Farnborough redefines the MOM sector

AirbusNewJuly 19, 2016, © Leeham Co.: If anything came out of the otherwise dull Farnborough Air Show, it was that the Middle of the Market airplane debate is as muddled as ever.

Boeing didn’t launch, or even say much, about the prospective 737-10, a slightly larger version of the MAX 9 intended to close the gap between the 9 and the Airbus A321neo. Boeing illustrates the 737-8-based MAX 200 as a separate model in its product line up. The 737-10 will slot in above the MAX 200, if built.

Boeing increased the demand in its 20-year Current Market Outlook for the small, twin-aisle airplane by 5%–a move Airbus claims is aimed at the Boeing Board of Directors to entice it to approve launch of the New Mid-range Aircraft, or NMA as Boeing now calls the MOM aircraft.

Boeing LogoAirbus said the MOM sector ends at 240 seats (single class) and only a single-aisle airplane makes sense. This is a shift from long-standing messaging that the A321neo covers the lower end of the MOM sector and the A330-200/800 covers the upper end. This message was advanced as recently as the Airbus Innovation Days at the end of May.

With the rhetoric changing a bit, is it time to redefine the MOM sector?

What is the MOM sector?

It’s well known that Boeing initially identified the MOM sector as being above the 737-9 and below the 787-8. Airbus agreed, and said it had the sector covered with the A321, especially the neo, and the small A330s.

LNC viewed this sector definition more broadly. As we’ve reported previously, Boeing has been clear: the focus for the 787 is on the -9/10 and not the -8. It really doesn’t want to build the 787-8, mainly because its production is different than the -9/10, it is a money-loser and the profits are with the -9/10. (Boeing told TheStreet.com that it’s committed to the -8.)

What is true is that there are fewer and fewer orders for the -8. As the years progress, there are also fewer and fewer deliveries. It’s been a while since we checked, but according to Ascend, the last -8 is scheduled for delivery in 2020.

Regardless, the +7,200nm range of the -8 is way beyond what the MOM sector is about: 4,500nm to 5,000nm. This means the 788 is too much airplane.

Boeing’s Product Gap

This means at a minimum, the Boeing view of the MOM sector must be redefined. The top end is below the 789, not the 788.

This brings us to the bottom end. The 737-9 continues to be stuck at idle. Prior to Farnborough, at which Airbus announced 100 new commitments for the A321neo, the 737-9 had been outsold by the former at a ratio of about 3:1.

(The official numbers provide a ratio of 4:1. LNC has allocated LionAir MAX TBDs in the same ratio at 737NG orders, boosting the MAX 9 orders to about 413 from the official 270-290.)

The 737-9 is also too small. In all coach, it seats 204 passengers. In dual class, it’s 178 passengers. In shoe-horn density, it’s 220. Range is advertised as 3,515nm, short for unrestricted trans-Atlantic operations since about 20% needs to come off for winds and reserves.

LNC believes the Boeing MOM gap begins with the 737-8 and ends with the 787-9.

The prospective 737-10 is understood to be 230 passengers in high-density and 4,000nm. This is still too small.

Whether it will be an effective competitor to the A321neo is a topic for another time.

Airbus’ Product Gap

The A321neo does a good job at the low end of the MOM sector, provided the mission is high-density cabin configuration and no more than 3,200nm. The balance of the advertised 4,000nm must be held in reserve for wind conditions and alternates.

But the A321LR in international configuration, using United Airlines LOPA, carries 164 passengers—five fewer than UAL’s Boeing 757s and 10 or more fewer than those operated by American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

Thus, depending on the mission, the A321LR does or doesn’t fulfill the lower end of the MOM sector requirements.

The A330-200/800 is, like the 787-8, too much airplane. The range is more than 7,200nm. The A330-200R (Regional) sold to China is a little much on capacity at the low end (250 passengers in international configuration) but about right on range. But this is “old” technology engines and aerodynamics. A low selling price is a plus, but a be-all, end-all.

The A330-800 is pricier, if more efficient. But details of an A330-800R are non-existent.

However, John Leahy, COO-Customers of Airbus, declared in an interview with LNC at Farnborough that he doesn’t want to sell the A330-200 or the -800, preferring the more profitable 300/900. This pretty well scuttles the Airbus offering at the top end of the MOM sector.

Thus, the Airbus product gap in the MOM sector may or may not start with the A321neo but certainly appears to end with the A330-300/900—which is too large.

What the airlines want

The airlines desire an aircraft that is 220-260 passengers in international configuration and 4,500-5,000nm in range. They basically want a Boeing 767-200/300 replacement. And they want it for the seat-mile costs of a single-aisle airplane. For a price that begins with a Seven, or less.


What the airlines want technically is do-able. Whether it can be provided economically comparable with a single aisle is debatable. Whether it can be provided at the price they want is almost certainly impossible.

What Airbus and Boeing do next remains to be seen. Perhaps the Paris Air Show will find some answers.


45 Comments on “Farnborough redefines the MOM sector

  1. I find it difficult to believe that “The prospective 737-10 is understood to be 230 passengers in high-density” – with Boeing adding two rows to the 737-7, why would they make the 737-10 smaller than the A321? On the contrary, to make the effort worthwhile, I think they would make the -10 just a bit larger, but not too much to avoid Airbus making a A322.
    Actually, I think if either A or B would figure out how to make their single aisles just a bit more capable (halfway to the 757-300 in size, but with a bit more range than the -200W) they would have economics these would be the real point2point, LCC machines that would disrupt the market similar to the impact the DC-8 Super60s made. Without having to take the bus to Luxemburg….

    • Agreed, if they do it they will at least match the A321 and most likely exceed it by a bit, otherwise its not worth launching.

  2. So the MoM is the gap between single and twin aisle aircraft.

    A new 2 aisle and just one more seat aircraft like the 767 will always be inferior to LD3 capable 8 or 9 across seating aircraft with just slightly higher weight.

    Therefor two options left for a Mom in my opinion:
    – a single aisle with larger wings
    – a dual aisle with smaller wings

    That is bad for Boeing.
    Airbus can build an A322 with folding wing tips and larger engines. The landing gear is to short on the 737 for a simple trick.

    On the upper end Airbus can offer the A330-200R even John Leahy dislikes to sell them. A real R should be based on the A350 fuselage with a smaller wing. Boeing lost the easy option with the 787-8/3. I think it will be easier for Airbus to build special panels than for Boeing to wrap a new coccoon. Airbus may resurrect the A350-800 with a small wing.

    • “Airbus can build an A322 with folding wing tips” Adding how much weight for the hinges and mechanisms and such?

      • Folding wing tips would only be required to keep an 322 in gate category C.

        A bigger wing is nice to carry the fuel and for long range fuel economy. A larger and heavier wing carries its load by itself. No need for big changes on body-to-wing joint.

    • does it have to be LD3 or could it get by being LD3-45 capable? there are about a billion of those out there running around and the only aircraft using them is the a320.

      that way you’d get containerized cargo without having to go full monty on the cross-section.

      • For single aisle I would expect LD3-45 but for dual aisle LD3 is the way to go. LD2 is not so common.

        It would be a small advantage for an airline to fill the belly cargo volume with LD3 instead of LD2.

  3. Leahy’s comments regarding the viability of a Twin Aisle are technically correct.
    The low risk option would be a single aisle.
    Basically, adding 5m to the A321 and providing it with a new wing of 40-42m span and 160sqm area would generate the required lift and provide fuel volume.

    Launching a new program based on a market that people think exists is probably a bit risky. For Boeing, the MoM aircraft needs to be part of a family of new single aisles, anything else bets the shop.

    The B737-10 would be ideally suited to the late MDD. Maybe Boeing wants to head same direction.

    • Streching the aluminum fuselate and wing of the A321 will make it significantly heavier. As a result you need bigger enignes and beef up the leanding gear etc. etc. Same trap that ruined the A340-500 and -600.
      You would either have to increase the fuselage diameter or make it from CFRP. Both solutions make it a new plane.

  4. A widebody derated / with small wings; the weight & costs of a big aircraft with the performance of a small one. Not stairways to glory IMO.

    If there exists a sizeable profitable market, I expect Airbus to launch a bigger NEO derivative. Probably 2 versions. New wings, improved engines, landing gears. Large commonality with NEO’s.

    Prospects would be e.g. United, Delta, AA, the Chinese carriers and US and European Leisure carriers like Hawaiian and TUI.

    EIS could be as soon as 2021 maybe production would be concentrated in Mobile USA.


    • If using the Al fuselage/new wing was the correct decision on the 777x, then the A322 with a 50m fuselage and a CFRP wing seems the logical route. A 757-250 with 5,000nm range. Airbus can have production/parts/pilot commonality with the A320.

      Boeing has the option to go head to head with a new carbon copy of the Bus to be, or, size slightly higher and differentiate with a twin aisle.

  5. New planes will always be more expensive than earlier models with more simple technology. Like we will certainly not see any serious new plane being designed with aluminum wings again.
    So instead of asking the airlines what they are willing to spend you have to come forth with a product that promises profitable business. On the lower end the A321LR is certainly a great offer and impossible to beat in the near term. On the upper end, a 2-3-2 twin isle does not make much sense to me. 2-4-2 should offer much better economics and John Leahy will certainly not turn down potential buyers of a 330-800R if they are willing to place a sizeable order to replace aging 767s. That day will come sooner or later.
    For Boeing it makes sense to build a plane for that part of the market only when disruptive technologies become available and affordable. Out-Of-Autoclave could possibly be a game changer. Possibly in combination with a wider single idle fuselage (similar to the MS-21). Due to its higher strength and stiffness CFRP also makes a sleeker fuselage feasable, so something like 50m should be well possible with a maximum capacity of up to 300 pax.

    • Boeing went for a one size fits all solution with the 787. It didn’t replace the 767 as planned, but it did kill off the A330 (and probably the A330 NEO in most cases). The beneficial side-effect of making a bigger plane that didn’t satisfy the 767 end of the market, is the 787-10 at the other end and hence a chunk of A350 sales. So they’re clearly not going to build a replacement for the 767 imo. They’ll replace the 757-300 in the end. The customers want it cheap and that’s the key.

  6. If Bombardier hadn’t blown themselves up financially developing the CSeries, they might have been the logical contender to take the next step up in the food chain and build MoM. One wonders if Boeing and airbus fail to act, would the Russians or Chinese make the leap?

    Looking at the 767, the 767-300 effectively killed the 767-200 (although the 757-300 had very limited appeal). It makes me suspect a smaller new twin aisle would be a market flop since its economics wouldn’t be as good as its big brother.

    • The B767 was design as A300 competitor as first place. Take a look on the wing, it’s 30% bigger then A310, even bigger that of A300. That expanded why dash 300 effectively killed dash 200

  7. To LNC, what about the return of the A31o in an updated and cameo form?

  8. I think a new MoM design (twin aisle on 5000 nm) will affect a VLA marker as well…

  9. From a customer perspective the MOM, as defined by Boeing with the NMA, might be the perfect aircraft to have in terms of range/passengers. But from a manufacturer standpoint the MOM, or NMA, is a bastard aircraft. For it is too big to be a single-aisle and too small to be a twin-aisle.

    In the single-aisle/six-abreast domain the 737-8 and A321 are perfect aircraft. Any single-aisle/six-abreast design above or below that can no longer be optimized in terms of efficiency. For each “engineering segment”, e.g., five-abreast/six-abreast or single-aisle/twin-aisle, there is a perfect size for the segment. The MOM, as defined by Boeing with the NMA, does not fit well in any “engineering segment”. But this very unique MOM requirement is what the airlines want, even if it is unrealistic from an engineering perspective.

    Conclusion: If Boeing wants to satisfy what is a very specific customer requirement for a MOM, the ideal aircraft that the NMA now appears to be may actually turn out to be the aircraft that nobody wants. That is because from a MOM perspective the NMA will be identified as a bastard if it survives birth. But I think there is also a real possibility that it will be a stillborn.

    • the 767 sold very well for a very long time, until a significantly larger aircraft with better economics stole its thunder.

      a fully modern 2-3-2, optimized for LD3-45 and flying 4000 overwater mile routes with a full pax/cargo load (including wind and diversion reserves so a “5000 mile aircraft”) would easily be able to match the seat mile costs of an A321NEOLR/GTF(2018 spec) just by virtue of slicker CF fuselage and latest generation C on the ground D in the air wings.

      whether the higher acquisition cost can be offset by pax count is up to debate.

    • Agreed, Airbus can probably sell 33o´s for 70 million since the Euro and the pound are down. If there was a MOM market there would be at least some 332/8s being sold. Of course JL prefers to sell 333/9s, or even better 380s, but offer him a reasonable price and he doesn´t really care if the money is there.

      • With the introduction of the euro, Airbus started diversifying the expenses and incomes, which means they pay to suppliers in euro area in euro, those from US in dollars, they also sell to Europe based airlines in euro, to US in dollars. As far as I remember, the Chines pays in euro as well.

  10. “Airbus said the MOM sector ends at 240 seats (single class) and only a single-aisle airplane makes sense. ”

    While there are many other “cuts” summing to a thousand, some of which may be deeper, the idea of boarding a single-aisle aircraft with even 200 of my fellow passengers, and then in particular de-planing with them using only a single aisle, doesn’t strike me as a satisfactory travel experience. Let alone 239 of them. 757 passenger counts notwithstanding.

    • Last I read the airlines don’t care about your travel experience can they sell the seats and make money?

      So far its working pretty well for them.

    • And 777X and A380 will board and deplane 200-300 pax per aisle, not much different than 200-240 on a single-aisle aircraft.

  11. The only plane Boeing needs to build is a new single aisle, 6 across 737 replacement. The MAX is as much as you can push a 1960s design. With a 737-8 replacement as the base mode, the 1st stretch to take on the A321 and the 2nd stretch (with wing enhancements like A350-1000) to be the MOM version, this will cover all bases and bring Boeing to the lead in the narrow body segment.

    Boeing management doesn’t want to do this due to the costs and the real business case for a MOM only plane is weak so they’ll just end up trying to stretch the 737 into the -10 model which will still be a dog’s lunch.

  12. 35 years ago Boeing’s 2 solutions to the bifurcated MoM were the 757 and 767. Today, I also see 2 solutions.

    For the single aisle family, an upgrade based on the 737 fuselage. A new wing and taller gear will fit the leap1a, and fix the rotation geometry problem to allow the stretch. Boeing will use the excess capacity in its new composite wing factory. The wing, with all the fbw stuff that goes with it, can be sized to make the -10 the start of new, much more efficient, family. The cost and development time of the upgrade will be much less than for a clean sheet design.

    This upgrade can be ready to compete with the 321 (and potential follow on 322) substantially before the twin aisle family, which Boeing described at Farnborough as the NMA.

  13. @MartinA

    In my view it is not a question of market. I believe there is a MOM market, just like there was and always will be a 100-150 seat market. What makes the difference is the offering. But even if what Boeing is offering is what the airlines want, they will not buy it for two reasons: It will be too expensive and will not offer the kind of economics they are looking for. Because it is not possible to optimize a small twin-aisle for the simple reason that any twin-aisle is by definition a widebody, and any widebody has to be a big aircraft and carry a lot of passengers in order to be efficient. The NMA is simply not big enough to be an efficient twin-aisle. It would be so even if there were no competition. But competition there is with smaller single-aisle and larger twin-aisle aircraft. Of course they don’t offer the specific passenger/range that some operators are looking for, and that is why the NMA would still be a good investment for some operators who make their bread and butter in that specific segment. But most airlines offer a variety of services and can skip the MOM market if they don’t find the right aircraft. Yet, I am convinced that this market would grow if an aircraft manufacturer was able to offer an attractive package in terms of range, payload and economics. But I am afraid this is not technically possible. For what looks like a market issue is actually a technical issue, because only a revolutionary technology could make this work. So here is what I have to say to Boeing (no pun intended): The NMA is an aircraft for the distant future. What you need to look at for the immediate future is the NSA.

    • I heartily agree Boeing needs to get going on the NSA, but I think they will waste resources on the 737-10 instead, the words clean sheet seems to trigger some kind of phobia in Chicago.

      I agree with you (and Scott) that the aircraft the airlines want probably can´t be done at the price they want, what I was trying to say is the A330 200/800 is the closest, and probably at the right price, and while still too heavy I think if there was a real MOM market it would see more interest than it has, the A330 line saw hundreds of orders during the 787 delay, I would expect the smaller 330 models to get at least some orders, right now there are nearly none. I sort of feel like MOM talk is some sort of red herring, clean sheet phobia will probably ensure it never happens anyway.

      • “The A330 200/800 is the closest, and probably at the right price, and while still too heavy I think if there was a real MOM market it would see more interest than it has.”

        That is because any twin-aisle is too big for the MOM, while any single-asile would be too small, or too long. The MOM, as defined by Boeing, is in a technical twilight zone. Although there is a requirement for an aircraft between the A321 and the A330 there is none being offered other than the NMA. And there is a reason for this. The twilight zone I am talking about also exists for the transition from the five-abreast to the six-abreast. But that zone is much wider from the single-aisle to the twin-aisle. That is because the volume of the aircraft grows faster than the floor area, which defines the number of seats. And a twin-aisle is a sudden big jump because of the huge volume, i.e., aircraft size, required by this additional aisle. And you have to be able to carry more passengers to compensate; which makes the NMA too small in terms of passenger count, and too big in terms of size. Although new technologies could alleviate this problem it would still be there.

  14. The more I think about the NMA the more I believe it is being pushed by the Boeing marketing department because there could be an interesting market for such an aircraft it it were feasible. But like I have explained above I don’t think it is such a good idea from a technical standpoint. That is why I also believe that the Boeing engineering department is probably fighting marketing over this. Besides, the Boeing engineers are probably sick and tired to work on an old beaten horse like the 737, and only a clean-sheet NSA would relieve them from this humiliating task.

  15. Does anyone honestly believe Airbus will build the A330-800NEO?

    Wikipedia indicates Airbus has only sold only 10 units.


    Going ahead with it would be the dumbest decision since the A380.

    I imagine Airbus likes the optics of pretending to have a family of airplanes but they are not really fooling anyone.

  16. The B757-300 seated more people than the B767-200, yet it had a significantly lower fuselage structural weight. A small twin may work if it is not made a wannabe widebody: that is, get rid of too much cargo volume, too much galleys and monuments in general.
    Even at 50m, the 4m fuselage of the A320 family has a slenderness ratio in lieu of the B777-300ER, below B777-9X. Can’t be that bad structure-wise.

    The B757-300 has been an extremely efficient airplane in some respect, but it suffered from a number of short comings:
    – wings were too small, insufficient aspect ratio
    – old engine
    – fuselage diameter lacks

    Issues like boarding can be overcome to an extent that they do not impact operating cost.

    Normand Hamel has put it right: there is a twilight zone. Yet, if seating capacity is in lieu of the B757-300 a single aisle remains a valid option. If more is required, the aircraft shall be sized between the B767-300 and -400, and be designed as small twin aisle.

  17. A small twin aisle (2-3-2) can’t carry LD3’s and LD3-45 are swimming around in unused space.

    Making a serious twin aisle 2-4-2 or long 3-3 a better idea.

    The Airlines are not dismissing / overlooking this. Boeing understandably tries to play it down (MAX), but they know.

    One person load 1000kg in an aircraft in 1 minute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4W6zbUYbDo

  18. I don’t think it’s a size issue. The A321 is big enough for this market, assuming acquisition and running costs are kept in line with other single aisles. If you need a bigger plane, you go for an A330 or 787-10.

    It comes down to range. How much further than the nominal 4000 miles does this plane need to go? This suggests to me the idea behind the 757 is the correct one despite the plane itself being obsolete. Beefed up wings, engines and possibly landing gear on a standard narrowbody. You also have a prospective CSeries 500 challenging you on the shorter runs so you want a shorter range version for efficiency

    This gives us a new four model product matrix: single class seats 200 / 240; nominal range miles 3500 / 5000

  19. It easy said to boost range up to 5000Nm or even further. Just dimension wings, engines, LDG etc. for it.

    But you pay a big price: competitiveness (weight/operating cost) on the bulk of flights (& sales) 1500-2500NM..

    In general capacity / CASM is more important than extra range here. You don’t want to serve a niche with the niche MoM market.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *