It was way back in 2015 that aircraft manufacturer Boeing first started considering a new mid-size aircraft. It was envisaged that the NMA (New Midsize Aircraft) – dubbed the 797 by industry insiders – would bridge the gap between the 757 and the 787. But details have been few, and although for some time there was speculation about Boeing announcing its NMA plans during the 2019 Paris Air Show, this is looking less and less likely. So what is this new aircraft going to be like? And when is it likely to be launched? And why all the delays?
What is the NMA?
Boeing has so far shared few details of its new plane, but it seems likely that it will look much like most modern airliners. It will probably be a twin-aisle aircraft with two variants, carrying 225 to 260 passengers, and with a range of 4,800 to 5,200 nautical miles (8,900 to 9,600 km). It is expected to have seven-abreast seating like the 767. The conceptual design released in early 2018 had a 737 MAX-style tail cone, large 787/777X-sized cabin windows, a 757/767/777-style windscreen, a 767-200 door arrangement, and short engine inlets. There was intense competition to provide the new plane’s engines, and for a while it looked as though Rolls-Royce would be doing this. However, as of February 2019 they pulled out of the race, and Boeing has not yet chosen a new supplier.
Why is Boeing making the NMA?
Both the 757 and 767 models are getting old, with the average age of those aircraft in service being about 20 years. A number of airlines are considering the NMA as a replacement for both these types, and also as a down-sized 787. Indeed, there was a lot of interest from airlines after Boeing’s early discussions with potential customers back in 2017.
Which airlines are likely to order the NMA?
The following airlines still seem to be showing interest in the new aircraft:
- Qatar Airways‘s CEO has recently expressed strong interest in being the NMA’s launch customer, according to FlightGlobal
- Delta Airlines had several 757s and 767s, and is thinking about replacing them. The new NMA would make sense for this company.
- Qantas is in the middle of a fleet makeover, and the NMA would be the right size for some of its medium-haul flights.
- Icelandair operates an all Boeing fleet, and needs a replacement for its 757s.
- American Airlines and United Airlines both have several 757s and 767s, and are likely to need replacements for them in the not too distant future.
- Of course, any other airlines with aging 757s and 767s are quite likely to be in a similar situation. So there could well be a good market for the new aircraft.
So in that case, why is Boeing apparently dragging its heels?
Why is the NMA delayed?
The ongoing speculation and delays with respect to Boeing’s announcement are due at least in part to the company’s crisis relating to its 737 Max aircraft. According to some experts, Boeing was close to announcing the plans for the new aircraft in March this year, but the second of two crashes involving the 737 Max seems to have changed that. It is thought that the company may now wait until the 737 Max situation stabilises before announcing anything definite. Indeed, Boeing now seems unsure whether to launch the new plane at all, and has said it expects to decide in 2020.
When will Boeing launch the NMA?
In conclusion, we still have no idea when the NMA or 797 will be officially announced, though recent rumours of a 2019 Paris Air Show announcement seem less and less likely. The launch of the new airliner was originally expected to be 2025, but insiders are now saying 2028 is more likely. And if some sources are to be believed, there is a possibility that the program will be scrapped altogether if it doesn’t make financial sense to Boeing! So it’s time to….wait and see… meanwhile, on June 16 2019, in what was perceived as a blow to Boeing, Airbus, announced that it would release a new long-range jet: the A321XLR.
Helen is a retired pilot and flight instructor who has traveled around the world and visited more than 70 countries. An award-winning journalist and author, she has been writing for world-class aviation-focused publications.