The two biggest aircraft manufacturers in the world, Boeing Inc. and Airbus Industries, are continuing their battle on the potential viability for a new New Mid-Market Aircraft or New Midsize Aircraft (NMA). The NMA is an aircraft that is supposed to cover the market between the Boeing 757 and the Boeing 767, two passenger aircraft types that are no longer in production by Boeing, and for which the Chicago-based manufacturer is supposed to launch a new clean-sheet aircraft concept.
According to a recent interview to Airbus’ Senior Vice-President for Business Analysis, Bob Lange, released by FlightGlobal, the “addressable market” for that aircraft is 2,000-2,500 jets in the next 20 years, too small to justify the development of a new aircraft. “But we’d be competing within that space – he stressed – with aircraft types including the Airbus A321XLR, high-density A321s and the re-engined A330neo. It doesn’t mean there won’t be a market for a new aircraft in that space, but we’d be taking the early market.”
Boeing has always been considerably more bullish on the market potential for a NMA: they have publicly stated on multiple occasions that there is a potential for 2,000 to 4,000 aircraft in that segment, with indications that they are confident sales could be very close to the higher end of that spectrum.
But those estimates were also rebuked by former Airbus COO-Customer John Leahy in his retirement interview to Leeham News in December 2017: “If you bring out a new, clean-sheet airplane, you’re taking a market there that is probably 2,000 airplanes. It’s not 4,000, and you’re spending $15bn to develop the airplane. You’ve got to amortize that and every airline is telling you $55m to $75m is all we’re going to pay for this light twin. You’ve got the engine guys telling you the engines are going to be very expensive. The numbers just don’t work.”
This is why Airbus’ strategy is focusing on re-engined solutions of established aircraft designs, with the A330neo proposed to cover the higher-capacity end of the mid-market segment and the Airbus A321XLR to take care of the lower-capacity demand. The European manufacturer seems to believe that Boeing will end up resorting to a similar solution with a re-engined solution for the Boeing 767 to cover the segment immediately below the 787-8, which is already flown with configurations below 200 seats by some carriers.
But the focus for the U.S. manufacturer has to remain on returning the 737 MAX to the skies after the grounding that has been affecting Boeing’s flagship single-aisle aircraft after the two fatal accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia between the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019.
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