Engines “huge” question for Boeing NMA, says top industry official

May 15, 2018, © Leeham News: The engine problems at all four OEMs mean a later entry-into-service for the prospective Boeing New Midrange Aircraft (797), says an influential figure in commercial aviation.

And the longer Boeing puts off a decision to launch the NMA, the more Airbus A321neos will be in service and the more difficult an already challenging business case for the NMA becomes, says Steven Udvar-Hazy, executive chairman of Air Lease Corp.

Hazy made his remarks at the 38th annual Airfinance Journal conference today in Miami.

NMA is only as good as the engines

Hazy noted the problems GE Aviation, CFM, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce are having with the GEnx on the Boeing 787 and 747-8, the LEAP on the A320neo and 737 MAX, the Geared Turbo Fan on the A320neo and the Trent 1000 on the 787. He predicts it will be 12-18 months before the problems are resolved.

“This slows down NMA development,” he said. “We’ve been pushing Boeing very hard for two engine choices. Will we have sufficiently reliable engines by 2025-26? I don’t think so.”

Boeing for more than two years targeted an NMA EIS, if the program is launched, for 2024-25 EIS. On the most recent earnings call, CEO Dennis Muilenburg dropped the reference to 2024.

Last year, LNC reported that privately Boeing salesmen were telling customers 2027 was a more likely EIS. The supply chain was also being told 2027, LNC reported. Boeing denied this.

In March, LNC reported that focus on the NMA needed to shift from the overall business case to the engines. See these stories here and here.

Tough business case

Hazy said that even aside from the engines, Boeing has a tough business case for the NMA.

“The question is, can Boeing build the aircraft economically that is affordable for the industry?” He said doing so as a composite airplane will be tough. A composite airplane is needed to achieve the economics, an LNC analysis previously concluded.

“A key question is where will they build it,” Hazy said. Boeing’s Washington State workforce is unionized.

“The research and development investment is very significant,” he said. “The engines are a huge question mark.”

Hazy sees about 2,500 A321neos in service by the time the NMA enters service. The A321neo EIS becomes greater the longer Boeing waits to launch the NMA, he said.

27 Comments on “Engines “huge” question for Boeing NMA, says top industry official

  1. The number of 2,500 A321neo’s in service by then is just incredible. Of course it is possible but it just goes to show that Airbus have enormous scope to make some serious money and define a complete market segment. That and the opportunity to iterate to A322 with new wing or other must leave Boeing a bit uncomfortable.

    • Get the C series right(there’s a long way to go),and they can clear out almost all the A319s and quite a lot of A320s and make room for ever more A321/A322,as long as PW can keep up.

      • What do you think needs to be done to get the C-Series right?

        • Total rebuild of the production system and all of the post certification development seen on the 787and A350.This development process obviously needs to include a larger model as well.After market support. Nothing fundamental wrong, just half finished. I believe it’s due to get undercarriage doors at some point, for example.

    • Personally I don’t see Airbus developing an A322.
      It would cost money to develop, especially if a new wing is involved and they have no capacity to assemble and deliver them.
      Why spend money on developing something you can’t deliver when you have an almost paid for product that is in high demand?
      By the time they do have the capacity for something like the A322, it will probably be too late.

        • There must be a cut off point, where it’s better to wait for a few years and a new generation of engines. Then you might go for the top end of the new range of narrowbodies which will hopefully be more efficient to produce as well.What can the engine manufacturers come up with during this window?

        • I’m sorry, but production wise the A319neo doens’t play a role. Or do you think a 50 is a huge number when monthly output is about 60 and rising?

    • Actually it´s market share has remained steady the past few years. I mean they are still losing the narrowbody sales race but it’s not getting worse. LOL

  2. Guy dying to order a hundred or more NMA wants them soon, and as cheap as possible. Got it.

  3. MH370: While I think they have it right overall, some details are odd as it was clear on the association of the Penang turn early on.

    https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/mh370-experts-think-theyve-finally-solved-the-mystery-of-the-doomed-malaysia-airlines-flight/

    If he wanted to just disappear, he could have made a right turn and worked his way out with no radar coverage.

    I would call it Penanag was more important and he may or may not have cared if they did an intercept as it was not on a dangerous course to either country (Malaysia or Thailand)

    With the government change we may bet real details and data from Malaysia on the background details (radar track data among other items) now.

  4. Scott:

    Would it be possible to get a weekly general aviation new/comment for the rest of the aviation news we are interested in?

  5. In connection with the engines Mr. Udvarházy is correct either way.

    First, the soul of every successful aircraft is a successful engine, that brings in a jump in economics (TSFC, Reliability, Specific Maintenance Costs).

    Second, the presently leading technologies are exposing their teething problems and real operational data that are throwing a wrench in previously super-optimistic marketing pitches and put Boeing into a difficult position.

  6. Instead of designing a MoM aircraft between the 737 and 787, would it make sense to create a 3 model aircraft overlapping the 737-9/10 at the lower end, with a stretch and a double stretch like the 787. That would pick up more 737 volume to help the business case, and leave the 737 with a single model 8, which is doing well for itself. (The model 7 can be ignored) It would seem prudent to offer 2 engine choices since the current latest generation engines are proving to be very problem prone. It would be a disaster to be stuck with a single engine choice with the kind of problems the 787 Rolls engine is having.

  7. If Boeing gets the 797 design right the location of assembly should be closest to the robotic suppliers. There will be much less assembly workers onto a robot built 797 than the 787 so manhour cost will not be as important anymore. The key is getting the robots and engineers to get along and produce these composite structures and manybe even install harnesses, brackets and tubing into the section before sending it off to the next fixture and its robots mating sections together. It is surprising that the LEAP get into problems as a derivative/scale down of the GEnX and a massive amount of test Engines. Boeing might go for a GE9X scale down for the 797 single source and demand x2 number of test Engines and test hours compared to LEAP-1B before Aircraft certification.

  8. Based on the current info on engines, market entry, etc., does anyone else feel like Boeing has actually missed the boat and should dump the 797 and work on a new 737 replacement instead?

    • To be honest, I don’t think there was a boat to miss.
      Well, maybe the boat of spending a bit more on the MAX to give it enough legs to properly compete with the A321neo. I don’t believe there was a proper window of opportunity for a new development of a MoM/NMA. Not one where the business case would’ve worked, anyway.

      But other than that, I agree and I think what you suggest is what’s going to happen eventually. They’ll to a 797 that covers 98% of the MoM niche but lets go of the lat 2% of market potential in favour of being a suitable platform for 737-9/-10 and maybe -8 replacement.
      That way, they’d end up with three aircraft families (797, 787, 777 – curiously the middle digit descends and the size ascends 😉 ), plus Embraer below that range, which seems reasonable.

    • YES, agreed. Skip the twin asile and make a new wider (MC-21 ish) SA family. Ultimately two wings, and various fuselage lengths to cover everything from Max 8 to 757 200/300 capacity. Start with a size that is 321 plus a little bit then add one bigger and one or two smaller. An updated/upgraded GTF or leap would be adaquate for all but maybe the heaviest version. The Max can still sell 5000+ units before the max 8 replacing version enters service

      You can still call it 797…..or 7357

  9. Instead of designing a MoM aircraft between the 737 and 787, would it make sense to create a 3 model aircraft overlapping the 737-9/10 at the lower end, with a stretch and a double stretch like the 787. That would pick up more 737 volume to help the business case

    I agree. When the NMA/MoM was first discussed a good few years ago, I already said in the comments section here that I thought this was the prudent thing to do. The business case for an exclusively NMA/MoM plane is obviously incredibly hard to make, as evident by the fact that we’ve been talking about this for ages now, and both launch and prospective EIS get constantly pushed to the right.
    Using the NMA/MoM platform as the basis for the 737 replacement makes total sense, covering especially the -9 and -10 models. That way there’s much more market potential to cover development cost.
    The Embraer partnership wasn’t on the table a few years back, and I didn’t see that coming, but with that now in place as well, Boeing coud replace the -7 and -8 with a new Embraer family, just like Airbus are likely to do with the CSeries.

    As the article has an implicit stab an unions, pointing out that Washington is highly unionised, I feel a point about this has to be made.
    From my own experience, there are surely some unions (workers’ councils) who are not exactly helping things (Alitalia and many years of UAW policies come to mind), and those unions in question should be scrutinised and criticised accordingly, just like CEOs and boards should be.

    But neither’s existence should be put into question in genereal, much less seen as a disadvantage for certain locations. I know that’s currently not a particularly fashionable statement to make, but it’s one that should be made nevertheless, as painting unions in an exclusively negative way (especially in the context of Boeing, where management have made at least as many grave mistakes as the unions have) should be vehemently opposed as it represents a view in which management and shareholders, in powerful positions to begin with, should not be subject to anything even resembling adequate checks and balances.

  10. Down scaling / lightening up the NMA to 180-250 seats single aisle would make Toulouse far more nervous than the “carbon 767 without cargo” concepts floated so far. Slightly bigger/more capable & efficient than the current NB’s. But not an SUV.

    By 2025 Airbus will have delivered around 4000 A321’s. Maybe Boeing has been overly “deliberate” again..

  11. I couldn’t agree more with Udvar-Hazy that the engine (or even engines) is one key problem with the 797. And being busy with current engines is not the only issue engine makers have with this project. The development of modern engines has become extremely costly and, as they learned the hard way, is taking even more time than anticipated – plus, the production ramp-up should be much slower, otherwise problems in the early production engines may become dangerously expensive. Considering the sales figures the engine maker believe in for the 797 (probably quite a bit smaller than Boeings ideas) are making it quite impossible to develop two different engines and even make a profit on them.

    What this means is: There is still no contract or agreement between Boeing and any one engine OEM. That means that any R&D is only in some preliminary stages. You also have to consider that there is no engine of this size of which this new engine may be only an update or a small change in scale, but it will have to be a new engine in all its parts. So no matter if it features gears or not, the development will take a long time and can’t be timed precisely, maybe not by a margin of about 2 years.

    For that reason I believe that the 797 won’t be into service before the end of the next decade.

    And to make matters worse: As I have explained in earlier posts, neither the panel-system (A350) nor the barrel-system (787) will offer production cost to match the desired cost of the aircraft. Maybe out-of-autoclave (CS-21) but that technology is not proven (availabe) at Boeing and I would not place a bet that they have any other system up their sleeves. But developing the 797 with an alumium fuselage also makes no sense, as all the next generation airliners will be full CFRP.

    This means that a new production method must be developed and a new factory installed. And though I believe a niche product like the 797 is likely to be is the perfect application for such a development, it will certainly mean that such a plane might never become profitable.

    So there you have it – several toads to swallow (as we say in Germany) and serious problems to overcome with a more than unsure outcome, in costs, in performance and in timing.

    My conclusion is that we certainly won’t see the 797 launched this year, probably not next year and maybe never.

  12. NMA has a engine issue – if you take a derivate of a widebody engine (B788) , you are overpowered and expensive.
    If you take a version of Max or Neo, you have propably not enough power, and where do you get the range?

    Overall, there’s not a right engine around, as you either have the 150kn Leap/PWG or the 280kn Gnex/Trent1000 of the B788.

    It doenst make sense to me.

    • Why that is theoretically correct, it also depends on the market position. E.g. the 757 was over-engined because there was no suitable engine. Lack of competition made a bigger engine acceptable and the reserves worked out well for specific (hot high) operations. On the A340-5/600 a de-rated Trent didn’t work out well because there was competition (777).

      • Keesje, but you cut the A340 story short by 2/3. Not only was the Trent way too heavy on the -500 and -600, but the CFM56 was too small for both the -200 and -300. The fundamental problem with the A340 was that the IAE “Superfan” never made it. Had it been a successful development, the whole song about 4-engined wide-bodies may have been a very different tune. (I still somehow like the idea of an A340-400 with P&W GTFs.)

        On the other hand the 777 got a great engine in the GE90.

        I’m 100% sure that both Boeing and Airbus have learned their lessons and will not develop a plane without a perfect engine.

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