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​Boeing quietly plugs away at NMA pending 2019 decision

Boeing continues to explore the issues and possibilities around its New Mid-market Airplane (NMA), with its sights still firm on a potential 2025 service entry.

Since the Farnborough Airshow in July, the programme has had a relatively low profile, but Boeing's vice-president of marketing Randy Tinseth says that work is continuing behind the scenes.

“[There is] not a lot to report because our team has their heads down and they're working hard on production systems, working hard on the business case, and we still plan on making a programme decision next year,” he says.

Tinseth adds that once a launch decision is made, the company will be “working hard” to maintain the proposed 2025 service entry date.He notes that widebody and narrowbody replacement demand will start picking up from 2019, potentially creating an opportunity for the new aircraft, which would fit between the 737 Max 10 and 787-8.

The proposed concept for a 200-270-seat family of aircraft with 4,000-5,000nm range has been on Boeing's drawing board since 2012. At Farnborough, the company said a launch decision was between six and 18 months away.

Tinseth reiterated Boeing’s contention that the type will offer “widebody comfort with single aisle economics.”

He made the remarks in an interview with FlightGlobal at the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) Assembly of Presidents, which was held recently on the resort island of Jeju, South Korea.

A number of AAPA’s members are major cargo operators such as Korean Air, Cathay Pacific and China Airlines. It has been reported that some Asia-Pacific carriers are focused on the NMA's cargo carrying capability, while North American carriers are considerably less concerned with this.

Tinseth, however, downplays the apparent divergence of views.

“The airplane is going to carry cargo, but it's not going to be a widebody aircraft the way you think about it,” he says. “A widebody has a structure that's built to carry those big containers, and there is a cost associated with that, and it's not insignificant. We ask our customers whether they want to carry those big containers or have better economics through saving weight. It's pretty close to unanimous that they want the most efficient aircraft.”

Boeing has previously suggested an aircraft with a hybrid fuselage cross-section, which is generally taken to mean a wider passenger cabin and a narrower cargo bay.

On the engine for the aircraft, Tinseth says the company continues to evaluate the engines, though he declined to discuss specific details.

“We have to make a decision about the technology and what it does for the performance of the aircraft,” he says. “Do you need one or more engine suppliers? All of those questions are being addressed now.”

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