Leading analyst labels new Boeing aircraft claim “absurd”

October 23, 2020
Concept of what the 797 will look like. Credit: www.theaircurrent.com

One of the world’s leading aviation analysts has labelled as “absurd” the notion that Boeing is looking at building a new aircraft – the 797 – to seat between 200 and 250 passengers.

On Thursday the Wall Street Journal reported Boeing is considering the launch of a new single-aisle aircraft and says the aerospace giant was exploring the idea with a few customers/suppliers.

New York-based Bernstein said “we doubt Boeing would launch such an airplane. This looks absurd, although Boeing is always discussing concepts like this with different constituencies.”

Bernstein said that its absurd because “Boeing is in the process of bringing the 737MAX back. A 200-seat airplane would cannibalize the MAX-10 and kill residual values for customers on the MAX.

“Second, it would lack commonality with the 737, which would be a barrier for 737 operators.

“Third, there is no technology jump to act as a catalyst. At this size airplane, composites would give limited weight savings and likely be more expensive to manufacture. There is not a next-generation engine on the horizon and engine OEMs are so cash-constrained that they would hardly prioritize developing one,” Bernstein said.

It adds that “any aerodynamic improvements are likely to be minimal.”

Bernstein said that it sees Boeing as “modestly disadvantaged versus Airbus at the large end of the A320 family (A321neo/XLR), as the A321 offers more flexibility on range/payload.”

But it says the 737MAX is still a “compelling airplane for most missions and we do not see a material shift away from it.”

Early in 2019, Boeing pushed forward on a New Midsize Airplane (NMA or 797) – a twin-aisle airplane with 220-270 seats and a range of 10 hours but the grounding of the MAX in March of that year also ground the 797.

“We saw the NMA as attacking a real market with new technology – and not cannibalizing Boeing’s existing products, Bernstein said. But it adds that it was sceptical that the NMA could be produced at the right cost.

When COVID-19 hit the whole program was shut down.

Bernstein says that the biggest issue is that Boeing is burning cash at levels never seen before, at a time when the demand has vanished.

“Major new investments at this time would make no sense to us, as we head into an uncertain winter”. “Because of the MAX, Boeing’s cash position was part of why the NMA did not go forward. The cash situation is much worse now,” Bernstein says.