Boeing eyes new single-aisle jet to take on the Airbus A321neo

Boeing takes tentative steps in early-stage talks with airlines, Rolls-Royce about a new medium range single-aisle jetliner.

By Bloomberg News, October 29 2020
Boeing eyes new single-aisle jet to take on the Airbus A321neo

Rolls-Royce has expressed interest in providing the engines for a new, medium-range jetliner if Boeing decides to move forward with a concept later this decade, said people familiar with the matter.

In recent weeks, the U.S. planemaker has reached out to the British engine manufacturer to gauge its interest in a potential new aircraft, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing private interactions.

The midsize jet would be designed to fill a gap in Boeing’s product lineup and blunt the success of Airbus' sales dynamo, the A321neo.

The conversations centered on an early-stage concept with specifics that are in flux, the people said. Boeing isn’t massing resources or conducting wide-ranging studies with airlines and lessors, as is typical ahead of a new development program, one of the people said.

Indeed, the project’s chances of moving forward depend on numerous variables, including the emergence of new engine technology to entice customers, the financial health of the aerospace manufacturers and the recovery of a jetliner market that has been flattened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Rolls-Royce and Boeing declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Boeing had reached out to suppliers and customers about a potential new single-aisle airplane that seats between 200 and 250 travelers.

New options for new jet designs

At the urging of Boeing’s new chief executive officer, Dave Calhoun, the Chicago-based company scrapped plans for the so-called NMA, or new midmarket airplane, earlier this year. That design, with an oval-shaped fuselage and a twin-aisle cabin, was targeted at flights of about 5,000 nautical miles.

Instead, Boeing’s sales team fanned out to discuss other proposals to replace its aging 757 and 767 jetliners and compete with Airbus, the people said.

The European planemaker’s A320 family includes an extra long-range version known as the A321XLR, which has emerged as a Boeing 757 successor with sales to the likes of United Airlines and American Airlines.

The Boeing concepts included a large single-aisle jet, with a carbon-composite frame, capable of hauling more than 200 travelers across the Atlantic Ocean. Its turbines would produce 50,000-pounds of thrust, the same requirement as the NMA’s engines.

But as the pandemic left Boeing and its largest customers struggling to survive, the talks were tabled and the aerospace titan disbanded the team of more than 1,000 engineers who had been working on futuristic models, including the NMA, said the people.

Since then, a small team has been tending to the design concepts while Boeing focuses on cutting costs and bringing the Max back into commercial service.

When Boeing was still actively developing the NMA, Rolls-Royce pulled out of consideration, saying its new engine wouldn’t be ready by the plane’s targeted debut in the mid-2020s.

Rolls-Royce would only move forward with the latest Boeing concept if it made commercial sense, one of the people said.

Madness or a must-do?

Analyst responses to the prospect of Boeing weighing a new development program amid the worst downturn in aviation history ran the gamut, with views ranging from supportive to incredulous.

It’s "absurd" to expect a new Boeing plane to emerge soon, given the risk of cannibalizing sales from the company’s own 737 Max and the financial strain on airlines and manufacturers, said Douglas Harned, an analyst at Bernstein.

"There is not a next generation engine on the horizon and engine OEMs are so cash-constrained they would hardly prioritize developing one," he said in a report October 22, referring to Rolls-Royce and other turbofan manufacturers.

But Boeing is at risk of losing significant market share to Airbus because of the prolonged grounding of the Max, which has been banned from the skies since March 2019 after two fatal accidents killed 346 people. The model is expected to win regulatory approval to fly again in the coming months.

Boeing should seriously consider investing in a new family of single-aisle jets to remain competitive over the long term, said Ron Epstein, an analyst at Bank of America.

"Hard times demand hard decisions," said Epstein, adding that an all-new design would reach the market as travel rebounds from the pandemic.

"If they want to stay relevant, they have to do a plane," Epstein said in an interview. "And managing the company just for returning cash to shareholders and cutting costs – that’s not going to get them there. That’s yesterday’s strategy."

Additional reporting by David Flynn

This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here

26 May 2016

Total posts 16

This is definitely a far greater outcome than boeing re-engineering the 757 or 767. I can see this option coming to fruition and boeing wanted to consolidate the same production line to build a smaller capacity/less range version of this airliner to take over the 737 max program.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 279

In the new age of information, pax can be more savvy with equipment used.

It will be interesting to know what proportion of pax will do anything to avoid lying on 737 max when it comes back.

Obviously there are too many in US airlines to ‘retire’ them without considering the costs but with the current reputation plus the bad news involving quality control in the new factories they have moved into, it may best for Boeing to start moving forward earlier rather than risk being caught by the cancel culture

08 Aug 2020

Total posts 1

@XWu, you can bet that at least some travelers will go even as far as suing any airline that intentionally or negligently decieves a passenger into flying on a MAX knowing the passenger has made it clear to the airline he or she refuses to fly in one.  Also, yes to Boeing scrapping the MAX, absorb the loss that it created for itself and MOVE on to build a better airplane to regain the public's trust.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 403

errrr.... exactly how will the passenger make it clear to the airline that they refuse to fly in a MAX??  Not to mention the T&Cs make it clear that the contract does not warrant that any particular model of aircraft will be utilised for the flight.....

26 Jul 2015

Total posts 58

@XWu @microbitz Lucky not too many people had the same attitude years ago with the 747 and DC10, both of which suffered their share of crashes, yet went on to pretty distinguished careers.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 279

@Truie

Yes I see your point except back then we “accept” the explanation of human error and terrorists for hull loss and lives lost, during a time when there are less choices between airlines for various routes and equipment awareness. I think in fact the 747 allows more people esp those in economy class to travel and lowers the average risk of death by the large numbers of pax being flown per flight

in this case, in addition to a very wide media coverage in an age of social media, it transpires that Boeing made significant software changes without telling pilots (and who knows what other changes we may find.... until the next crash) as well as the whistleblower news that the poor quality control in the new Boeing factory, AND the surprisingly shoddy FAA process in practically allowing the aviation company to certify itself.

The fact is the company is not trying hard enough to address concerns about the alleged “culture of concealment” and profit over quality mentality reflected by the shift of all 787 production to the cheaper non-unionised workforce in South Carolina despite concerns.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

08 May 2020

Total posts 17

Hey Boeing - just super stretch the B737 even more  and then put even bigger engines on it that have to be put so far in front of the wing and raised so high above the wing  ( to give it ground clearance ) that the Captain can see it just outside his cockpit window  ( :  but what ever you do, do not increase the length of the landing gear / give it  "longer legs". Hey maybe they could mash up something from an old B707 design? Drop 2 engines and maybe play around with the wingtips?  ( :

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 22

Yes and if they do, Airbus will stretch theirs 10 cms more than Boeing

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1127

There are some interesting thin high wing with strut designs being touted having an efficiency dividend plus new efficient engines that aren’t touching the ground.

Does anyone know if Boeing has announced funeral details for the 737 Max? I’d like to send flowers.

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 22

Awwww all this anti Boeing talk. Airbus haven't had any blunders??? The QF 72 A330 and QF32 A380 incidents came very close to wiping out 772 people not to mention the Air France blunder of Flight 296, the un commanded decent to crash of the A320 in front of thousands at the French Airshow. I have had countless issues with the A380 becoming unserviceable, twice having to return due to serious malfunctions. Boeing have pioneered most of aviation. They did the hard yards with the development of the 787. Airbus rode on their coat tails and produced the A350. I don't have a particular preference for Airbus/Boeing so I find the silly quibbles directed at Boeing a little immature to say the least.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1127

Gswift I agree but Boeing made the same mistake twice, that is they didn’t learn from their first blunder, but chose to blame the pilots (who happened to be from the third world) despite being warned about it. That is what earned the approbrium.

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 22

I'm guessing you never flew on a DC-10? The rear cargo door issue was warned to McDonnel Douglas but nothing done until Turkish Airlines disaster killing all on board. Advancement in aviation always comes with risk and unfortunately sometimes at the cost of human lives. Yes the 737 has been tweaked by Boeing, as the A320 series, A340 have been by Airbus. The 737 may have been rejigged through 4 generations, and Boeing sold close to 9,000 over the years - not what I would call unpopular!

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 279

@patrickk

Agreed that Boeing suggesting pilots error from 2 very similar catastrophic crash is very bad form and smacks of cultural discrimination by proxy.

Mind you there doesn’t seemed to be any official response from Boeing when 2 incidents were lodged by US pilots when autopilot was engaged (thus separate problem from the MCAS anti stall problem responsible for the Ethiopian and Lion crashes) hence my suspicions that there were more issues than just one problem with this series.

I'm sure the CEO and chief engineer for Airbus must be reading this article and laughing their heads off. I read where Boeing are planning to revamp the old 757 or something like that 

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 22

I don't think the Airbus CEO or anyone in Airbus is laughing their heads off since the A380 program has closed with Billions lost. Which of these programs lost money:- 707, 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, 787 - hmm that would be none!

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1127

Gswift I’m not sure the 787 is profitable nor is likely to be, and it will require some pretty deft accounting tricks to make it that way

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 22

The 787 will be profitable and is still current so many more opportunities. If they need accounting tricks though, they could copy Airbus this time

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 543

It's amusing reading Boeing apologist comments; have you forgotten the planes OWN engineers told management the 737 MAX  had issues and shouldn't yet be certified?! That's criminal greed - pure and simple. Also, comparing Airbus / QF 32 A380 which was an engine issue is ridiculous. The 787 is Boeing's only saving grace and even then it needs the GenX engines to be acceptable.


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Boeing eyes new single-aisle jet to take on the Airbus A321neo