June 9, 2015, c. Leeham Co. The Middle of the Market (MOM) airplane seems next up on the development plate. Air Lease Corp (ALC) is a major player in the development of any new airplane, and president John Plueger said the size of the market will depend greatly on the price of the airplane.
During a short interview on the sidelines of the conference, Plueger didn’t name a price but said the more expensive the airplane, the market could be as few as 800. The less expensive, the market could be as much as 1,200-1,600 airplanes. Either market isn’t big enough for Airbus and Boeing to play in this space, but Boeing–lagging in the single-aisle sector with the 737 MAX 9 to the Airbus A321neo–has to do something, Plueger said.
If the MAX was doing well, Boeing wouldn’t have to do anything, Plueger said. He sees the MOM entering service around 2023 or 2024, which means Boeing would have to launch the program in 2016 or 2017. However, as long as Jim McNerney is CEO of Boeing, Plueger isn’t confident Boeing will proceed.
McNerney, 66, is widely believed to plan his retirement after Boeing’s 100th Anniversary next summer. Although McNerney has said Boeing won’t do any more “moon shots,” this is understood to mean creating and implementing a host of new technologies at the same time, not that Boeing won’t do another new airplane incorporating existing technologies.
ALC was the launch customer for the Airbus A321LR, the long-range version of the A321neo incorporating up to three auxiliary fuel tanks. ALC ordered 30 airplanes and Plueger said ALC has lease contracts in place for some of them.
United Airlines says the A321LR is too small–it carries five fewer passengers than United’s international Boeing 757s–and last week an American Airlines official echoed United. AA’s 757s carry 179 passengers to United’s 169 configuration. The A321LR in a match up to United’s configuration carriers 164 passengers. LNC hasn’t done a comparison to AA’s international configuration.
AA and UA are the largest operators of the 757 across the Atlantic.
Plueger shrugged off the two carriers’ complaint. He predicts new orders will be coming from the Asian market. He acknowledged the A321LR isn’t the perfect replacement for the 757 but says it comes close.
He also said Airbus learned from the corporate A319 ACJ, which uses aux tanks but of a simpler design from those used in A321s to-date. The aux tanks planned for the A321LR are smaller and easier to install or remove. Conversion can be accomplished within 24 hours, he said.