Boeing has created a programme office to support the New Mid-market Airplane, and appointed a top 787 executive to lead the effort toward a future launch decision by the company’s board of directors.
The appointment of former 787 vice-president and general manager Mark Jenks to lead the NMA office signals that Boeing’s is closer to launching the new family of composite aircraft aimed at a market segment between the 737 Max 10 and 787-8.
Boeing hinted at how the NMA could look in this rendering released at the Paris air show in June
Jenks comes to the NMA with a “wealth of lessons learned on the 787” and “strong credibility with our customers”, says Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive and president Kevin McAllister in a note to employees on 25 September.
After discussing the concept for the NMA with customers since 2013, Boeing has made it clear that a launch decision could come soon. A first glimpse of the likely composite-skinned airframe was revealed at the Paris Air Show in June, as potential customers offered a range of reactions from sceptical to enthusiastic.
Supporters believe the NMA offers Boeing a chance to capture an emerging market for thousands of aircraft that don’t fit neatly in either narrowbody or widebody categories. But sceptics remain concerned the development costs could be too expensive for Boeing, as Airbus could counter with a relatively cheaper new variant of the A320neo family.
Although Boeing is seriously pursuing the NMA concept, company leaders still aren’t committed to bringing the new aircraft family to market.
“To be clear, today’s announcement represents neither a program launch nor an indication of when we will decide whether to take the next step with NMA. Those questions and others still lie ahead,” McAllister says.
As Jenks moves to the NMA programme, he will be replaced on the 787 by Brad Zaback at a critical time. In mid-September, Boeing chairman, president and CEO Dennis Muilenburg announced that monthly 787 production will rise in 2019 from 12 to 14.
“He will continue Mark’s focus on improving cost and efficiency, and his leadership will be important as we work with our suppliers to continually improve 787 reliability for our customer,” McAllister says.