NMA will feature a fifth-generation composite, high-aspect-ratio, aft-loaded and inversely cambered wing based on the 787 and 777X designs. Boeing

The NMA Dilemma

Ellipitical fuselage and engine choice, or choices, are but two questions inquiring minds want to know about Boeing’s new mid-size aircraft.

With aviation’s annual sweaty workout fast approaching at Farnborough, the big question is whether Boeing will finally start the clock on its “New Midsize Aircraft” program.

Probably not, say many analysts, who reckon the OEM needs more time to get the aircraft’s configuration in fighting shape.

“It’s probably a story for next year,” Teal Group’s Richard Aboulafia tells Inside MRO, adding that Boeing still needs to resolve pricing and design challenges of the NMA.

Boeing is said to be gauging airline and analyst response to a widebody design with an elliptical fuselage for the 220-270-seat market. This would give it clear product differentiation from the biggest of its own and Airbus’s large narrowbodies--the 737 Max 10 and A321neo--and support the ambition of offering a widebody with narrowbody operating economics.

However, an elliptical shape means less belly cargo capacity, which would lessen the aircraft’s appeal to top Asian operators. A widebody design also makes it more difficult for Boeing to keep production costs down and sell the aircraft for less than $75 million, which many analysts think is the maximum that airlines will pay.

One way out of this dilemma might be the aftermarket and Boeing’s strategy to increase its services revenue from $15 billion to $50 billion. By the time the NMA enters service in the mid-2020s, the OEM might be a long way towards that goal. If the NMA could guarantee it significant lifecycle revenues, Boeing might have more flexibility on pricing.

This is only speculation, of course, as is the question of whether Boeing will offer the NMA with a choice of engines. And even if it does, which manufacturer is in a position to develop a new engine in time for a 2025 or 2026 entry into service?

To find out more pick up the July issue of Inside MRO.

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