Boeing’s new CEO orders rethink on key jetliner project

Boeing’s new CEO Dave Calhoun. (AFP)
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Updated 23 January 2020

Boeing’s new CEO orders rethink on key jetliner project

  • Traditionally toe-to-toe with Europe’s Airbus SE, Boeing has fallen behind in sales for the largest category of single-aisle planes

LONDON: Boeing’s new CEO has sent the aerospace giant back to the drawing board on proposals for a new mid-market aircraft, effectively shelving in their current form plans worth $15 billion-$20 billion that had been overtaken by the 737 MAX crisis.

A decision on whether to launch a New Midsize Airplane (NMA) seating 220-270 passengers, which seemed imminent barely a year ago, had already been postponed as Boeing gave all its attention to the grounding of the smaller 737 MAX after two fatal crashes.

But days after taking the helm with a mandate to lift Boeing out of its 10-month-old reputational crisis, CEO Dave Calhoun said the competitive playing field had changed.

“Since the first clean sheet of paper was taken to it, things have changed a bit ... the competitive playing field is a little different,” he told journalists on Wednesday. 

“We’re going to start with a clean sheet of paper again; I’m looking forward to that,” Calhoun said.

He also spoke of a fresh approach to the market.

A Boeing spokesman said Calhoun had ordered a new study on what kind of aircraft was needed. New aircraft typically take 6-7 years or more to bring to market once a decision is made, though Boeing aims to shorten that in part through digital technology and new business models designed around the NMA.

Calhoun “has asked the team to do an assessment of the future market and what kind of airplane is needed to meet the future market,” spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

Noting that the original assessments on the NMA were made about two and a half years ago, he said the new study would “build upon what has been learned ... in design and production.”

In further evidence of a change of pace, people familiar with the matter said a meeting between Boeing and a major potential supplier, originally scheduled for next week, had been abruptly canceled with no new date set.

That contrasts with the approach just weeks ago when Boeing was still presenting new details of the NMA to some airlines, including a working logo — “theNMA” — and details of an “advanced composite” structure, according to a slide seen by Reuters.

The NMA had been designed to address a slender gap between single-aisle workhorse jets like the 737 MAX and long-haul wide-body jets like the 787.

But most of the effort revolved around a new production system designed not only to support the NMA but to lay the groundwork for the next single-aisle aircraft after the 737 MAX.

Calhoun said he expected the MAX, whose return to service was delayed again earlier this week, to resume its previous place in the market and remain in service for a generation.

Traditionally toe-to-toe with Europe’s Airbus SE, Boeing has fallen behind in sales for the largest category of single-aisle planes, such as the 200-240-seat Airbus A321neo, which overlaps with the niche being targeted by the NMA.

By delaying a decision on the NMA, Boeing already risked losing the sweetest part of the market, especially after Airbus seized contracts with two major US airlines, analysts said.

Analysts have also questioned whether Boeing, facing costs equivalent to a new program to repair the MAX crisis, as well as delays on its large new 777X jet whose maiden flight is set for Friday, would have appetite for such a costly project now.


China delays timetable for Boeing 737 MAX return

Updated 23 October 2020

China delays timetable for Boeing 737 MAX return

  • The best-selling 737 MAX was grounded around the world since March 2019 after two deadly crashes blamed on the plane's new navigation system 

BEIJING: China, the first country to ground Boeing Co’s 737 MAX following two fatal crashes, has not set a timetable for the plane’s return to service, the head of its aviation regulator said on Thursday.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China has set three principles for the jet to return to service in China, Feng Zhenglin, director at the agency, said.

Design changes need to be certified, pilots need to receive proper training and effective improvements need to be made to address the specific findings of investigations into the crashes, Feng said.

“Based on these three principles, we have not set a timetable for Boeing 737 MAX’s return to service here. As long as these conditions are met, we’re happy to see the MAX return to service in China,” said Feng.

“But if these conditions cannot be met, we still have to carry out strict airworthiness certification in order to ensure safety.”

The 737 MAX, which has been grounded around the world since March 2019, is expected receive regulatory approval from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to resume flying in November.

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has not publicly disclosed a timeline for the MAX’s return of service, but sources familiar with the matter have said it is expected to lift its grounding order around mid-November, although the date could slip.

American Airlines has said that it plans to return the jet to service at the year-end, subject to FAA approval.