Home' Asian Aviation : AAV April 2017 Contents 36 AsianAviation | April 2017
MORE THAN 50 YEARS AGO — almost halfway back to the Wright
Brothers’ first powered, manned flight — Boeing unveiled its third
jetliner design, the 737 single-aisle, twin-jet. Subsequently, the US
manufacturer launched five further models: 747, 757, 767, 777, and
(most recently) the 787 twin-aisle twinjet announced in 2002.
That latter aircraft was aimed at “the middle of the market (MoM)
segment that airplanes such as the 757, 767, and Airbus A300, A310,
and A330 serve [flying] approximately 3,000-6,500 nautical miles
and [carrying about] 180-250 [passengers] in single- and twin-aisle
configurations”, said Boeing in March 2003. “ This segment presents
opportunities for increased sales — up to 3,000 over the next 20 years”.
Now, the company is working to clarify industry requirements for
a slightly smaller, shorter-ranged machine in what might be dubbed
a “lower-middle” market gap in its product line between the largest
737 and the smallest 787, and which effectively would replace its
out-of-production 757 single-aisle twinjet and current (but coming
to an end) 767 twin-aisle twinjet. The manufacturer dropped an
earlier proposal — the 290- to 330-seat, 2 ,500- to 3,050-nm range
-3 variant — amid other 787 development challenges.
While Boeing is providing few direct clues or details, in March
potential customers and operators attending the International So-
ciety of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) conference in San Diego
spoke openly about their understanding of the NMA project and
the challenges facing Boeing. “Call it a ‘797’,” proclaims Steven Ud-
var-Hazy, executive chairman of lessor Air Lease, who welcomes
the opportunity to dispense with MOM and NMA nomenclature.
“ The new Boeing product is a twin [-aisle design],” according to
Andrew Levy, chief financial officer of United Airlines, a long-es-
tablished operator of Boeing products, with an ageing fleet of 757s
and 767s. “ We think [the 797] has a lot of merit and, if they decide
to launch, it would be something we’d be very interested in.”
Levy says two 797 variants are offered with about 225-260 seats and
a range of 4,800-5,200nm, sufficient for US operators to serve Euro-
pean cities. Passenger layout in economy-class cabins is expected to
reflect that previously used in the 767 narrow twin-aisle configuration
of 2+3+2 seats. It also would undoubtedly appeal to low-cost carriers.
Udvar-Hazy sees engine technology as being critical to design of
the 797, which might be in service “through 2060”. He believes that
Boeing will almost certainly offer alternative engines, which will need
to be in 40,000-45,000lb-thrust class. The lessor suggests that the
choice will be between products from General Electric and a new
joint venture between former International Aero Engines partners
Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce.
Nevertheless, fellow lessor Angus Kelly, chief executive of AerCap
Holdings, does not yet see availability of adequate powerplant tech-
nology, with engine developments not having achieved the point at
which the proposed aircraft would attract a global customer base.
“If you’re going to be searching for that [market] window between
the [Airbus] A321 and the 787, you need a bigger [and] more efficient
engine. It’s not there yet.”
At last year ’s Farnborough air show, the last global gathering of aer-
ospace manufacturers, Boeing airplane-development vice president
and general manager Mike Delaney reported three types of potential
customer: “ Those that want [757 performance with] more seats, those
that want more range, and those wanting more seats with more range”.
To that end, the manufacturer said it was considering three ave-
nues: staying with the current mix of re-engined 737 Max and the
787, extending the 737 Max family (to a -10X variant), or developing
an all-new design. Officially, while providing little detail, Boeing ac-
knowledges that it is continuing “to study what that  airplane
would look like. We’re having very productive conversations with our
customers and firming up opportunities there.”
In the middle?
Almost 15 years after offering the world its model 787 widebody to occupy the middle of the
market, Boeing is working to establish the design, operational, and performance characteristics
of a new twin-aisle aircraft that European correspondent Ian Goold reports could be launched
into the lower middle of the market in 2018.
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