Boeing’s long-term strategy to address a potential market for 4,000nm-5,000nm range aircraft with 200-250 seats is to leverage existing products rather than launch a clean-sheet programme, says chief executive James McNerney.

The most attractive options include a shortened version of the 787-8 or a lengthened variant of the 737 Max, McNerney says. An all-new aircraft is also an option, but Boeing is less inclined to take on the risk of integrating a clean-sheet product.

“The headset will be to avoid the moonshot unless we have to,” McNerney says, addressing a Boeing investors conference in Seattle. “The headset will be to mature technologies we’ve got to address it.”

The need for a new aircraft in the 4,000nm-5,000nm range is emerging as a replacement for the long-range 757. Neither the 737 Max or the Airbus A320neo come within 400nm of the low-end of the long-range narrowbody market.

“We are examining it seriously,” McNerney says.

At the same time, addressing that market is not a near-term priority. Boeing already has eight major variants of commercial aircraft in development over the next eight years, leaving little room for taking on new products within that timeframe.

“We don’t see a need for it immediately as compared to some other opportunities we’ve got,” McNerney says. “We’ve got a whole plate of opportunities that are going to drive this company.”

Boeing’s low-risk approach to the a long-range 757 replacement is informed by the company’s painful experience with introducing the 787-8 into service.

The 787 was launched in 2003 as the company’s most ambitious development project arguably since the 747, with an all-composite fuselage and an electricity-powered system pressurize the cabin and de-ice the wings.

McNearney criticised the company’s past approach as taking on “apocryphal” risk with a clean-sheet project every 25 years.

“That’s the wrong way to do this business,” McNerney says. “The more-for-less world will not let you pursue moonshots.”

Boeing instead must continue developing new technologies but add them into production in small steps rather than a single leap.

That approach has already taken hold over the last few years. Boeing launched the 777X in 2013 as a derivative of the 777-300ER with new engines and wings. “There was a lot more we could have done with that airplane,” McNerney says.

The 787-10’s configuration, as a straightforward derivative of the 787-9, also follows a similar low-risk strategy and breaks from Boeing’s past approach.

“That would have been a more unique airplane in a prior life,” McNerney says.

Source: Cirium Dashboard