Boeing New Midsize Airplane

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The New Midsize Airplane (NMA) is an airliner concept by Boeing to fill the middle of the market segment.

Boeing determined the market was large enough to launch a new design in 2015. Multiple airlines expressed interest in a composite, seven-abreast twin-aisle with an elliptical cross-section in 2017; it could enter service around 2025 if it is launched in early 2019. It is slated to have a 5,000 nmi (9,300 km) range with 225 seats and a range of 4,500 nmi (8,300 km) with 275 seats. Market forecasts varies between 2,000 and 4,000 aircraft. Sold for $65–75 million, it should generate 30% more revenue than narrowbodies and have 40% lower trip costs than replaced widebodies but would cost $12–15 billion to develop. A new 50,000 lbf (220 kN) turbofan could be proposed by GE Aviation/CFM International, Pratt & Whitney or Rolls-Royce plc with a bypass ratio of 10:1 or more and an overall pressure ratio over 50:1.

History[edit]

2015[edit]

Air Lease Corp.'s Steven Udvar-Hazy believes Boeing could launch a more capable, clean-sheet Boeing 757 replacement rather than a re-engined version.[1] At the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading conference, he predicted a Boeing 767-like twin-aisle airplane capable of using 7,000-foot (2,130 m) runways like New York LaGuardia, and Tinseth is focused on 20% more range and more capacity than the 757-200.[2] United Airlines consulted Airbus and Boeing to replace its 757 and waited for Boeing response as Tinseth wanted to fill the gap between the 737 MAX and the 787.[3]

Before the 2015 Paris Air Show, sales chief John Wojick said Boeing had discussions with customers and determined that the market is large enough to launch an all-new jet airliner, the first since the 787 Dreamliner launched in 2003.[4]

At the 2015 Paris Air Show, Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier estimated that Boeing would have to invest $10 billion to develop a 757 successor for 220 passengers and a 4,500 nmi (8,300 km) range, capacities studied by Boeing's vice president for product development Mike Sinnett.[5] Airways News Vinay Bhaskara said Boeing's middle of the market (MOM) airliner will likely launch before 2020 and enter service in the early part of the coming decade.[6] Boeing denied exploring updating the Boeing 767,[7] but revising and enhancing it is also a possibility.[8] Developing and building a new aircraft could even reach US$15 billion.[9]

2016[edit]

In early 2016, Boeing's two major options were a larger 737 MAX variant or a clean-sheet, all-new 797 design.[10] The MOM was the subject of a session of the 2016 International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) conference in Phoenix, Arizona where major worldwide sellers, buyers and financiers of commercial aircraft meet.[10] Airbus sales chief John Leahy said the industry has no need for a new midmarket plane, since the A321neo is already for sale.[10]

In July 2016, Boeing forecast a 4,000 to 5,000 aircraft demand, leaving a market for 2,000 to 3,000 without the Airbus A321neo and A330neo.[11] A 200-250-passenger and more than 4,000 nmi range NMA market but cheaper than small twin aisles aircraft which would enter service in the middle of the next decade would need advanced-technology 40,000–45,000 lbf (180–200 kN) high-bypass turbofans with higher pressure ratios. As Boeing development resources are taken by the 777X, 787-10, and 737MAX, Airbus could be the first to develop it but seems content with the A321LR and A330neo.[12]

2017[edit]

Persuaded by United Airlines interest, United chief financial officer Andrew Levy confirmed the NMA will be a twin-aisle at the March 2017 ISTAT Americas conference.[13] It will have two variants to carry 225 to 260 passengers with a range of 4,800 to 5,200 nmi (8,900 to 9,600 km).[14] Multiple airlines expressed potential interest: Alaska Airlines,[15] Emirates,[16] and Delta Air Lines for transatlantic flights.[15]

Seating could be seven-abreast like the 767 and could be the first application of the Rolls-Royce Advance engines and the next iteration of the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan.[17] The market favors single-aisles economics, and Boeing's challenge is to attain their hourly cost and price per seat while keeping twin-aisle capabilities.[18] CFM International could be interested in powering it as well, and Rolls could propose its UltraFan beyond the Advance for a 2025 introduction.[19]

Twin-aisle aircraft with less than 260 seats have an average of 234 seats and 2,670 nmi flight distance, with 60% of Available seat miles below 4,000 nmi and 82% below 5,000 nm.[11] Pricing would have to be competitive between the 787-8 and A330neo in the $100–120 million Base Full-Life value and larger single-aisles above $50 million, the 767-300ER in its heyday cost just over $70 million.[11] An elliptical construction could combine a twin-aisle cabin with the reduced cargo space of a single-aisle jet to reduce aerodynamic drag and operating costs, but would need more complex carbon composites instead of the simple cylindrical metal fuselage.[20]

From its defense and space businesses, Boeing relies on model-based systems engineering (MBSE), defining customer needs and functionality early in the aircraft design process with an interdisciplinary approach. A systems architecture model feeds and interacts with analytic and verification models, and helps define the product to bound data management and control cost and schedule, and the constraints, interfaces and requirements. The engine integration defines takeoff and climb capability, aircraft noise and ETOPS range circumference and engine failure altitude.[21]

silhouettes of Boeing NMA concept at right between 787-8 on top and 737 MAX 10 on bottom, as presented at Paris Air Show 2017

At the June 2017 Paris Air Show, Boeing's aircraft development manager Mike Delaney confirmed the use of composites for the whole airframe, a hybrid cross-section and bypass ratios above 10:1.[22] If the NMA is launched in early 2019, its design will be done in 2020, fabrication in 2021-22, build in 2023, flight tests and certification in 2024 and introduction in 2025.[23]

With the NMA planned for at least a 2025 introduction, and the 787 being much larger, Boeing could restart a passenger 767-300ER production to bridge the gap.[24] A demand for 50 to 60 aircraft could have to be satisfied.[25] In September, Boeing created a development program office, and in November named their company veteran and 777X chief project engineer Terry Beezhold, without a role yet.[26] Its introduction could slip from 2024-25 to 2027, pushing the 737 replacement to after 2030.[27]

On 20 December, Governor Jay Inslee convened a committee with Boeing labor unions (IAM and SPEEA) and local government economic-development officials to lobby Boeing to build the NMA in Washington state.[28] Boeing estimates the market between 2,000 and 4,000 airliners over 20 years, closer to 4,000 in September 2017, while Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce plc and Leeham Co. estimate it between 2,000 and 2,500 and Airbus at about 2,000 airplanes, not enough to justify a new $15bn airplane sold for $55m to $75m each.[29]

2018[edit]

2018 early design rendering

In early 2018, United saw the NMA reaching market in eight-to-ten years.[30] GE Aviation expects a launch decision in 2018 to achieve a mid-2020s service-entry target.[31] Boeing is in “active” talks with about 50 potential customers as two main versions are defined: a 225-seat model with a 5,000 nmi (9,300 km) range and a 275-seat version with a 4,500 nmi (8,300 km) range.[32]

Delta Air Lines wants to be one of the first to fly it, to replace its 757 and 767 fleets.[33] Delta operates 127 757s and 80 767s with average ages from 15 to 22 years.[34] Boeing's VP Marketing Randy Tinseth is confident its forecast of 4,000 airplanes can be met while others see the market as between 2,000 and 2,500 because it can change the airline networks like the B787 did by opening 170 new routes.[35] Solid production costs and sales forecasts are required to convince the Boeing board to commit to its development.[36] Avolon sees a market for 3,500 to 4,000 airliners.[37]

Its economic improvement over the Boeing 757/767 is targeted for 30%.[38] Tinseth said the NMA will generate 30% more revenue than narrowbodies and have 40% lower trip costs compared to replaced widebodies (767, A300 and A330).[39] Within its range, it would be significantly more economic than the A330neo, severely testing its sales if Boeing can keep NMA prices in the $70m-range.[40] The target sale price for the NMA is $65m–$75m.[41] Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary, kept informed by Boeing, said its seat cost is substantially higher than the 737 MAX.[42]

The early 2018 design have a 737 MAX-style tail cone, large 787/777X-sized cabin windows, a 757/767/777-style wind screen, a 767-200 door arrangement and short engine inlets.[43] Teal Group VP analyst Richard Aboulafia thinks it will be launched in 2018, but it could slip by a year, and there is also a 15–20% chance it would be abandoned, saving $12–15 billion. As the A320/A330 investment is amortised, the A321LR or A330neo can be offered at a lower cost; the NMA has to offer notably lower fuel and maintenance cost. Airbus could react with an A321 stretch or an all-new design, and could use a new 50,000 lbf (222.5kN) engine.[44]

As recent all-new designs took between 88 and 101 months (7.3 to 8.4 years) between the authority to offer and the introduction, a late 2018 to early 2019 launch would imply a 2026 service entry. At this time, over 30 years old airliners will have been replaced by current offerings, leaving 900 aircraft aged from 15 to 25 years to be replaced: 420 A321s, 270 A330-200s, 90 B757s and 130 B767s. The largest operator of these 15 to 25 year old mid-market types is American Airlines with over 80, followed by China Southern then Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Air China and Turkish Airlines with less than 40.[45] In June the NMA-6X was defined as a 228-passenger, 5,000 nmi (9,300 km) airliner and the NMA-7X would seat 267 in two classes over 4,200 nmi (7,800 km).[46]

Engines[edit]

The engine selection process is reminiscent of the competition to power the 777-200LR/300ER at the end of the 1990s, which shaped the turbofan market for the subsequent years: Rolls-Royce proposed the Trent 8104 growth demonstrator, Pratt & Whitney proposed a scaled-up PW6000 (wanting to limit the competition to two suppliers), while GE won exclusivity with the GE90-115B performance and GECAS 777 orders. Rolls obtained the same exclusivity for the A350, pushing Pratt out of the widebody engine market and precipitating its narrowbody comeback with the PW1000G.[47]

The 45,000 lbf (200 kN) thrust was typical of the 1960s' first generation of high-bypass-ratio turbofans: the GE CF6 for the Douglas DC-10, the Rolls RB211 for the Lockheed Tristar, and the Pratt & Whitney JT9D for the Boeing 747. This market was quickly left behind as aircraft and their power requirements grew, leaving the RB211 for the Boeing 757 (until 2005), or the Pratt PW2000 for the Boeing C-17. Newer technology enabled 10:1 or more bypass ratios and overall pressure ratios of at least 50:1 at top of climb. This level of thrust is above modern CFM LEAP or Pratt PW1000G single-aisle engines, but well below Rolls-Royce Trent or GEnx widebody engines.[47]

It falls below the 50,000 lbf (220 kN) limit for CFM International, and thus a scaled-down GE9X core could fit a new low-pressure system. Pratt could reach it by growing from the 33,000 lbf (150 kN) PW1133G for the A321neo. Rolls could propose its UltraFan development, a geared turbofan based its new Advance core, but it is primarily focused on its larger, 100,000 lbf (440 kN) engine. The GTF cost more than $10 billion to develop, and Rolls is facing financial difficulties which could be accelerated by being left out of the EU Clean Sky initiative as a result of Brexit. Both could join together, but have historically been moving in the opposite direction, as Rolls sold its 32.5% stake in International Aero Engines to Pratt parent United Technologies in 2011, essentially selling the ghost of the geared IAE SuperFan proposed for the A340 (supplanted in 1987 by the CFM56).[47]

CFM International has also considered geared turbofan architecture for the prospective aircraft.[48] GE has expressed that it does not believe the market is large enough for all three suppliers and won't enter a three-way race which wouldn't justify the investment needed, as it was the case for the A330 engines, leaving Boeing with two suppliers at most.[49]

Boeing has not yet decided whether it will use a single engine type: CFM considers an all-new direct-drive engine, and Rolls-Royce proposes its Advance direct-drive engine before 2025 and its UltraFan geared design after, scalable from 25,000 to 110,000 lbf (110 to 490 kN).[50] As a new engine development costs $2.5 to $3 billion, GE has to evaluate its market opportunities, preferring a single-source for a low-volume airplane while Airbus would potentially need such an engine.[51] GE Aviation's offer would be through CFM, with the LEAP as the baseline for a bigger engine, half a generation further, with advanced but mature enough technology.[52]

Boeing issued a RFP with a June 27, 2018 deadline for a 45,000 lbf (200 kN) engine with a TSFC 25% lower than the B757 engines.[46] At least two engine-makers want exclusivity for the $2 billion program cost. Even if its thrust crept to 52,000 lbf (230 kN), GE and Safran will bid through their CFM joint venture with a 3D-woven-resin transfer molding fan like the Leap instead of a GEnx/GE9X-type carbon-fiber composite.[53]

References[edit]

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