Boeing remains committed to a mid-2020s service entry for its proposed New Mid-market Aircraft (NMA), despite recent challenges facing the introduction of new engines.
Boeing vice-president of marketing Randy Tinseth said the company will “probably need to make a decision next year” about whether to move forward.
The basic design of the new aircraft, which will seat from 220-270 passengers and have a range of 5,000nm, is settled. Now, Boeing needs to work out the production system. The company has yet to state in which location the aircraft will be manufactured.
“How do we take the lessons we've learned from all the airplanes we built in the past and make system even better?” asks Tinseth. “Once we know what that production system looks like, the final step is to pull everything together on the business case and make sure it hunts there.”
On the issue of whether the engine makers have the bandwidth to support a new programme with a service entry in the 2025 timeframe, Tinseth is upbeat.
Rolls-Royce is grappling with turbine and fan blade issues on some Trent 1000s that are one of two engines that power 787s, and Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan engines have suffered durability and other issues that have marred the service entry of the A320neo. Portions of both fleets have been grounded while the manufacturers dedicate substantial resources to deal with the issues.
"I'm confident both engine manufacturers will be able to work through this,” says Tinseth. “There is no question that advances in engine technology help advancements in aircraft, and are often the leading drivers of efficiency. When you look at the track record over the last 20-30 years, engines consistently get more efficient… we're confident they'll work through their issues and be there for that next new aircraft when it comes."
Boeing has had discussions with R-R, Pratt & Whitney, and General Electric on engines for the NMA.
Another concern expressed about NMA recently is a disagreement among carriers about the cargo capabilities of the type, with Asia-Pacific carriers believed to be more interested in greater cargo capacity, and North American carriers being interested in less.
“Any time you speak to 57 customers, you're going to have a variety of opinions, I think we have a configuration of the airplane our customers like,” says Tinseth.
“We have an airplane between today's widebodies and today's single aisles. It won't look like either of them. When we take a look at what our customers want and need in this market, there no question that efficiency is critical. When a widebody airplane is operated on these shorter missions - the mission potentially of an NMA – they are over capable. With the ability to carry heavy cargo comes weight, structure, and inefficiency.”