Boeing Commercial Airplanes has established a new office dedicated to the study and potential development of an airplane sized to fit between the 737 family and the Dreamliner known as the NMA (new midsize airplane). In a letter to employees dated September 25, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Kevin McAllister stressed that the announcement does not amount to a program launch, but rather another step in the process toward deciding on whether or not to proceed.
McAllister has appointed 787 program executive Mark Jenks as vice president and general manager of the new office, which Boeing will base in Renton, Washington. “Mark is a terrific leader who will build the right collaborative environment, provide clear metrics and ensure talent development,” wrote McAllister. “With a wealth of lessons learned on the 787, he has the right expertise to lead production system development, reduce program risk and manage the tradeoffs between cost and investment in meeting development targets. He has strong credibility with our customers and will partner effectively with Supplier Management and Global Services as we build the right lifecycle cost strategy for our customers and Boeing.”
Boeing has named 777 general manager Brad Zaback to fill Jenks’s position as vice president and general manager of the 787 program. Zaback served as Boeing’s engineering director from January 2004 to January 2015, then as vice president and general manager of the 767 program and finally in his most recent role with the 777 program.
NMA studies have concentrated on a plan for a two-member family of airplanes to seat between 220 and 270 passengers and to fly to a range of between 4,000 and 5,000 nm.
Most of the some 60 airlines with which Boeing has consulted on its concept for an NMA have expressed a desire for better cabin comfort and lower turn times at airports, clearly suggesting a preference for twin-aisle design. Speaking with reporters at Boeing’s offices in Seattle just ahead of June’s Paris Air Show, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president and general manager of airplane development Mike Delaney explained that designers cannot plausibly stretch a single-aisle airplane designed to carry as many as 270 seats in a dual-class configuration beyond the length of a 757. “If you stretch a single-aisle NMA, it’s about 18 to 25 feet longer than a 757,” he estimated. “I’m not exactly sure that’s optically an airplane you want to be on. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in row 65E waiting to get off.”
Delaney said the NMA would do for the 220- to 270-seat market what the 787 Dreamliner line did for the segment it occupies: namely, open city pairs that would have proved unprofitable with a larger airplane or operationally infeasible with a smaller one. He added that airlines have managed to open 140 new city pairs with the Dreamliner family because they offer seat costs comparable with a 777 at a much lower trip cost.
“We’re going to put an airplane in that space that has the economics that nobody can touch, and what it will do is open up the city pairs and the economics that nobody else can. That’s the part that [Airbus executives] don’t tell you about,” said Delaney. “The key to the NMA is we’re going to do exactly in that market what we did with the 787…The traffic we predict will grow by about 30 percent based on the ability to open up city pairs that don’t exist today. That’s the value proposition. That’s why all the airlines are all excited. They don’t see a replacement of the 757. They see the future.”