Boeing will not be rushing into a decision on whether to launch a New Mid-market Airplane (NMA), despite seeing a clear opportunity for such a product, the head of its commercial unit tells FlightGlobal.
"A decision to launch a new airplane is one that requires a ton of rigour on: is it the right market, is it the right airplane, and does it have the right business plan?" says Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Kevin McAllister.
Having previously identified a gap between its 737 Max 10 and 787-8, Boeing late last month informed its employees about the establishment of an NMA programme office, to be headed by former 787 vice-president and general manager Mark Jenks. This will further explore the potential for a clean-sheet design with a range of less than 5,000nm (9,250km) while carrying between 220 and 270 passengers.
"The formalising of a structure was really to make sure we have our best and brightest taking a hard look at what our customers want, and what are the economics for them and for us in doing this airplane," McAllister says. "We're listening to our customers from around the globe on what market they need," he adds.
"There's a big space between the single-aisle and the twins. We think, with the composite technology and the airplane technology, we can fill that with a very compelling airplane. We'll continue to study it with customers and continue to look at can we get the right business plan."
At the Paris air show in June, Boeing disclosed that an NMA would make extensive use of technologies developed for the 777 and 787, including composite structures and a "fifth-generation" wing. Its overview pointed to entry-into-service around 2025.
"Boeing has the opportunity to pull technology from the 787, 737 Max and 777X to a new airplane – all that learning comes right into a new airplane if we decide to go do it," McAllister says.
"The decision to take on another programme is one that you do very rigorously and carefully. These are big investment decisions, and we'll obviously put the right diligence into making it," he says. "If we get to something that hunts on a cost – a good solve and investment profile – and we've got the right value for customers, then we'll take it to [Boeing chief executive] Dennis [Muilenburg] and the board."
McAllister spoke to FlightGlobal ahead of a Boeing delivery – of the last of a combined 99 777s ordered by Air France-KLM Group – at its Everett site in Washington on 26 September. The -300ER-model aircraft (registration: PH-BVU) entered revenue service with KLM three days later, and by 3 October had been flown from Amsterdam to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Lima.