Boeing will not take a firm decision to launch its proposed New Mid-market Airplane (NMA) this year, but it aims to secure authority to offer from the board before the end of 2019.
Chief executive Dennis Muilenburg revealed that latest thinking on the NMA’s timeline during Boeing’s earnings call on 30 January.
Receipt of authority to offer will enable Boeing to publicly announce the programme, engage in more-detailed discussions with airlines and solicit a group of launch customers. The board will decide whether to issue that authority this year, Muilenburg says.
The next approval would come next year and is "authority to launch", which would allow Boeing to start building it, Muilenburg adds.
Boeing must stick to that timeline to meet its goal of a 2025 entry-into-service, he says. But that timeline would also align nicely with 777X development, enabling Boeing to ramp up NMA development as 777X work wraps up, he notes.
Muilenburg calls that strategy "sequencing programmes". It would allow Boeing to avoid undertaking two major programmes at once and ensure the NMA benefits from 777X work. Likewise, NMA development could theoretically lead into development of a new narrowbody, he adds.
"That's our approach here," Muilenburg says, adding that Boeing thinks about the NMA in a "multi-programme" context.
Muilenburg believes the NMA concept would fit well into the company's existing portfolio and give Boeing the opportunity to tap a potentially lucrative market. He cites several reasons why the NMA might conceivable make sense for Boeing.
"It is clear that there is a market need, but we are working through the details of the business case," Muilenburg says. "We see an opportunity for significant city pair growth."
"We need to complete the business case analysis before we arrive at that decision," he adds. "We do see a decision point this year."
His comment come as the industry awaits news of whether Boeing will pull the trigger on the NMA, a widebody aircraft concept that would carry some 200-270 seats and have range of 4,000-5,000nm (7,400-9,300km).
The aircraft would replace 757s and 767 and, Boeing says, be better tailored to mid-haul flights than stretched versions of existing narrowbodies like the Airbus A321LR.
"It’s a market area that cannot be addressed by modifying those existing platforms," Muilenburg says. The NMA, if built, would be best suited for replacing less-efficient widebodies on medium-haul routes and for launching new routes that do not make economic sense with today's aircraft, he adds.
Airbus has insisted that its A321LR already meets market needs, describing Boeing's concept as a catch-up project.
Story edited to reflect launch decision timing