34 ATW | October 2018 | atwonline.com
forced to launch the 737 MAX when American Airlines
threatened to place an all-Airbus A320neo order in 2011.
Back then, Boeing was proposing the NMA and the fve-
abreast new small aircraft. Te NMA confguration was
a twin-aisle aircraft with a 2-2-2 seating arrangement in
economy. Te NMA is still certain to become a twin-
aisle to avoid the fate of the 757-300, which had similar
capacity but was unsuccessful in large part because of air-
lines’ inability to make fast turnarounds on short-haul
fights. It was taking passengers too long to get on and
of the single-aisle aircraft.
But are Boeing’s plans really what the airlines want? Results of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Aviation
Week survey, with responses from 202 airlines, paint a
picture that indicates general interest in a new aircraft is
high, but 82% of airline respondents describe requirements that would not necessarily be met by the NMA as
currently proposed. Ninety percent of the airlines want
an aircraft with fewer than 250 seats in two classes; 48%
want one that has 150-199 seats. Boeing’s 220- and
270-seat NMA versions would address only 32% of the
Some 76% of the carriers want no more than 5,000
nm of maximum range, whereas Boeing’s smaller NMA
variant could likely fy beyond 5,000 nm. Airlines have
multiple views on range, an issue that Boeing could address by ofering diferent maximum takeof weights.
Importantly, 60% of airlines globally (and 72%
of North American carriers) would prefer a narrowbody, which still would be operationally feasible at the
smaller capacity they are requesting. But most of them
also would consider a small widebody if the aircraft ft
into the existing narrowbody airport gate infrastructure.
Many (72%) of the potential customers want a composite fuselage and 75% a composite wing. A small majority
(52%) said a geared-turbofan engine such as the Pratt
& Whitney PW1100G powering the Airbus A320neo,
A220 (formerly the Bombardier CSeries) or Embaer E2
would be their preferred choice.
“Te NMA niche is going to be very small,” said Nick
Cunningham, managing partner and analyst at London-based Agency Partners. “Boeing’s real problem is the
narrowbody market, where they lost substantial market
share. If you are going to spend $8 billion to $12 billion,
why do that for a volume airplane that is losing market
share?” he asks.
Cunningham argues that “the [middle-of-the-market]
niche has never worked. It has specifc issues: A narrowbody [of that capacity] would be too long and a
widebody has a high level of induced drag.” In his view,
Boeing should learn a lesson from the experience of the
767-200 versus the -300; the smaller aircraft had little
Cunningham observes that there was some “
signaling” between Airbus and Boeing about technologies that
are allegedly not ready to justify an all-new single-aisle
aircraft. But he believes Boeing “has no time for that”
anymore and will have to look at building a new narrowbody sooner rather than later, one that is equipped with a
conventional engine that could still deliver around 15%
in fuel-burn improvement.
Te caveat is that Airbus could wait more years, given
its market share position right now, and then come in
with superior technology.
“Boeing could be making a serious mistake” if it
launched a small widebody, Cunningham warns. He applauds the company for having done the right market
analysis for the 787, from which it is now reaping the
AMERICAN AIRLINES, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are
among carriers looking for a Boeing 757 replacement.