Something seems wrong with this scenario: an aircraft introduced nearly 30 years ago in a market segment now teeming with new technology could still make a comeback with the same engines and metal wing despite a nearly four-year break in production.
But that situation describes the unlikely status of the Boeing 767-300ER and the paradox that now lies at the heart of the small widebody market.
The 767-300ER’s revived sales prospects come despite billions invested by Boeing, and Airbus, to inject new technology into the size class over the past decade.
But neither the 787-8, nor the Airbus A330-800, fill a gap for airlines hoping to replace aged aircraft with a near-200-seat capacity and 5,000nm (9,260km) range.
So carriers are faced with the prospect of waiting eight or nine years for Boeing to deliver the still-uncertain New Mid-market Airplane (NMA) or buy 30-year-old technology today. It is a strange gap in a normally heathy and balanced product mix for both of the big two.
The question still remains whether that gap is large enough to justify the cost of developing the modern equivalent of the 767-300ER, which Boeing’s proposed NMA resembles.
For airlines that cannot wait for either airframer to arrive at an answer to that question, they are stuck with buying a 30-year-old aircraft that seemed outdated a decade ago.