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PARIS: Initial reception largely positive to Boeing's NMA

Boeing's plans for its clean-sheet New Midsize Airplane design have received a generally positive response from potential customers at this year's Paris air show.

Most that FlightGlobal spoke to are encouraged by Boeing's bold approach to what is unofficially dubbed the "797", although one feels it is an unnecessary extravagance when it could instead concentrate on refining its existing 787 family.

Emirates Airline president Tim Clark is impressed with how the NMA concept challenges long-held airliner design principles but thinks airline leaders may be too risk-adverse to embrace radical ideas.

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Clark says he was shown the design during the concept stage and liked what he saw: "With its design optimised for low-cost and fast turnarounds with twin-aisles and lower freight volume, I have to say I was pretty impressed, although not perhaps for us."

Support from the leasing sector will be crucial and Avolon chief executive Domhnal Slattery gave the programme the thumbs up: "There’s no question in our mind and has been for a long time that there’s a very significant opportunity in terms of market size," he says. "We’ll do our own work pretty soon. But that’s an airplane we will be 100% behind in due course when Boeing’s ready to have that conversation."

Air Lease chief executive John Plueger says that it is vital that Boeing hits the demand sweetspot between single-aisle and widebody markets: "The key to making the '797' successful – at the right price - is that the total units produced over the life of the programme needs to be around 5,000 to ensure that the type achieves higher production volume than current twin-aisle aircraft, but lower than current single-aisle rates,” he says.

AerCap chief executive Aengus Kelly says after the inevitable "hype" at the air show "in the cold light of day, it's all going to be about capacity versus price. If they over-engineer it then it will cost too much".

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker believes Boeing should concentrate on developing the 787 instead. "I've already told Boeing that if they fine-tune the 787-8, it could be a perfect midsize aircraft. They don't need to reinvent the wheel," he says.

Additional reporting by Stephen Trimble and Sophie Segal

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