Exploring Boeing’s Next New Airplane

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In the aviation industry, developments in new aircraft are undoubtedly some of our favourites. However, there’s something special about understanding what is next from our major aircraft manufacturers.

In the last decade, probably one of the most important questions has surrounded that of Boeing, and their next new aeroplane as the aircraft manufacturer now labels the project or what we all may have commonly referred to it for so long as the NMA, new middle of the market airliner. 

As we rapidly approach 2023, the reality is that the aircraft hasn’t launched or seen any movement, and we haven’t had any firm for some time. But, again, this was in stark contrast to the mid to late 2010s when discussion on a potential aircraft such as this was very much present, in fact, with some analysts going as far as saying we could’ve expected a launch within the year back in 2018, citing the 2019 Paris Airshow as the optimal time, that airshow came and went and nothing fabricated.

The 2019 Paris Airshow was earmarked as an essential airshow before the 737 MAX crisis for the NMA at Boeing.

The subsequent 737 MAX crisis led Boeing’s resources to be put on more pressing matters. Quality control difficulties with their 787 also became a priority. Only issues they’ve said goodbye to now with production resuming and their uphill battle to certify with the Federal Aviation administration their newest wide-body aircraft, the 777X, which has already seen delays and is expected to enter into service five years later than initially slated. 

This does not include interior board changes, alongside the race to certify two further narrow-body aircraft types, the MAX 7 and the MAX 10, the last two and the smallest and largest members of the series that are still yet to be able to carry passengers. As you can probably, therefore, be able to tell, priority at Boeing has been on other central products that are critical to the now progression of the American aircraft manufacturer.

That doesnt mean. However, that question hasn’t always been present regarding the future and where Boeing’s next plane lies, when we can expect it and more. In addition, of course, an even more pressing topic as Airbus seemingly runs away with the middle of the market sector with their lucrative A321neo series, only recently being enhanced thanks to the addition of the A321XLR, which has thus far secured sizeable commitments, despite also having its delayed entry into service. 

The Airbus A321XLR remains uncontested in the middle of the market sector as Boeing fails to respond.

During Boeing’s latest and newest investor day, held towards the beginning of November, we got the final nail in the coffin regarding an upcoming NMA and generally new aircraft. With the new chief executive putting out any flames surrounding the type, it was firmly announced that we could rule out any development on the plane until a staggering 2030. But, of course, he also means that after 2030. So that means we are likely a decade, if not longer, away from the beginning of development on Boeing’s newest aircraft.

Why is this, exactly? Boeing wants to ensure it can secure adequate resources for the new aircraft. So it’ll depend solely on new technology, which is undoubtedly exciting. This is alongside the need to ensure improvements in fuel efficiency while reducing carbon emissions.

Boeing believes releasing an aircraft now at this moment would not only see the project rushed but, in addition, may not harbour enough improvements to justify the price tag or longevity in the industry as airlines approach a critical point in their sourcing of more efficient products, this is at least the feeling in the camp for now. 

Boeing wants to explore new technology for its upcoming next new aeroplane. This means waiting to move forward with a launch.

It’s an interesting take, no doubt, one that has received mixed reactions from those observes of the industry, as always, with two conflicting opinions, one under the impression that waiting that long will be detrimental to Boeing as airlines have already been crying out for such a middle of the market plane to better replace the 757 and 767 to be built, with Airbus really only having the only best possible alternative, not moving forward with something now to replace the aircraft would allow the European plane maker to make leaps and strides ahead in terms of market share. Some even go as far as saying it’s got to be a crime that they still don’t have something on the drawing board and are waiting this long. 

The 757 remains without an identical replacement from Boeing, leaving some customers frustrated.

However, of course, there’s another side to the debate, with some believing firmly that waiting will allow Boeing to release a radical new aircraft that should change the industry and make for a much more attractive option for airlines worldwide.

It makes sense that they would wait, just as it makes sense that not moving forward with an NMA has been detrimental to their performance in the sector. Instead, they’ve single-handily allowed competitor Airbus to gain a monumental uncontested upper hand. An upper hand that can attract existing loyal Boeing customers and potentially swing other aircraft orders their way. 

It would primarily appear from these comments that Boeing will ride the 737 journeys as long as possible. There are pros and cons to this. It’s a series we are all so familiar with but one that has already incurred difficulties with the MAX. This is not referencing the incidents but rather the design and ways to make the aircraft more efficient.

News of this opens the door for further development on the A220, with the highly rumoured and seemingly confirmed A220-500 to eventually launch, alongside the future success of the A321neo program, as the 737 cannot do the same job. The 787 is too large of an aircraft and not what these airlines are looking for.

Airbus now has a clear path to developing its A220 further, filling niches left unanswered by Boeing. The A220-500 is a variant rumoured.

Undoubtedly, the news can be perceived as quite disappointing, given I will be well into my 30s by the time we see this aircraft, potentially even approaching my 40s, which is scary to say in itself.

There can be positive takeaways from such a delay, including that better technology (possibility). However, remember that isn’t guaranteed, and the ability to provide airlines with a genuinely revolutionary upgrade over a minimal increase in efficiency, which they would see now in a plane that could quickly become outdated. 

Daniel Fowkes
11 Dec 2022
· Analysis 

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