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Thu, Aug 04, 2022

Boeing New Midsize Airplane In Limbo

What Might Have Been

The inadequacies and flat-out failures of the 737 MAX program left both Boeing and the FAA with blackened eyes and sullied reputations. The agency—being a collection of unelected bureaucrats accountable to no one but an unelected administrator—recovered quickly and without the loss of a single regulatory-power, job, or federal dollar. The plane-maker fared less well. To date, the 737 MAX fiasco has cost Boeing over $9.2-billion. That’s the retail value of 68 737 MAX 8s.

Boeing might, by now, be back about the business of selling airplanes and making money had its troubles remained confined to the 737 MAX program. Alas, they did not. After the fashion of an infection taken hold in one limb of a great beast, the residuum of the 737 MAX debacle spread perniciously throughout Boeing’s commercial aircraft operations, adversely impacting 787 production and certification of the 737 MAX 7 and MAX 10—to the tune of another $14-billion in lost revenue.

Precipitous financial losses notwithstanding, the nadir of Boeing’s early 21st Century woes may well be marked in squandered opportunity, not lost dollars.

Among the less conspicuous losses of the 737 MAX imbroglio was Boeing’s shelving of plans to develop a New Midsize Airplane (NMA) to replace its popular 757 and 767 models. The aircraft—which was to have been called the 757-Plus—would have competed with Airbus’s A321XLR—a long-legged (4,700-nautical mile) A320 variant the consortium plans to bring to market in 2023.

The aerospace rumor-mill has long whispered about Boeing developing a new NMA jet—often referred to as the Boeing 797. Industry pundits argue that such a project might have been undertaken in the early 2010s, had American Airlines not placed an order for re-engined 737s—similar to Airbus’s A320neo family. It has been further suggested that American’s order in conjunction with intensifying competition brought on by the A320neo line effectively forced Boeing to hasten development of the 737 MAX —and in so doing, substantiate well-known aphorisms addressing the genesis of waste.

Pressed to commit resources to the ongoing 737 MAX 7 and MAX-10 certification efforts, the repairing of 120 undelivered 787s, and the imminent launch of the 777X, Boeing is likely allow its plans for a 757 replacement to lie fallow for a period of time measurable in years. Until then, airlines and pilots will need content themselves with imaginings of the 757-Plus, and educated guesses about what wonders might manifest in such a critter.

FMI: www.boeing.com

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