Beginning in 2007 and for the next six years, it was trials and tribulations for The Boeing Co.
The 787 program was years late, billions of dollars over budget and the first commercial airliner produced by Boeing that was grounded.
The Queen of the Skies, the 747, has largely become morbid-bound in its latest iteration, which was also years late and well over budget.
The KC-767 International Tanker program became an embarrassment, also years late, over budget and beset by design issues. This program in disarray was weighed by the USAF as a risk factor that played a role in selecting the Northrop/EADS KC-330 in the first round of competition to recapitalize the KC-135 fleet.
In a huge embarrassment, Airbus skunked Boeing over the entire single-aisle re-engine vs new replacement issue, swept in an won a big order from American Airlines and forced Boeing into a highly awkward co-press conference to launch the MAX at American in which former BCA CEO Jim Albaugh looked like he had just swallowed four or five lemons.
It continued: The A320neo is far outselling the 737 MAX and Airbus has co-opted a number of previously exclusively Boeing customers.
Readers know we’ve been pretty hard on Boeing throughout many of these issues, and we’re inherently skeptical. So when we now conclude that Boeing at long, long last is back on track and picking up speed, we’re not simply sniffing kerosene.
Following the return to service of the 787, Boeing is on the cusp of launching the 787-10 (probably at the Paris Air Show) and the extreme-makeover 777X, also this year (we think at the Dubai Air Show with a huge Emirates Airlines order).
The 787-10 will be a very popular sub-type, and while it won’t have the 8,200nm-8,500nm range of the shorter models, it will have enough range to do 90% of the missions of its largest siblings and well within the range of most airline requirements.
The 777-8X will, we believe, not be as competitive as the A350-1000 based on the market intelligence we’ve picked up so far; we’re waiting for Boeing to reveal detail (likely at the Paris Air Show). But the -9X will be in a class by itself. Setting aside the snarky comments of Boeing CEO Jim McNerney ragging Airbus for not having the “appetite” to create a ground-up competitor to the 777-9X (itself hardly a “ground up” design), his point is otherwise spot-on: Airbus doesn’t have a competing airplane.
The MAX still trails the NEO by a wide margin and we aren’t convinced that it will catch up to parity, and it will be a markedly different airplane than the NG, but it’s reasonable enough to keep Boeing competitive in the single-aisle market.
As close to Boeing as we are, by proximity and by knowledge, we believe Boeing is “back.” Airbus took great advantage of the years of disarray. The rivalry between the two is now going to be more on an even footing.