Boeing has mounted a defence of its New Mid-market Airplane concept following the launch of the Airbus A321XLR, arguing both that its European rival's new variant does not serve as a 757 replacement, and that its own plans are not limited to filling that space.
"When you talk about the NMA value proposition, that is not a value proposition that addresses just the 757," said Boeing vice-president of commercial sales and marketing Ihssane Mounir at the Paris air show today. "It is a much broader proposition than the 757, in terms of market space, in terms of the capacity and the range it will address."
In any case, he argues, the A321XLR "addresses a sliver of that middle-of-the-market, and it addresses it with a single-aisle technology, with a single-aisle comfort, with a growth in weight of the platform that has been there for a while".
Mounir contrasts that with Boeing's vision of providing "twin-aisle comfort with single-aisle economics, leveraging new technologies, bringing a whole new airplane into the space". He draws an analogy with "the paradigm shift" that he says the US airframer achieved with its Dreamliner.
"The 787 was not an extension or a growth, and we could have done that with existing platforms, but we brought something new to the market that changed dramatically how the widebody and the long-range market evolves," says Mounir. "That's the idea with the NMA."
Asked if the A321XLR is a 757 replacement, Mounir responds: "I wouldn't say so, no."
However, the decision on whether to proceed with the NMA is not taking priority at Boeing while the 737 Max remains grounded. "Our focus remains on the safe and reliable return to service [of the Max]," says Mounir. "We're working with our customers, we're working with the regulators, and that's our first priority, so we will stay focused on that.
"We have all our attention on that right now."