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 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.