Airbus vice-president of market strategy Bob Lange is unconvinced by the "magic niches" he considers Boeing to be targeting with its New Mid-market Airplane (NMA) concept.
However, he predicts that Boeing will now "create a buzz" around NMA, as it did with the Sonic Cruiser, in an effort to convince engine manufacturers to come aboard.
"Boeing is trying to position an aircraft in between the [single-aisle] 737 and [twin-aisle] 787, by their own words," says Lange. "I'm not a believer in magic niches of any type."
He argues that Boeing has been forced to react to Airbus's success in "carving out a lead" over the 737 with the A320neo family. "And in the 787 segment they've been challenged with the production costs on the smallest model in a market which is quite price-sensitive."
Lange hints that Airbus is ready to react to any move towards the NMA, saying: "There will be a movement on one side, and we will do what we need to do at the right time to retain our position and to stay competitive."
Boeing has for several years been evaluating the market for its NMA, but the project's tempo recently rose when a programme office was established, led by former 787 general manager Mark Jenks. Lange expects that the buzz around NMA will keep rising through to mid-2018 as Boeing works towards a potential launch.
"To launch NMA, the first group of people that Boeing has to convince is the engine manufacturers, to be on the programme – and ideally they will want to convince more than one," he says. "So I predict you’ll see a great deal of communication push on concept, on market space, and on talking up the potential size of the potential market of the aircraft."