Boeing has been developing a new mid-size aircraft for years but announced yesterday it is starting from scratch.
For several years, Boeing has been working on a New Midmarket Airplane (NMA) that is intended to replace the 767 and offer a “goldilocks” aircraft that is not too small, but not too large.
But with the 737 MAX problems unresolved, Boeing has diverted the attention of its design teams to finding a fix for that aircraft.
The new focus has given Airbus a golden opportunity, which it is capitalizing on with surging A321neo sales. The A321neo, though single-aisle, has captured the attention of many airlines, including American, Delta, and United in the USA.
New Boeing CEO David Calhoun defended his company’s slow rollout of the NMA, during a press teleconference yesterday.
“We’re not giving up on the future. But for me, my attention and that of my executive team, I simply want to be focused.”
Right now that focus is on the 737 MAX. But the crisis has prompted Boeing to re-examine future aircraft development.
“Things have changed a bit. The competitive playing field is a bit different. We have to plan for China. We’re going to start with a clean sheet of paper again.”
A clean sheet of paper not only suggests a new design, but suggests Boeing may have been using old technology in its design of the NMA. In light of the 737 MAX issues, it is no surprise Boeing wants to avoid any accusations of cutting corners or inherent design flaws.
Calhoun also announced that Boeing is exploring how to make the NMA more automated:
“We might have to start with the flight control philosophy before we actually get to the airplane. We’ve always favored airplanes that required more pilot flying than maybe our competitor did. We are all going to have to get our heads around exactly what we want.”
Calhoun drew the ire of many on another part of the press call by blaming the 737 MAX tragedy in part on slow pilot response time.
I’m not sure why Boeing has to plan for China, as I don’t see viable Chinese aircraft competition like the Comac actually representing a threat. But Boeing is being hammered by the Airbus A321neo. Just as Boeing smartly focused on the 787 while Airbus focused on the A380, now Airbus finds itself with a multi-year advantage. It sounds like it will be quite some time before we see a new aircraft from Boeing.
That’s why Delta CEO Ed Bastian is anxious for the 737 MAX to return to the skies even though his airline doesn’t fly any…