Forget the NMA, go after A321–say ex-Airbus exec

Jan. 29, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing should forego the New Midmarket Aircraft and instead create a new single aisle airplane targeting the Airbus A321, former Airbus COO-Customers John Leahy said.

Leahy, who was Airbus’ top salesman for more than two decades and the opponent Boeing loved to hate, said Boeing is pursuing the wrong market with the NMA.

Leahy made his remarks at the Airfinance Journal Dublin Conference last week.

Doubtful demand

Leahy followed aviation consultant and economist Adam Pilarski of Avitas, who doubted the need and demand for the NMA (as do many others). Pilarski predicted Boeing will proceed with the program.

The former Airbus executive also believes there is insufficient demand to support an NMA. But he, too, believes Boeing will proceed. But it shouldn’t pursue the NMA, he says.

“If Boeing were to ask my opinion, which it hasn’t,” he said, “I would tell them I don’t think there is a business case for that. I think they will probably do it because Seattle (Boeing Commercial headquarters) is determined to do it. I think they’ve got some people who want to sell something. They need an answer to the A321.

“If they want to build something, I would advise them to put their money into building a single-aisle airplane and then that could roll over to replace the 737 MAX in the middle of the next decade,” Leahy said. “They could out maybe five years ahead of Airbus with a new airplane, probably around 2030.”

Leahy said Boeing’s determination to do the airplane was indicated as a “a key, the size of the market keeps going up.”

Initially Boeing officials said the Middle of the Market demand was only about 1,000 over 20 years. Then it became 2,000, then 4,000, then 5,000, before settling back to between 4,000 and 5,000.

Airbus, the engine OEMs, key suppliers and LNA see the market between 2,000 and 2,500.

A difference is the “addressable market” vs. “market demand.” Boeing’s figures are the “addressable market.” LNA examined this difference here.

“I think Boeing internally probably sees the market at about 2,500,” Leahy said. “When you’re coming up with numbers like [4,000 to 5,000], you’re just trying to make a business case work.”

Pilarski declined to make his own market demand forecast, saying he is analyzing this now.

Pricing the NMA

Leahy said the lower demand means Boeing won’t be able to sell the NMA at the price customers say they want—between $65m and $75m.

“If they are determined to get this airplane out at the right price point, I think it’s going to be very, very difficult,” he said. “I don’t think the business case works, unless you put services and support in.”

Leahy says that “light twins” in the same 4,500-5,000 mile range were tried—and were unsuccessful sellers.

Only 249 Boeing 767-200/ERs were sold, compared with 687 767-300/ERs (and 38 767-400s). There were 255 A310s sold, compared with 508 A300s. (Freighters excluded from all numbers.)

“Airlines want to simplify their fleets,” Leahy said. “The idea that I’ve got this beautiful, light twin in this market that might work for United Airlines of American Airlines, they want an airplane that does the short- and medium-range as well as the long range.

106 Comments on “Forget the NMA, go after A321–say ex-Airbus exec

  1. Fully agree.

    NMA is an expensive gamble, addressing a market that is at least ‘part’ covered by airbus, and can be more easily addressed further by airbus in the guise of a re-winged /maybe re-nosed/tweaked a320/a321/322 [for short/medium/long]- which in turn could be their NSA coupled with the a220-100/-300 and possible -500 [for short-medium-long’ish].

    Taking into account the time to first flight… ramp up to meet demand etc. we’re well into the end of 2020’s before their is a ‘flow’ of aircraft from the production line.

    And I do also think simplicity; flexibility to address short/med/long and, probabilty of filling flights is better addressed with frames we already have in the air… and future modifications to same.

    Of course they will do it. More interested in the airbus response to be honest – like their approach to ‘expanding’ and ‘improving’ products than clean sheets.

    • Uh huh. Sure, Leahy. Whatever you can do in retirement to further the agenda of your former employers.

      Why in the world should Boeing waste time going after the A321? That makes no sense whatsoever, especially since the NMA will, in all likelihood, be superior to the A321, wipe it out of the market, and force Airbus to respond. And oh, also, it will likely curb any more A330NEO sales in the future, too.

      Leahy is only saying this because he knows they A321/A330NEO are very vulnerable, and Airbus doesn’t have an answer, at least for the foreseeable future. This is just him playing dumb mind games.

      • ” since the NMA will, in all likelihood, be superior to the A321, wipe it out of the market”

        Well History tells us that in the late 90s , once the single aisles could match the range of the 767-200, that model disappeared from the skys.
        if anything the neo and max versions are even better on single aisles there is no major engine efficiency jump coming in the next 5 years for the NMA to use.

  2. If Customers who’d agree to a type NMA put forward the condition sine qua non that the price tag should come in the 65 – 75 M$ bracket (says Leahy !), then Airbus themselves have a problem : at what net price (after concessions) would the same people agree to take on some more A321LR NEO instead ? Because the implicit parallel market price to make the latter more palatable vs the former (excluding other factors such as fleet commonality or earlier delivery etc) would logically be less than the price tag for the NMA which has more potent payload-range characteristics, oder ? Does Leahy lift the veil here upon the unspoken disaster with today’s aircraft discounting practises ?

  3. It was stated here that by the time the NMA is on the scene there will already be a couple of thousand A321NEOs flying. That number seems incredible to me in so many ways. That the NMA is only a partial response to this cash cow and that a fettled design of the 80s will still be more than competitive for a lot of the market segment does suggest that the NMA is a luxury.

    I am guessing that any response by Airbus will be to counter the NMA and the B787 with a new ‘middle segment’. Something with less outright performance of B787 but at a slightly greater size than the NMA. A new A332/8 if you wish.

    In simple terms don’t give the aircraft the range/payload that most airlines won’t use. Timed correctly this aircraft could be available to coincide with the replacement cycles of the majority of A330s which were sold in the last decade. Slap a couple of GTFs and they would wipe the floor with the NMA in most scenarios.

    • Sowerbob:

      Well the 737 dates back to the 60s and its still flying in a highly modified form. Its also close to if not equal (not better) than a much newer A320/21`

      What that tells us is there has been nothing new on structures. Refinement of wings, composites wings now (not on those two) but ……

      What that tells you there are no tech break through in the whole setup.

      The 797 while a small change, is a change that offers an equal to the Single Aisle cost in a better package and more capable seating instead of a 757-300 that is 500 feet long.

      The next breakthrough will be the 737RS – then we see how good Airbus current game is.

      If you can’t get TWB to work or an interiors truss system, then all bets are off. You could simply composite wing the 737, revamp the gear and have a me too A321.

      • Too true, I wasn’t making a Boeing vs Airbus thing about this, you are directly agreeing with me I think. I take issue with your consideration that the NMA can possibly compete on cost, I don’t see it at all. This is a programme of $12-15bn as a minimum and that suggests a $5m charge on each frame based on the accepted market volumes ignoring costs of capital.

        It will be expensive to an extent it has no hope of costing anything like a A321 to produce but will be produced at a substantial premium. Looking at the costs of other TA aircraft this is going to have a unit cost somewhere around $80m over its lifetime at best and assuming the best is a mugs game.

        The NSA is the obvious solution but just like Airbus I think Boeing cannot drag themselves away from the current cash generated by the current MAX and are fearful of the massive cost of industrialising a new aircraft at the sort of volumes required today in SAs.

        • Hmmm, the situation is, any new aircraft is going to be hugely expensive (in this class)

          BBD tried to do it on the cheap (understandably) and we saw how that worked out.

          The 787 cost 33 billion or so and its retiring costs, maybe by frame 1500.

          This is half that, so cut the price in half.

          I don’t say they can build it that low, but that is the approach and I don’t see them launching it unless they believe they can.

          Whats being missed is that Boeing is got a program in place to lower those production costs.

          They were 6 billion lower on the TFX based on that.

          Ditto the unmanned aerial fueler for the Navy.

          Granted its now known if it works, 797 and the TFX/Fuler are all the initial programs.

          So its not what we think, its what Boeing thinks as well as how they are presenting this to management and its Boeing future.

          They may well have egg on their face before its done, but like the tech on the 787, the tech base was fine, the engineering was good, the execution was truly historically the most top awful by any standards on a management level.

          I have not a clue if they can pull it off, I can see where they are going and its well above my pay grade.

          • A220 cost 6 billion for a 60t aircraft. So 12 billion for a 120t one?

          • I think you need to add about 4 Billion to the C Series program.

            That is what I estimate is being put into it to make if production viable.

            The C is a fantastic aircraft, its production ramp up is abysmal.

            BBD put their money where they needed to get the aircraft out the door, but success is not just a good bird, its the production and support.

            BBD did not have the money to do so, Airbus does but we are looking at 2025 before full rate production.

      • By the time the A321 reaches the same 5850nm range and higher speed of the B707-320B of 1960 the A320 will have the same 140 ton MTOW.

    • Every A321neo sold is, essentially, an aircraft Boeing didn’t sell. A couple of thousand or so adds up to a lot of money not headed Boeing’s way, and leads to airlines being firmly entrenched in the Airbus camp by the time Boeing do get their act together.

  4. While he certainly knows what he’s talking about, I also believe he is not very neutral in this.

    While the A321 certainly covers some lower parts of that market, there’s not much above. The 787-8 is apparently too much aircraft as is the A330. And the sales for the A330 clearly state that it is NOT a contender.

    I do believe that there is a demand for a large(r) aircraft than the A321 for short to medium routes which allows for quick turnarounds and high cycles.

    When talking about simplification, maybe Boeing is able to create a commonality with the successor of the 737, so airlines will know future decisions will fit into their fleet, even though a benefit for that would be years out.

    • “not very neutral in this” ? You must be kidding, he’s the most suspect source you can find on this topic. But also probably the most knowledgeable & successful.

      I’ve been “promoting” the idea of shrinking the NMA/MoM spec because <3000NM < 250 seats is where the big numbers are.

      But knowing Airbus / Leahy, they pretty much cornered that marked already for the next decade / 3000 frames is it the best place to invest for Boeing?

      No doubt Airbus is quietly looking at it's own A322 – A339 "gap" and future A330 replacement. Boeing moving out of the way a bit might help..

  5. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of Boeing’s lobbyists on K Street and elsewhere right now. With a relatively difficult to close business case for the NMA there must be some added barrier to Airbus products they can work into things somehow.

    • Only just, given you’re competing against a bunch of bribing-giving criminals! LOL

  6. I’m not sure a direct comparison of sales numbers to A310s and B767s is appropriate, as the state & volume of the market was very different during the prime of those programs.

    look at sales volume and seat count progression in the single aisle space since the prime of those programs: single aisle annual production has roughly quadrupled and average seat count has increased by ~50% with a combination of up gauging and seat pitch reduction.

    given that basis, a 767-200 sized aircraft would today seat the same # of passengers as the -300s of old (and likewise -300 seating -400 numbers) and addressable market is likely nearly 4x the combined 767/a310 market of 1229, showing an addressable market of 4916.

    pitched to the airlines as a TATE/Transcon CASM Cattle Car this could do well.

    • The 767-200 and A300 suffered from Engines not really made for their mission with a Life on wing of 1000-2000 cycles back then and too high empty mass. As the 767-300ER started flying longer range missions the Engines (uprated versions of the 747-400 Engines) worked well for its time as they got modifications incorporated.
      Today you can do much better with Engines in this thrust class staying on wing for 10 000 cycles, carbon fiber wings and probaly Al-Li fuselage that will change the durability and economics alot. DAL might be a good brake on Boeing not reaching for ultimate performance but be the best and durable Aircraft just over A321/A322 capacity.

    • I was about to write something like this, so I have to agree! By the time NMA enters service, it will be an effective replacement for B737 and A320 on many routes they currently service. NMA will almost be the B737 replacement. A subsequent Boeing narrow body will require a new analysis of the lower-capacity market. Something to compete with the eventual Airbus A220-500, maybe?

  7. Couldn’t agree more. Time somebody talked sense into Boeing.

    As I said the A321 is a compromised airplane because the wing is too small. It’s there for the taking! Is the market there? Well it is selling like hot cakes, so I think the answer is yes!

    Boeing should forget the NMA and throw down the gauntlet to Airbus. Enough of the handbags at dawn (rugby analogy), let’s see a real fight!

    • Well I think Boeing is far beyond anyone talking sense to them.

      They think they can do it their way and we will see.

      And maybe your talking senses is not what really works either. Real game changer from being a commenter and being on the pointy end of the spear (and yes that applies to me as well)

      But by all means, Visit Chicago (you may want to wait, its -20F) and tell them where they are going wrong.

      • I’ll leave it to JL, one of the greats. If Boeing don’t listen to him they won’t listen to anybody.

        My Crystal Ball says: Within 10 years, Airbus will have 60-65% of the market, Boeing 25-30% of the market, others 10%.

        The only issue is ramp-up. Can Airbus produce 1200/year? If they can, they will sell them!

        Boeing should at least put up a fight. As you Americans say, it’s un-American! To America, listen to one of your own. JL is one of the greats

        • @Philip:
          “My Crystal Ball says: Within 10 years, Airbus will have 60-65% of the market, Boeing 25-30% of the market…”
          Depending on your definition of “the market”.

          In terms of the sales trend of the current gen widebodies(i.e. types we know for sure will continue to be assembled for @ least another decade). Total firm orders achieved as of today:
          77X+787=1,729 (i.e. 60.4% of “the market”)
          350+330Neo=1,132 (i.e. 39.6% of “the market”)

          “To America, listen to one of your own. JL is one of the greats.”
          Yes, listen to him and buy 380(instead of zero frames) as VLA class product has clearly demonstrated a bright future in the global mkt place…..

          Or may be even “the greats” are not always right about the mkt?

  8. The mainstream SA marketplace — A320 / B737 — is ripe for segmentation as the development of the product swallows more and more of the industry requirements. The elastic will snap at some point and

    AB has the A220 and the A32X at the moment and both would appear to have growth on their mind.

    BA has the B737 and a lack of credibility and growth potential at the top end.

    If the target revenue of the 65-75T B797 is $65-75Mill then where does that put the 50T A321?

    I think BA will struggle to deliver these economics on a medium volume — 10 per month — LD/light duty TA while AB will fill its boots with the A32X growth developments.

    BA has a SA gap and it has challenges on the MoM’ster revenue front.

    Would it not make sense to get involved with the MC-21 programme — fuselage barrels at least — to quickly and cheaply develop a high end SA offering?

    150″ wide cabin will help at the top end of the SA flight spectrum.
    MD platform would provide enough capability to get the nominal range past 5K NM without too much trouble.

    Work with EMB to develop a low end / high efficiency SA to take over from the MAX8 sometime before 2030?

    Split the market coverage 50 – 50 regarding the two programmes to get high volume production economics into both.

    • FB:

      When it cost 8 to 15 billion for a program, segmentation as BBD found is a really hard case.

      You won’t see the likes of that again.

    • BBD bought quite a few bridges from the supplier community when they were developing the CS.

      I fear that their development process was more discovery rather than search.

  9. Don’t agree with JL regarding light twins.
    They were very much of their time and the world has moved on.

    Two main product categories is not enough to cover current commercial aviation requirements — it might be producer friendly but it is not user or consumer friendly.

    Huge gap in the product offerings of both AB and BA.
    Fly 4000 NM — 50T of OEW will do the trick.
    Fly 4001 NM — 125T of OEW is the only game in production at the moment.

    The HD 125T lard bucket twins have found acceptance because of their inherent flexibility. They can trade range for cargo and increase their earnings when required and can fly 6500 NM when required.

    However not every route has cargo and what pays more — cargo or passengers?

    Range is the MoM gap.

    A300 MK2.5 — 90T OEW / 180T MTOW will take the range figure out past 6K NM nominal with current and planned tech for a 58.5M fuselage. Very rough figures but their are enough data points to make this an achievable target.

    Q+D figures — 30% lower trip costs?

    • The MOM gap is clearly stated.

      It’s range whise the 3200 nmi of the A321 as lower boarder, up to the 5000nmi from where on A330neo, B787 and A350 are optimal planes.

      And it’s size wise the gap between a real long haul configured A321 with some 180-190 Pax (with full flat C) and about the 260 of the A332/A338 and B788.

      So the MOM is 200 – 280 Pax in a real 2 class layout with a full flat c optimal for missions from 3000 – 5000nmi.
      Note there is some overlap with the A333/A339, but it’s bigger in size.
      Also, the range of B788/9 and A338 is just way more.

      Airbus did bring the A321LR to lower the range gap, but still there’s not a optimal plane to fly a 250 pax 3500 nmi mission.
      This is Paris New-York btw. And does apply to almost all West- & Mid Europe to Eastcoast.
      Or Jakarta Beijing.
      Or LA Bogota.

      There are routes – but the question is how many and if it’s senseful to develop a plane for.

      • 5000NM nominal — the great frontier.

        If the A32X platform / component set / physical architecture gets its range to this number either in this tech cycle or the next then HD “lard bucket” TAs are going to have a hard time competing on these routes.

        Aircraft can buy / finance 125T of HD TA or ir can buy and finance 50-55T of high volume MD SA.

        The SA makes money at much lower passenger numbers to open up secondary city pairs and on the high volume rates it will offer the option of improving frequencies.

        My thoughts — in the future TA’s will be left with the routes that the SA’s cannot support.

        The earth isn’t getting any bigger so this will be a declining share of the overall aviation industry.

        155T MTOW of Super Duper Sixty — 5K NM nominal and then some with the potential to build a Fantastic Fifty out to 6K NM nominal.

        SA cabin widths seem to be around 3.5 / 3.6M.
        What potential would there be in a 3.9 / 4.0M cabin?

        • Mh, you have to see usual with a larger fuselage the OWE per PAX sinks compared to a smaller one.
          Still just need 2 engines, tail, cockpit etc.

          I’m pretty sure the A320 fuselage is quiet optimal, it’s wide enough to sit somewhat comfortably in 3-3, to load containers (huge disadvantage with the B737 fuselage) .

          I don’t see a lot of SAs going on that very long routes. But there’s that gap, and the question is if it can be reasonably adressed with a own family.
          And this is where I have serious doubts.

  10. When oil was projected to be on a non-stop trajectory to over $150/bbl, I recall several years ago at this conference when Adam Pilarski made a bet with Nico Buchholz that oil would drop from the then current price of over $100 to less than half that amount. Pilarski received much ribbing but in the end was proved correct.

    I don’t know if any oil price projections were being made this year but I will make one: oil will be in the mid-$20 range by 2025 and it will throw a big spanner into fleet planning.

  11. While I do not have a crystal ball, I do know one clearly wrong statement by JL (and you have to ask yourself, what is he afraid of?)

    The 767 was not a light twin. The 757 was realy not a light twin either.

    If Boeing is going to launch a new aircraft, it has to be an improvement over existing by 15% (minimum I would guess) or it has to be in a different slot or both.

    Clearly Boeing needs to replace the 737 fairly soon, but its going to take something different like a TWB (and some other variations possible). It also needs an even more advanced GTF (of which there is only one flying right now)

    Or, with the 797, they can shoot for a segment that is not served (how much is there agreed fully is an open question) and a somewhat modified but not break out tech hull with advanced engines (GTF if they have any brains)

    The wilder tech can then follow to replace the 737 and that gives Boeing a chance to see how the 797 fares and if its possible it can fully replace an A321/+ size.

    If so, they the 737RS can be smaller and cross back down to the A220 territory and maintain or exceed the A320/737-8 area of size (maybe a bit larger per the -9)

        • Light “twins” — these were tried in the marketplace with 4500 to 5000NM range and failed.

          Slight paraphrase of the comment in question.
          Now what aircraft could he mean?

          My thoughts — A300 / A310 / B767.
          Any more for any more?

          Consequently the Glesga jury says light twin is light twin aisle.

          • Seeing as how your so called light twins morphed inot the 767-400 and the A330CEO/NEO that is nonsense.,

            In the airplane wordl (whcih we are talkign abbout) a lihgt twin is a subset of a single engine. SOme have used the same fusleage and put a twin engine wing on it.

            You clearly are bent on trying to co-flict light with lower pax numbers capacity. In this case 260 more or less.

            The issue is the 767/A300/330 to twin aisle standards and are heavy.

            As an DC10 or MD11 is in that class, light is not the word (and they are not light by separation and landing standards per ATC either)

            The builds were heavy enough to wind up with 6000 mile ranges in the latter versions.

            If they were light Boeing could do a 767-100 and new engines and be out the door.

            Its so heavy it won’t work.

            It has to be the same lighter build standard of single aisle and hence lower cost to work in that segment.

          • Market segmentation in the twin aisle product space …

            Lightest TA so far = B767 std (non ER), the A310, then A300 …
            Heaviest TA so far = A380 then …

            JL talks about “light twins” being tried in the past — just what could he be talking about?

            My thoughts are that he was talking about the original B767, the A310 and probably the A300.

            The article is about JL’s thoughts on the market.
            He mentions the light twin and these are my thoughts on the issue.

            Twin engine TA’s have migrated to a HD “lardbucket” spec — much greater capabilities, flexing range for cargo as appropriate to their local market conditions.

            They are combos in all but name.

            The MoM’ster angle to my mind tries to take the TA product back to its original passenger focus.
            AKA the light twin.

          • Interesting use of branding by Big Aero.

            Eg B777 = Three different aircraft sharing the same nose and cockpit plus interior.

            B777 (1) 250T MTOW.
            B777 (2) 300T MTOW.
            B777 (3) 350T MTOW.

            My thoughts are that they might look the same and share some DNA but they are three different aircraft.

          • Until JL said it there was no such thing as calling a 767 a light twin.

            References to the 797 may have though I don’t recall them.

            Keep in mind that Airbus decided that Winglets were now sharklets. Frankly, visualization wise that was as stupid as it gets as Sharks don’t have dual fins. They also done have permanently slanted fins.

            And its not even an advanced winglet, its just a plane old swoop that Boeing had done already and moved on from (split wings, crank wings)

            Just because a salesman says it doesn’t mean its true (often just the opposite)

  12. I expect the NMA to be the lead in to the 737 replacement. Much of the cost and research will be used on 737 replacement spreading the costs that need to be recovered. This will help Boeing hit the price target they need. I also see a similar cockpit so pilots will be able to fly both with little extra training. The NMA will let them find out production problems so the 787 disaster wont happen with the 737 replacement. When you look at it this way they cant afford not to start the NMA.

    • Less a lead in and more common tech approach per the digital and as many shared systems as possible.

      The 737RS will be a much different structure.

      Engine tech the same, cockpits the same

      Things like AC units though don’t swap, so while the same deigns they will be smaller capacity for the 737RS.

      They may be bleed air and not electric deponent on how the all electric tech works out.

    • Hello John,

      Regarding: “I expect the NMA to be the lead in to the 737 replacement. Much of the cost and research will be used on 737 replacement spreading the costs that need to be recovered.”

      Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg expects the same thing, according to the excerpt below from the 1-30-2019 FlightGlobal post at the link after the excerpt.

      “Muilenburg calls that strategy “sequencing programmes”. It would allow Boeing to avoid undertaking two major programmes at once and ensure the NMA benefits from 777X work. Likewise, NMA development could theoretically lead into development of a new narrowbody, he adds.

      “That’s our approach here,” Muilenburg says, adding that Boeing thinks about the NMA in a “multi-programme” context.”

      • Does this excerpt from the 2001 Boeing patent at the link after the quote outline the “multi-programme context” within which, according to the FlightGlobal quote in my post above, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is thinking about the NMA? A family of twin aisle aircraft with three different wings ranging from 90 to 290 seats. Now maybe we know what the designations 797-1, 797-2, 797-3, 797-4 and 797-5 have been reserved for?

        “In an alternate embodiment, as shown in FIG. 9, the present invention provides a section 150 of the fuselage with a substantially constant cross-section for a short distance forward of and immediately behind the wing. As a result, this airplane configuration can conveniently be “stretched” into longer body models by adding the constant cross-section sections 160 ahead of or behind the wing. Section 162 is a tail section that connects to the main section 150 or any numbered additional section 160. A single size wing platform can accommodate fuselages with up to a certain number and size of constant cross-section fuselage sections. For example, a first wing platform accommodates bodies corresponding to 90, 105, and 120 dual-class seats. A second wing platform accommodates bodies corresponding to 135, 160, and 185 seats, and a third wing platform accommodates bodies corresponding to 210, 250, and 290 seats. In the longer body versions, structure is strengthened, more doors are provided in the constant cross-section fuselage sections, and bigger engines are used as required to meet payload-range mission requirements. Thus, this new twin-aisle “small” airplane cross-section could apply to a very large family of airplanes from around the 90 seat regional jet class all the way through the 757 and 767 “middle of the market” class.”

  13. Single aisle? 757-300 sold worse than the 767-200. Anything larger than the A321 needs to be a twin aisle, period. Second point, large single aisle as stepping off point to 738 replacement? Which leads right back to the question of a decade ago, how to scale up composite fuselage production to 70 per month within price constraints. Is there a business case for a composite single aisle to make the leap over the existing metal tubes? I think either company has to risk years of selling below cost to compete, so who wants to go first. In a duopoly, maybe they both have to launch the CFRP single aisle at the same time.

    • @ Ted ref your “Anything larger than the A321 needs to be a twin aisle, period.” Fully agreed, even with the A321 you’re hitting the infamous “757 syndrome”, ie really from including 32-33 rows onwards in 3+3, or seating > 192-198 pax, the high cabin density entails a string of ground rotation plus inflight service inefficiencies which need to be dealt with and there is only one solution : going TWIN AISLE … whence our concept H21QR or its sequel-to-be H22QR = in essence, 1+3+1 Twin Aisle Quick Rotation cabin reconfiguration proposals for Airbus’ single aisle champion(s).

      • You hit the nail on the head with the practicalities. Everybody including me advocated an A321XLR (4500Nm) and A322 with ~15-20 more seats (3500Nm).

        In reality the current A321 is good for its missions, engine and wing PIP’s always good and way to go to improve seat mile costs.

        But what could be needed is an 322XLR (~48m long, typical 220 seats) that can fly 200 pax up to 4500Nm, turn around times on the ground, etc. then not so critical. But this would possibly require an MTOW of around 105T which is outside the scope of just updating the current wing, LG and engine PIP’s.

        It could be a costly development, so could land up with just an 321XLR, 321″Super” (and hopefully 320+)?

        • If Airbus want to go MOM they need to stretch A321 again to about 50m (from 45m) and give it a larger wing, more MTOW.
          That would then allow a real C with 2+2 and full flat, which is acceptable for maximum of 10h- 4500nm or 8500km.
          That will cover almost all central europe – east / central US routes.
          It should allow about 200 or 210 Pax in a 2 class 2+2 and 3+3 layout.

          Question is if there’s something left in the wing, engine and gear, and how expensive it would be to pimp it.
          Some designs are actually on the limit.

          A transatlantic SA sounds like a very nice product, the jump isn’t to far from 6h to 8h missions.

          • The (useable !) cabin length (as real estate for Customer hardware) of the A321 measures 1,176″ or 56 fuselage frames @ 21″ each (from rhs doorsill 1L to lhs doorsill 4L) total GROSS useable cabin length 29.87 meters. The (projected) A322 cabin is a 10 frames/210″ stretch to the A321, to 1386″/35.20 meters total GROSS useable length. We say GROSS because we need to allocate space for safety (cross-aisle pathway to over-wing plus aft-of-the-wingbox emergency exits, footrest space up-front in row nº 1 in A321 etc) : so the regulators tell us we need to keep clear 20″ + 10″ + 10″ + 36″ total 76″ … Leaving the nitty-gritty out, we have available net 1,100″ overall cabin space divided in 3 cabin sections in the A321. This makes the A321 cabin layout INEFFICIENT geometrically, due to its type rating to 240 pax max seating, pushing up the exit limit to 290 pax (3 type B doors plus dual type III overwing) vs the A320 with 3+3 seating with its overall 903″ useable GROSS cabin length with two cabin sections (exit limit = 215 pax) totalling net 863″ cabin length : you lose 4.4 % of the available real estate to safety in the A320, vs 6.5 % lost in the A321 … The situation was much worse before in the A321 but Airbus corrected it a little bit when they cancelled door 2L&R, challenged from this end to do so !

      • Life in the old SA architecture well beyond the current A321 fuselage length.

        B door loading will help plus proper interior arrangements with various passenger offerings.

        Super Duper 60 @ 60M Plus is workable if the premium economy and the economy sections are kept around 25 to 30 rows.

        1+1 herringbone lie flats are available at 33” and 36” pitches.
        2+2 or 1+2+1 business class seats are 42” or even 48”.

        10 hour routes will want this quality of seat so the plane will soon fill up with these low density arrangements.

        Add in hotel functions and mid location toilets and the length of the long narrow tube will soon be broken up into more compact sections.

        SA vs TA — All comes down to structural, build and operating efficiencies. Current norms are there to be challenged.

        TA @ 40M — my thoughts are no.
        SA @ 60M — DC in the 60’s says yes.

      • All the 757-300 that were built are still in service. The twin aisle DC-10-10 and L1011s they replaced are not.

        And if there’s one thing worse than a SA bigger than an A321, it could just be a TA that seats less than 250.

        A thing that’s being missed here is not the comparison between aeroplanes, but who’s operating them. NMA is aimed at heritage carriers – Delta, British Airways, United – who are already operating 4500nm routes using TA equipment.

        The most modern SA aircraft are being operated already by LCCs – Easyjet, Ryanair, JetBlue and so on. They will want to maintain type commonality because its in their DNA and when they get their hands on 4000nm NMA with 200 seats they’ll wreck the legacy carriers business model. I could fly from my local airport to Boston or NY, for instance, and then catch a JetBlue or other LCC to San Francisco. The LCCs already have the pilots, engineers, cabin crew, inventory and all the rest waiting. This is the big issue – and it’s so big it means that a long ranger (4000nm) SA doesn’t have to be as capable in range or capacity as a competing TA. It just has to offer comparable or lower CASM, which is relatively easy. The LCC will do the rest.

        • You should also mention that just 55 -fifty five- 757 were built. The vast majority are 757-200 ~ 1.000.

        • Hello Chris Lee,

          Regarding: “All the 757-300 that were built are still in service. The twin aisle DC-10-10 and L1011s they replaced are not.”

          Numbers built according to Wikipedia.
          Dc-10: 386
          L-1011: 250
          757-300: 55

          Based on these numbers, no more than 8.65% of the combined DC-10 and L-1011 production [55/(386 + 250) = 0.0865] could have possibly been replaced by 757-300’s.

          Years of production according to Wikipedia.

          DC-10: 1968-1988
          L-1011: 1968-1984

          Do you suppose that the fact that the youngest DC-10 built is today 31 years old, and the youngest L-1011 built is today 35 years old, and that both were 1960’s designs, could have something to do with them no longer being in mainline service?

          In the part of the airline world that I familiar with, the US majors, the routes flown by Dc-10’s and L-1011’s were largely taken over by 757’s and 767’s as the Dc-10’s and L-1011’s were retired. Many of the 757’s and 767’s were replaced by A32X’s and 737 during the plummeting traffic, bankruptcies and downgauging of the great airline recession from 9-11-01 to 2010; however, recently I am seeing more and more widebodies showing up on domestic routes in the US. When I bought a ticket from ATL to SLC today for 3-2-2019 (a 1400 nm route), up popped a domestic 767-300 seat map. Of the 8 non-stops Delta offers on this route on 3-2-19, half are operated by widebody aircraft (one A330-300 flight (293 seats) and three 261 seat domestic 767-300 flights). Of the remaining flights , one uses a 737-900ER (180 seats), one uses a 757-200 (199 seats), and two use A321’s (192 seats). What does the future hold for this route out of Delta’s busy Atlanta hub? More flights with smaller planes, or the same number of flights with planes of the same size or larger?

          • But a 20 year old re-hash of a near 40 year old design is still competitive, regardless of how many Boeing sold.

        • Absolutely, very important point. Two issues though.

          First, although the SA only approach is pretty much it in NA and Eur it isn’t in the main growth region, Asia.

          Second, fleet commonality could actually prove a decisive strength for an NMA. First, any 737 operator must by necessity be looking at transitioning to a new type mid term, the choice looking right now likely to be NMA vs a rewinged A32x. So, if the economics of the NMA can get suitably close to an A32x on the LCCs current network but in addition has a range advantage that alows it to address a decent number of new destinations (consistent with the utilisation and reliability required of the model), the n(n-1)/2 increase in connections will offer a very significant network advantage over its A32x based competitor. I suspect pretty much any geographically concentrated LCC network will, if expanded, gain the potential to improve utilisation, even if marginal. But then marginal matters in LCC. So there’s LCC A (and I reckon it would suit the larger LCCs rather than the smaller LCCs) with NMA and LCC B with A32x. LCC A now has clear customer advantages, possibly superior utilisation and costs and, by nature of the network probably an improved barrier to entry against smaller competitors. It could force A32x operators of a particular size to switch in order to remain competitive.

          If there is such a tipping point, if Boeing manage to finesse the NMA and its launch sequence to match and if the economics of new airframe development for the segment(s) mean Airbus couldn’t meet its own IRR requirements to counter then could be an excellent development for Boeing.

    • Chicago Trib. story says 15 Billion. I’m thinking – Two lengths, new technology transferable to NSA, the wing, guys in Brazil, guys in China, the other Low Cost Countries, putting it all together with the new mfg. process, CEO bonus and his VP’s. In Vegas, I’ll make a bet they’ll come in 40 B plus.

  14. I do agree with Leahy that there is a market for aircraft slightly larger than the A321, a shorter (mostly 2-4hr) range, mid-capacity aircraft.. The A321 being a 100t 3,000nm aircraft, the 797 looking to be headed towards 150t 5,000nm aircraft, the prospect of a 115t to 125t 3,000nm aircraft is another avenue.

    41m cfrp folding wingtips to fit in 36m gate. Derivatives of current LEAP of GTF at 35K to 40K to cut time to market. 15% more seating capacity than A321, Al or Al-li circular fuselage, 3-3, 2-2-2, 2-3-2?

    • And now we just stay tuned as that decision is out of our hands! (well it never was IN our hands was it?)

      • True, but I digress to more armchair analysis in that Leahy’s analysis and Keesje are correct that there is a large market evolving. The Boeing range versus seats diagram with the three bubbles is great, except it doesn’t graph overall seats, which is a big metric.

        What does the a simple three bar graph of gross revenue per year in three segments look like, 0 to 2,500nm, 2,500 to 5,000, and 5,000 to 7,500? The heart of the market is 0 to 2,500nm. Going into more detail, and dividing that market into nodes of 75 seats, 100, 125, 150, 175, 200, 225, 250, how will that market evolve? What will the demand for those sizes look like in ten years on a bar graph? Boeing has the MAX 8 at 175, the MAX 10 at 200, the E195E2 at 125. The 100 seat is nil do to scope clause. 200 to 250 seats at 0 to 2,500nm? Max 10, A321, A322, 797, or something new. (assuming A322 is simple stretch and 797 is 50K engine 5,000nm aircraft)

        • Well I think we have to agree its more like 500 nm. No one gets on an airplane to go 0 (grin)

          That said, Boeing has sold 1500 x 787 so far? 20 years ago 500 would have been a block buster record. I think the A330 is discounted sales number wise as Boeing mucked up the 787 production and Airbus benefited from the gap and sold a lot more than they would have.

          I have thought I would see a single aisle fly to Hawaii with a load of passengers either.

          ME/Turkey are in sweet spots that single aisle can now reach all sorts of places.

          Not a clue if Boeing has their numbers right, but if experts think its 2500 maximum and Boeing more that is a really good number anyway.

        • True, though my contributions are well thought and support analysis of court (grin)

  15. Leahy is not infallible. He thought there was a business case and sufficient demand for the A380.

    • Thanks for mentioning that. I think I saw that they already are planning on retiring some A380s. I think what an OEM can do, is just build a good state of the art plane, and then the market will decide exactly how they will use it over time.

      • More like if they will buy it over time.

        747 never sold vast numbers, it just had a long production life (and still going in freighters)

        But that was one era and Airbus tried to launch similar in another era of long range twins and its gone bust.

        Ego project (much like the 747-8 though that may at least break even)

        You won’t see Airbus making that mistake again.

    • Ever since the 777 thr narative is smaller aircraft becoming more capable. So the 777 can do the job of a 747 and then the 787 the job of a 777, the a320xlr will be able to do the job of a 767 and a A220 can do the job of a a320. Now add 20% to all those ranges due to engine/airframe improvements over the next 15 years. Point to point is coming.

  16. “Only 249 Boeing 767-200/ERs were sold, compared with 687 767-300/ERs (and 38 767-400s).” There was also a handful of so-called Longer Range 767-400ERs” [767-400ERX] ordered by Kenya Airways, but they took three 777s in lieu after Boeing dropped the proposed variant.

  17. One part of the discussion that has gone away (now that the A380 is history) is the effect of airport overcrowding. The argument was that one A380 could replace two 747’s. Well, if crowding is still and issue then one 275 seat TA would replace two 737-700’s or A31’s. Given the numbers involved that is a significant number of airplanes at the big airports.

    • The 380 an interesting topic, basically an EK aircraft, but airports and air space not going to get less crowded. Also how much further can you stretch the twins and engine diameters/weight?

      An A380-900NEO (Ultra fans) with seriously reworked wing and general weight savings could give the likes of the 777-9 a good run for the money when it gets to seat mile cost, etc. But it will most likely never make money for AB.

    • I would think that the business case for the MoM is highly dependent on supplanting single aisle aircraft at high traffic/slot limited airports like LaGuardia, Washington National & Love Field.

      TATE from those two airports would be game changing for whatever airline pulled it off

      It would also serve well at the central/south America gateways of Houston and Miami as 5000 NMI would get you anywhere in south America from there where today you need an A330 minimum to get to Argentina nonstop.

      I could also see that range/payload being transformative in the South America/Africa market.

      Finally, an Iceland Air type airline operating out of La Ceiba Honduras could make bank with one of these dominating the NA/SA market (La Ceiba falls very close to the geographic center of NA/SA, there is plenty of room for expansion, not on the major hurricane tracks)

  18. Oh Leahy is just scared the NMA will be an aircraft that will make his sales success baby A320 obsolete.

    This is classic Leahy at his best. You could call his speech an informed opinion on one end of the scale and rhetoric on the other.

    What I find interesting about his speech is what he didn’t say. As the number one salesman for Airbus he would have been privy to plenty of market research, much of which would be relevant to the market size of a potential NMA.

    He’s saying nothing.

    • On the sidelines, Leahy told me the Airbus sees the market demand of the NMA at 2,000–in line with everybody else LNA has talked with. (Also, it wasn’t a speech, it was a Q&A led by me.)

  19. OFC Leahy is biased as hell. Still he might be right.

    Airlines use A330, B757, A321 , B767 and B787 now on routes NMA is designed for.
    How much can NMA be better than B787 and A330 (neo)?
    It will feature the same engine tech, so it’s all about the construction.
    Let’s assume on these shorter routes B797 gains 5% over B788 and 7% over A330neo, will airlines then order B797 as addtional type?

    Many B788 and A332/3 are operating in the 225-280 seat range and do fly missions Boeing sees as NMA, there are 1400 B787 orders, what you think are they ordered for?

    Airbus A321LR isn’t large enough, they would need to stretch it to get at least 200 pax in with a full flat C. This would require a new larger wing to also gain some range. But stretch the A321neo to the B757 size (right in between -200 and -300, about 50m) and gain more lift from the wing, PIP the engines a bit, get MTOW up and Airbus has a plane able to service the smaller version of the NMA on a mostly exisiting design with all it’s cost and timee advantages.

    Honestly, I don’t have a clue how Boeing want to do this, but I’m pretty sure they will go for it.

    I can’t see this happening,

    Also a point to state: Boeing is selling a dream now.
    A newly designed plane from scratch, no fuselage and no engine, in 2-3-2 config (+1 seat but 2nd aisle agains narrow bodies) for a price of the A321neo (75 mio.). I have no clue how that shall go together, but if you offer a new Porsche at the price of a Hyundai you will see interest.
    For me it’s highly doubtfull if Boeing can develop that plane (oval fuselage) and get that efficent and this price.

    I do see the gap between SAs and WBs.

  20. Regarding the 757-300 and boarding issues, it is usually boarded from the L2 door, creating a flow of passengers front and back. Airbus is deleting the L2 door on the A321 and it was very rarely used for boarding. Without having measured it, I am sure the distance from the L2 door to last seatrow is less on the 753 than the distance from the L1 door on the A321 to the last seatrow.
    Hence the 753 should take less to board than an A321.
    Having flown both the 753s and the stretched DC-8s, I do not see these boarding issues some claim.

    • I flew often on 757’s but only a few times on 321’s (CEO’s), fortunately most of the times for work so not to far from the from doors, so can’t really comment, except looking back and see the que is not pretty.

      A321’s work OK if the back door could be used when not using (a single) air bridge, took the gamble a few times sitting in the far back when flew on own account, an it paid off, rear door and bus. Boarding to the back through a single front door however a bumpy affair.

      • The longer the mission the less do 5 mins of boarding time count.

        If we are talking about MOM with routes over 2500nmi – that’s 5+ hours the 5 mins for longer boarding doesn’t count

  21. In a side note, this may finally shed some light on the FAA cert for the KC-46

    “93.5% of this airplane is 767 – FAA certified. [It has] easy maintainability, common spare parts over the 1,100 767s that are out there,” says Hafer, noting that the USAF can lean on Boeing’s global maintenance, repair and overhaul network. “It gives the air force an amazing repair capability. No longer do they have to fly a spare part from some base in the United States.”

    Why they would do the same on the A400? No common commercial aircraft. Odd.

    • Most of the “1100 767s out there” are scrapped , stored or will soon be.

      • Really? Based on what?

        FedEx and UPS are going to stop using them? Really? Amazon? DHL?

        I see them fly through here all the time (JAL/ANA) they look fabulous and people are buying them.

        They can’t find enough for conversions to Freighters as they get sucked up for Pax use.

        And it makes a dandy tanker! (grin)

      • there are something like 750 767s in active service as of today, the active fleet actually increased by 10 this year due to cargo orders.

        basically every single airframe being retired from pax service is being P2F’d and they are building ~3/mo new freighters/tankers….

        • 750 from 1135 delivered. a “whopping” 66%

          Looking at the B vagaries re the KC it is not a “whopping tanker” either 🙂

          • given that the plane entered service in 1982, it shouldn’t be surprising that the oldest ones have gone to the boneyard.

            the MD-80 series (all variants) started production at basically the same time, had basically the same number produced and is down to <300 in service and will be under 200 by the end of this year.

            on that basis it seems like the 767 is still considered pretty viable…

          • MD80 production volume petered out in the early 90ties. few frames younger than 25 years.

          • and shockingly, 728 767’s produced 1992 to date, forecast is 770 in service or in P2F conversion at the end of this year.

            230 MD-80s produced 1992 to date, forecast is under 200 in service by the end of this year

            so, shockingly, it shows that 25 year old aircraft get retired. this is very far from “most 767s have been or will soon be stored or scrapped” looks like only 25 year old (and therefor the “non-ER” early versions or hull loss aircraft) have been stored or scrapped.

            I know that doesn’t fit your narrative, but facts actually do matter.

    • The A400 has more in common with the C17 or the C-130. Its by no way a commercial plane converted for tanker use, that would be the KC45 or A330MRTT.
      The A400 was the first large transport to fly with a carbon fibre wing, just pipping the 787.
      Not sure what commonality there is in the wings of A350 and A400, would be interesting to look into it in depth.
      My go to read at Composite World has looked at the different composite spar designs and there isnt anything in common

    • Check out how may 707 fly today and how good world wide maintenance coverage for 707 is today.

      In contrast to KC-46 the KC-135 was introduced into USAF service before any airline used a 707. No passenger airline orders 767 today. Just some parcel services because the aircraft is cheap.

      The statement is OK for today but tanker last very long.

  22. Leahy thinks a twin aisle Able to fly 5000NM with 220 passenger will stink on 1-3 hour flights, the bulk.

    Leahy is wrong because Boeing says it will have NB costs and many airlines show a lot of interest..

    There’s a reason that it is taking so very long to close the business case.

    What about a NB at NB costs?

    • The big BA switcheroo …

      They have form with this type of thing.
      Sold the B787 as an eight with a nod and a wink.
      The airlines played crush-a-pleb and bought is as a 9.

      The BA MoM’ster is being sold as a wimpy TA.

      Might they not huff and puff about the business case and suddenly turn up with a MC-21 sized SA and stretch the fuselage out to 58.5M?

      Lots of real estate and SA economics.
      Job done?

      • Won’t surprise me, especially know that they pushed out a possible launch date to 2020.

        Maybe that’s why AB is playing the waiting game to see/decide if they have to spend US$2 Billion on 321 developments or 5+ Billion?

        Pulling the trigger on a relatively low cost development 321XLR with early availability most likely at Pars this year, but the A321 stretches etc. most likely only after an NMA launch? New wing, engines could come into play for A322/3’s.

  23. While the merits of the NMA should stand on its own, fortunately Boeing has been making money “hand-over-fist” so even if the NMA does turn out do be a dodo, (hopefully) it won’t drag the company down too much (earnings, R&D, etc.). It seems like a plausible calculated risk.

  24. Forgive me but I am not sure why anyone would put a lot of stock in Leahy’s assessment of the marketplace. Was he good at selling airplanes at low prices to help Airbus buy market share? Sure.

    People will remember how Airbus fumbled with its response to the 787 with all the permutations of what ultimately became the NEO. I forget how many customers Airbus has for the A330-800. Is it one now?

    Also, if he was clear-eyed about the market, why did not he use his position of authority to block the disastrous A380?

    • Kellquile – would it not be better for Airbus to have responded to the (perceived) market rather than the competition, or is that what they think they did? It would not be the first manufacturer to tell the consumer/customer what they really, really needed…

    • The benefits of eating the famous pudding are incalculable ! A positive answer to the question “Can we do this ?” radiates with creative impetus throughout the human matrix of any organisation after a successful Ronja Rövarsdottir jump. The challenge to launch the A380 was about technological resilience, ie about Airbus’ ability for survival, not about marketing. The lessons learned prepare the decisions of tomorrow, an enthusiatic “Yes, we can !” spurring the creativity !

  25. Might they not huff and puff about the business case and suddenly turn up with a MC-21 sized SA and stretch the fuselage out to 58.5M?

  26. It is time for John Leahy to shut up.

    I have seen him so many times during air shows delivering the Airbus propaganda and his disdain for Boeing.

    In fact, the only success for Airbus is the A319/320/321 single aisle short and medium range jetliner sold mainly as a commodity on price, not on comfort, performance and reliability unlike the widebodies.

    John Leahy comments are ridiculous because crossing the Pond on a single aisle narrow body aircraft like the Airbus A320 and A321 designed for one or two hours flights is almost a nightmare compare to a flight on a widebody like the Boeing 767, 777 or 787.

    Airbus is right to be scared by the Boeing NMA because on the widebody jetliners market where comfort, performance and reliability are paramount, Airbus with its A330, A330neo, A350 and A380 is no match for Boeing. The Seattle airplane maker is ruling the twin-aisle jetliners market with the 767, 777 and 787.

    Airbus knows that the sooner the NMA will enter into service, the sooner the days of the A320/A321neoLR will be numbered.

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