How useful is an NMA, Part 6

The NMA compared with its alternatives

The NMA, if a go-ahead is given next spring, will be available by 2025 according to Boeing. This means Boeing can shorten the development time of the aircraft from the usual eight years to six years. This remains to be seen. Entry into service for the first variant would then be 2025.

Typically the second variant follows two years after the first. It means we shall compare the NMA with aircraft which would be operational 2025 to 2030.

This would be the Airbus A321LR which starts deliveries this week, but also the highly probable extended range version A321XLR. We shall also compare with the next larger aircraft from Boeing and Airbus.  It would be the Boeing 787-8 and Airbus A330-800.

We need to compare all these aircraft by the same rule set. We can either equip them with a Long-range cabin with lie-flat seats and spacious economy seats or the cabin type the NMAs are specified with, the typical Domestic two-class cabin which resembles the cabin an LCC would operate on long-haul.

We use the NMAs as the yardstick, meaning we go for the higher density cabins a typical LCC or domestic carrier would operate.

The NMAs then have the cabins as before with 225 and 265 seats.  The 787-8 and A330-800 would have cabins with 304 seats and the A321LR and A321XLR 192 seats.

Operating range and economics

The 787-8 and A330-800 would carry a higher passenger load than normal. Their nominal range would now be 6,600nm and 6,800nm respectively. The practical operational range would be around 1,000nm shorter for the same reasons as discussed in the first article.

The 797-6, the smaller NMA, would have a practical still air range of 4,500nm and the larger 797-7 4,000nm.

The A321LR has a nominal range with Airbus rules of 4,000nm. Measured with common rules and for operational use, the range would be 3,300nm still air.

Airbus just said they expect the A321XLR, as presently studied, to add 700nm to the range of the A321LR. The operational still air range would then be 3,800nm.

If we model the operational economics for the aircraft on the typical long-haul routes where these excel over standard Narrowbody aircraft, the A321LR and XLRs would have around 10% lower Cash Operating Costs (COC) per seat mile than the Widebody 787-8 and A330-800.

There wouldn’t be any real difference in the seat mile COC between the A321LR and XLR. The difference is in the useful range of the aircraft.

The NMA, as new designs, would have yet another 10% advantage over the A321LR and XLR when compared with the smaller NMA. The larger extends this a further 10%.

The above assumes all the aircraft could be filled to a 90% load factor on the routes.

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