The conundrum of a new airplane design vs a derivative

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By Scott Hamilton


April 19, 2020, © Leeham News: When it comes to a decision by an aircraft manufacturer whether to develop an entirely new airplane or a derivative, these multi-billion dollar decisions involve hundreds of thousands of considerations.

Airbus missed with its first A350 design, but has a winner with the A350 XWB. Source: Airbus.

Sometimes derivatives will do the job. Sometimes a new airplane is the better choice.

Given that Boeing faces a decision whether to launch the Next Boeing Airplane (NBA) and Airbus must decide how to respond, all within the next few years, looking at the considerations and some history is timely.

Today’s examination is going to focus at the 40,000 ft level. We’re not going to delve down into the decisions over suppliers or the minutiae into production. Rather, we’re going to look at general strategy.

  • Airbus wins big gamble with A320neo decision.
  • Boeing was victor with 787, while Airbus missed with first A350 design.
  • Boeing missed with 747-8I and, it appears so far, with 777X.
  • Next airplane decision by Boeing will drive Airbus response.

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