Flight Ascend Consultancy believes there are still numerous unanswered questions surrounding Boeing's proposed middle-of-the-market (MoM) development, despite growing airline enthusiasm for the project.
Rob Morris, global head of consultancy, says the issue of whether the US manufacturer or another airframer will launch a new aircraft is a "complex one" with "many variables to consider".
He asks: "What is the likely demand in that segment of the market? Indeed, what actually is that segment of the market? How would a new aircraft compete with the existing single-aisle and small twin-aisle designs?"
Other considerations include the technologies available to drive improved performance and economics, development costs and pricing – a vital issue considering the time required for Boeing to recover its development spending on the 787 – and the likely competitive responses from Airbus and other manufacturers.
"All these questions carry uncertainty, and while one or two airlines may profess to require an aircraft that fits this segment of the market, the uncertainty seems sufficient to suggest an imminent launch would be extremely challenging," says Morris.
His comments come after the recent ISTAT Americas conference in San Diego, where several US airlines – including Delta and United – and lessors expressed interest in the MoM proposal. They see it as an ideal replacement for large fleets of 757 and 767 aircraft in the 200-260-seat segment.