Modified 767 not seen as a replacement for the NMA: Boeing exec.

October 16, 2019
Boeing NMA 767

Boeing is not looking at a re-engined version of its venerable 767  as a replacement for the New Midsize Airplane (NMA), a senior executive has said.

Media reports have suggested the manufacturer might look at adding GenX engines to the 767 as a cheaper alternative to the NMA.

Boeing marketing executive Darren Hulst said the manufacturer was always looking at ways to make its products more efficient.

“But we don’t have any plans for the 767 in terms of a replacement what we’re looking at with the NMA or other products,’’ he told a briefing in Sydney Australia Wednesday.

“I would say we’re just continuing to look at what we can do with our existing products and what the market needs.”

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Australia’s Qantas is among a number of carriers that have expressed interest in the NMA, which Hulst said was  “shooting the gap’ between the top of the single-aisle market and the bottom of the widebody equivalent.

He said Boeing saw demand for the aircraft in three complementary market sectors.

There were markets that were dense today and had limited ability to grow due to slot constraints,  capacity growth issues and infrastructure challenges.

Hulst said there as a need for an aircraft to break through what the single-aisle aircraft were offering without the inefficiency of a widebody,

The second type of market is these medium-haul markets that don’t truly need the range of today’s advanced technology long-haul planes but a medium-size solution.

From Australia, that could mean routes to South-east Asia orbit beyond as well as into high-density markets where a larger than single-aisle aircraft was really “a break-through value for revenue, productivity and profitability”.

Going along with this was the ability to open new markets.

He pointed to the expansion of the long-haul networks with aircraft such as Boeing 787.

“If you have a tool that‘s 50 to 80 seats smaller than a widebody with 30 to 50 percent lower trip costs than a 787 or an A330, what does that enable airlines to do to create even more of these city-pair connections with even more opportunities,’’ he said.

“I think it’s three complementary spaces in the market and I think all of those exist here in this region as well;  from trans-con, to the trans-Tasman all the way to finding new markets in Asia.”

On the question of when a decision would be made on the NMA, Hulst said it would become more of a focus once the 737 MAX returns to service.

“In the meantime, there’s still a team that’s focused on it but the company’s focused on the MAX,’’ he said.

Asked how confident he was that the 737 MAX would re-enter service later this year, Hulst said the manufacturer believed it had done all it could from a software and hardware perspective with enhancements to the aircraft.

But it was really up to the regulators.

“It’s the FAA, it’s other global regulators … and their timing that dictates when the airplane will return to service,’’ he said.

On other new planes, Hulst said the timetable for when the ultra-long-range 777-8 might enter service was still under service but he expected the first flight of the 777-9 and the plane’s first delivery next year.

Qantas is looking at the 777-8 and as a contender in its Project Sunrise plans to launch non-stop flights to Australia’s east coast. There has since been speculation Boeing will offer the bigger 777-9 with a reduced payload as an interim solution.

Hulst said Boeing was “absolutely committed to the 777-8 as a product and as a model: but when it would enter service depended on a combination of customer demand and how it aligned with the 777X program design and production system.

He said the manufacturer was committed to what the plane could do and working with Qantas to provide a solution that fitted the airline’s needs.

“I don’t have a specific date but we are absolutely committed to the 777-8 and think that it provides unique product capability that nothing else can on the market,’’ he said.