When Boeing built the mid-size 757, their largest single-isle airplane, it was intended to replace the smaller three-engine 727 on short and medium routes carrying 200-295 passengers for a maximum of 3,150 to 4,100 nautical miles. Boeing built 1,050 units before wrapping up production in 2004.
Today, Boeing says that the market for a new similar sized, middle-of-the-market (MOM), airplane is ripening and could see sales “in the thousands.”
Now thought to be called the NMA (new midsize airplane), the project is targeted at a potential entry-into-service no earlier than 2022. Essentially, the embryonic study is for an aircraft with more capacity than the 737-900 but with less range than the 787.
John Wojick, senior vice president, Global Sales & Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, says “we see substantial demand. If we can produce an airplane with a range of 4,500 to 5,000 miles, seating about 220 to 280 passengers then there would be an awful lot of demand, in the thousands. Easily more than 2000,” he adds.
Boeing has not made any commitments to the NMA, but the driver of the project would be fuel efficiency. “Customers want the most efficient aircraft with single-aisle economics,” says Wojick. Whether the company design a single-isle or a wider fuselage with twin-aisle is left to be seen. “If it means two aisles is less efficient then they’d be happy with a single aisle,” he adds.
Whatever decision Boeing makes, the NMA would have to get in line behind other programs that in the works. “We have got to finish the MAX family, which begins to deliver in 2017, then we have the 787-10 in 2018 and the 777X in 2020 (777-9X) and 2022 (777-8X). Beyond that we have been studying what are the opportunities to enhance our product lines going forward. It’s very clear to us there is an interest in an aircraft larger than MAX in terms of seats but with less range than the 787,” adds Wojick.
The 757 which remains popular with U.S. airlines will soon come up for replacement, while its larger contemporary, the 767, is being replaced by the 787 Dreamliner.