Pontifications: Jumping on the MOM bandwagon

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By Scott Hamilton

March 15, 2015: There was little “real” news coming out of ISTAT this year, which is probably why the topics of the “757 replacement” and the 200-250 seat, 4,500 mile twin-aisle airplane prospect drew so much attention.

Sitting there in the audience, I could not help but have a feeling of “been there, done that.” Leeham News and Comment has been closely examining these two topics since we exclusively revealed October 21 last year that Airbus was showing the long-range A321 concept to airlines. We dubbed the concept the A321neoLR. Airbus formally launched the program in January and shortened the name to the A321LR.

Between our reveal and the launch, LNC’s economic guru, aerodynamic engineer Bjorn Fehrm, took a very close analysis of the A321LR vs the Boeing 757 and the Boeing 737-9. He analyzed the prospect of a long-range Boeing 737-8. He also looked at the prospect of re-starting the 757 in the form of a re-engined 757 Max.

We concluded:

  • The A321LR comes close to being a 757-200W replacement but it’s not an exact match.
  • The 737-9 simply doesn’t work as a 757 international replacement, due to operational performance issues in an international configuration.
  • The 737-8 could be a long, thin, albeit much smaller capacity choice. (Lo and behold, Boeing subsequently began showing a concept called the 737-8ERX to airlines.)
  • A larger 737 MAX 10, while technically feasible, is a three-quarters new airplane, so why bother?
  • The 757 MAX is not competitive to the A321LR.
  • The idea of a “787 Light” is a simplistic solution that doesn’t work, either: it’s entirely too much airplane.
  • That a “757 replacement” is best an entirely new twin-aisle, 2x3x2 airplane of 200-250 seats and a range of 4,500nm-5,000nm.

We then began a series of analyses about the twin-aisle airplane in what we have dubbed the “225/5000 Sector,” for 225 seats and 5,000nm. Boeing calls this, in its nomenclature, the Middle of the Market, or MOM. We published Part 4 on Monday last week, the first day of the ISTAT conference.

So when industry leaders and speakers at the conference began talking all the points we’ve covered since October, and the other media made headlines out of the idea of a 225-250 seat, 4,500nm mile airplane, we couldn’t help but think the headlines were entirely over-hyped.

We have long suggested that Boeing will launch a new airplane program in what was then the 757 replacement arena around 2018 with a 2025 entry-into-service. This remains the timing we believe will be true for the 225/5000 or MOM airplane. At ISTAT, Steven Udvar-Hazy, CEO of Air Lease Corp., said he expects a new Boeing airplane in 8, 10, 12 years. That’s 2023-2027. LNC is sticking with its 2025 forecast.

In the hallway at ISTAT, I asked Boeing marketing VP Randy Tinseth about the timing of the MOM airplane. He said, “the next decade.”

“What about 2025?” I asked.

“The next decade, he replied. Then he said that if I asked Hazy, he’d give his opinion of the month and the year. I didn’t have the chance to ask Hazy.

But wait, many will say: didn’t Boeing CEO Jim McNerney say no more “moonshots” and no 737 replacement until 2030?

Yes, he did. But a 225/5000 airplane (I’ll call it the 7X7 for now) isn’t likely to take a bunch of moonshots with ground-breaking technologies that caused such grief on the 787. In fact, a 7X7 could well have a metal fuselage and composite wings, like the 777X, instead of a composite fuselage like the 787. This will make industrial production easier than it’s been on the 787.

The 737 replacement (I’ll call it the 8X8 for now) could well not arrive until 2030, just like McNerney said. A 737 replacement would have to be announced around 2023. This is still only six years after the EIS of the 737-8 and just four years after the EIS of the 737-7 (if it’s built)–a very short time to obsolete a “new” airplane.

Besides, McNerney is expected to retire next year, after Boeing’s 100th anniversary. What he said last year may not carry beyond his departure.

One can only hope.

34 Comments on “Pontifications: Jumping on the MOM bandwagon

  1. Does the suggestion of no CFRP body on the 797 suggest (as with a330neo and b777x) that CFRP for fuselage is a commercial dead end? Wil we be looking back at them as a curiosity of the 2010s that we chuckle at?

    • It rather suggests they have no idea how to manufacture 60-80 CFRP fuselages per month at a cost that would make a business case.
      They would have to get rid of both autoclaves and heavy mold tooling.

      • Robot-controlled automated milling (spinning, ’tissage’ in french ?) of carbon fibered fuselage frame lining panels will generalise for all smaller types, from RJ to Feeders, possibly through MOM new types … but this will not require any of those gigantic 787 autoclaves (ex those Japanese ones, recently advertised : http://ajw.asahi.com/article/business/AJ201409130031 ) … unless the intended MOM NLT ramp-up calls for re-deployment of same (and subject to technical compatibility) for mass-serialed autoclave lining panel processings ? Time will tell, whether such an aircraft will outsell earlier types ?

      • A lot of time between now and 2030 to figure it out!

        And I suspect they do as they came close to it before they caved in and did yet another 737 , yet another 737, yet another 737

        Maybe or maybe not.

    • panelized CFRP, whether Autoclave or OoA offers better production and transportation efficiencies at the cost of some weight. Done properly, you can probably have better final assembly efficiency than the unitary barrel system employed on the 787.

      the main fuselage barrel can be built out of 5 major panels (roof, sides and 2 belly panels front and aft) and a unitary cockpit and tail cone, and by using 1/4 of circumference tube panels dramatically improve your volumetric utilization and therefore throughput of your autoclaves and super-duper-guppy transporters.

      Stuffing becomes easier as you stuff a panel with unrestricted access before you snap the pieces together rather than having to climb inside the tube. rather than the incredibly complex center fuse section with integrated wingbox, you can build the wingbox separately and snap it together with the rest of the fuselage at final assembly.

      • Thats how Lockheed built the Tristar, large structural panels which reduced the numbers of ribs and stringers.

  2. Some may remember the late 1980ies B7X7, which was a 7-abreast twin, albeit a bit smaller (12 inch) than the one proposed as NLT7 in the recent article series. It stalled in the project phase though.

    • A flat oval fuselage will load the passenger floor with (horizontal) compression forces. ( the stresses that will work against the fuselage going round under internal pressure.
      Buckling stress requires higher ( and beefier ) floorbeams.
      This reduces freight space and increase empty weight.
      Won’t happen IMHO.

      • Right, an oval fuselage would have the weight of a round one but without the volume, friction drag would be essentially the same. If using a 188-200inch cross section there is little need to go oval. Only if capacities above 350 people are asked for an 8-abreast would make sense, but that is far beyond the proposed MoM-idea.
        In this region a metal fuselage would make far more sense than a CFRP-fuselage. A CFRP-fuselage would also require quite massive investments in tooling and possibly bring the aircraft into a manufacturing cost disadvantage compared to current single aisles.

      • I think they have a better chance of doing it with composite material, which has a lower density and a higher rigidity compared with metal.

        The problem with a seven across twin, it seems to me, is that you could add an extra seat for little extra operating cost, which is basically why the eight across A330 won out over the 767. It’s not a light twin any more, but there’s no point in struggling against the economics.

        • For a MOM vector, going 8 abreast @ Economy Plus standards (trim-to-trim 207″-210″ cabin interior, 21″-24″ larger fuselage diameter vs the optimised 767 diameter of 186″) in the Y-class section, you end up where SUH warned you better not to venture, ie into the “too much aircraft” grounds, possibly a dead end. The market signals in response will be Oooooops ! Halt ! Back out before we crucify your proposals !? Except if you can organise the industrial aspects so the NRD&D costs are minimal and the learning effect is immediately maximal, such as eg for a 787-3 Lite MAX hooked onto the existing 787 FAL(s) or ditto for a 767-2C MAX, whereby the delta trip fuel burn is compensated in theory from the lesser capital costs/lower CASK vs a clean sheet feeder proposal ?

          • FT, I think you are talking about the A330NEO. Unfortunately for Boeing, that’s their competitor’s plane.

            I think we may need to accept their is a gap between the single aisles and a cost-effective twin aisles. That’s because the incremental cost saving as you shrink the twin aisle concept becomes too little and you might as well keep the bigger plane.

            Boeing no doubt will be testing that assumption very hard.

  3. Again : 2+3+2 cabin interior width at prevailing APEX standards (ie the A32X cabin normative, with triple seats 62″ wide) will measure 186.4″ trim-to-trim at armrest hight, which is nothing else than the 767 cabin diameter. It permits to offer 2+3+2 seating in what Boeing refers to as Economy Plus standards, which is a recognition by Boeing that 737 NG or MAX-8 are built to mere Y-class standards, vs A32X Series, built to Economy Plus standards ! For the NLT MOM project, dimensional considerations point to a type 767 derivative, but with lower deck curvature reduced from LD2 as for 767 to LD3-45, which is the prevailing feeder class normative, established by Airbus with A32X Series.

    In order to accomodate sufficient overhead carry-on stowage, the upper cabin curvature cannot be a horizontal ellipse, but needs to expand into quasi-circular curvature, this to allow minimum an ISIS-type overhead bin solution (Zodiac Aerospace).

    On these two accounts, I agree with you, Uwe : the elliptical “Fattie” is a no-go !

  4. Please on’t forget the first meaning of pontification, “To administer the office of a pontiff” (aka The Pope or a Bishop)

    • As with many words in English, there are multiple meanings. See my first Pontifications, at the end, for the Urban Dictionary definition.

  5. Show me a reference to a Mcnerney quote that reads “no 737 replacement until 2030″
    If I remember correctly he said”by 2030 we will have a new airplane”

      • Not at all. “By 2030 we will have” would fit a new airplane with EIS in 2025. “By 2030” is supposed to trigger your interpretation with investors who wouldn’t appreciate investment into a new airplane, while leaving the door open in terms of mandatory guidance. Publicly traded companies can be held liable on clear statements like “we will do this” or “we won’t do that”. That’s why you rarely read clear statements.

        • Publicly traded companies can be held liable on clear statements like “we will do this” or “we won’t do that”

          You mean like the 787 will have its first flight by August or September when it was rolled out in July?

          • Don’t have time to go back to the transcript, but usually it reads “we are confident that…”, “we believe that…”, or “there is nothing that makes us believe that…”
            You cannot hold anyone liable for beliefs, you know 😉

  6. A CFRP body will make sense when a oval shapes efficiency can yield the benefits to make the costs worthwhile. In 10 years I think they can get there.

  7. Aside from the 8 hr flight, there is the chart showing a huge amount of passenger traffic between 1 and 2 hr flights. What is the optimal aircraft for this? 1) the A320 and 738 at 150 to 175 seats? 2) the A321 at 200 seats? Will the single aisle turnaround prove to slow in this range sector. 3) a light twin? If it is, which is a more efficient solution, a 130′ 2-3-2, or a 150′ 2-2-2.

  8. How about a re-engined 767-200 + winglets or 777/787 wingtips, weight reduction program, cockpit upgrades and a new jazzy 777/787 like interior?

    • That would impact the 787 market, even if it could be done like you said.

      • I thought the 787-8 is quite a bit bigger than the 767-200. A 767 weight reduction could be done so that the structure would not allow higher MTOW than for 5000 nm, if that is the range requirement. Some people talk about 250 seats/5000 nm.

  9. I believe Boeing needs to launch a 160-220 seater before 2020, the biggest segment. I they don’t, they’ll dive under 40% market share at unacceptable margins.

    • Happy keesje then!

      As long as the mgt has beyond belief returns it doesn’t matter of course

      • Reminds me a bit of the stillborn NSA launch 5 years ago. Boeing mngt was sure airlines would wait, their product was superior and they would sweep the market with something new. And told us so.

        Airlines said something else, but McNerney had a Steve Jobs moment, telling the market what they really needed.

        Telling the market the MAX is the best option for the next 15 years and focus on the NLT might lead to similar encounter with the wall.

    • Keesje, I agree with you. My view is that Boeing has a 737 which is underneath a 60’s chassis. Admittedly it sells and sells well. However, Boeing has to be satisfied that it will not increase market share in the 160-220 seater market with that chassis.
      So it depends on ambition, if Boeing is happy to play second fiddle, that leave as is. If not, do not waste time on a larger plane now- focus on a clean-sheet 737.

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