market Aircraft, dubbed 797-X,will be skidding back down Boeing’s list of priorities.

Part of the problem is that it simply doesn’t have the ability or resources to concentrate on the new project.

The 737 MAX is going to sap its engineering and software teams for as long as another year to 18 months. Just consider the solution hasn’t yet been finalised, then it has to be tested, re-certified and then retro fitted to 360 already delivered aircraft and by the end of the year, some 500 aircraft waiting for delivery. And then it has to be incorporated into new builds.

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On top of that the delays to the 777-9/8 impact the speed that can be introduced – in fact that’s been so badly slowed (at least 9 months to a year) that combined with 777-300ER shut down, Boeing is increasing 777F delivery speed to hold the production lines open, and give everyone enough to do on the assembly line.

At the design and development end there just isn’t enough resource to push the NMA along as fast as was originally planned.

United Airlines was very much on board with the 797-X project. It was urging Boeing to push the programme but now it’s run out of patience. It has a sizeable fleet of ageing 757 and 767’s and while it’s not bothered about older aircraft in service to a point, by the time NMA would have been in service – around 2025-26, they’ll be elderly and expensive and costing more than makes them viable. They need a solution and the A321LR is there waiting.

Boeing is also said to be looking at the future aircraft and the growing environmental concerns around aviation. There was some suggestion that it’s credentials aren’t where they need to be.

As the level of concern in younger generations rises – demands to improve aircraft will and are rising. Boeing wants to leap ahead of the curve.

Only yesterday it was revealed that major auto manufacturers had secretly agreed to an emissions deal with California – to increase fuel efficiency to levels nearly the same as those agreed with the Obama administration- even as Trump’s EPA was busy scraping them. They know the writing is on the wall and Trump won’t be around for more than five years even if he is re-elected. They know the public and their future buyers want something done.

And so does Boeing. They know the next aircraft has to be something generation defining and vastly better than what came before. And they’re afraid that with Airbus already heading into electric/hybrid aircraft faster than they are, they could well be left behind.

The climate deniers can say what they like, is the argument, the passengers, fliers, pilots, cabin crew and ticket buyers of the future are savvy 10-16 year olds now who do believe and they’re loosing patience with companies that don’t do enough.

It might take two more years to develop the NMA, but if it’s a revolutionary design or even a giant step forward, it’ll be a game changer.

And an added bonus: Airbus will have to jump first. They’ve got to commit in the next 12 months to what they’re going to develop next, right now they have nothing new on the public drawing board.

Patience, vigilance, strategic thinking. It won’t kill Boeing to take its time.

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