Boeing Is Laying The Foundations For Its Next Commerical Aircraft

With so much talk about Boeing’s next commercial aircraft over the past few years, it can sometimes feel like the 797/NMA will never become a reality. Updating employees on the company’s third-quarter results on Wednesday, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun made a small mention of Boeing’s next commercial aircraft, saying that the foundation is being laid for its development.

The 787 was Boeing’s last clean-sheet design. Now, the commercial aviation world is waiting for whatever comes next. Photo: Alessandro Ambrosetti via Wikimedia Commons 

Directed to company employees, an open letter discussing the state of the company was issued by Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun. Before going into specific details, the letter begins with the CEO stating:

“As we share an update on our company’s performance today, I want to thank you for your resilience and dedication. You’ve continued to bring your best to Boeing each and every day. Thanks to your teamwork and tireless efforts, we’re making progress.”

The next commercial airplane

After providing an update on the 787 Program as well as 737 MAX production, Calhoun moved on to the company’s future, in a section he would title “Defining our next chapter.”

Along with the development and certification of the 737-7, 737-10, and 777X, Calhoun re-affirmed that he would be “evaluating the timing of a freighter version of the 777X,” adding that the company is “beginning to lay the foundation for our next commercial airplane development program.”

And with this one half of a sentence, Boeing’s CEO reminded the public that a new commercial aircraft design is still on the way. Of course, this short statement brings with it more questions than answers…

Boeing Is Laying The Foundations For Its Next Commerical Aircraft
With 737 MAX production seemingly back on track, the planemaker must focus on resuming 787 deliveries and getting the 777X into service.  Photo: Getty Images

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Only just “beginning” to lay the foundation?

“[B]eginning to lay the foundation” for the planemaker’s next commercial airplane development program. It’s not entirely surprising but nonetheless disappointing for those of us who have been waiting to see what kind of aircraft will follow the 787.

The 797/NMA (New midsize aircraft) has become something slowly reaching mythical status. It’s something that has been rigorously discussed by the media and speculated on (with great detail) by aviation analysts. At the same time, Boeing has given the public only small hints to go on- with Wednesday’s letter being no exception.

The clearest message from Boeing came almost two years ago when it was reported that the NMA plans would be significantly revised.

“Since the first clean sheet of paper was taken to it, things have changed a bit … the competitive playing field is a little different,” Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told Reuters journalists on a conference call in January 2020. “We’re going to start with a clean sheet of paper again; I’m looking forward to that…”

Boeing Is Laying The Foundations For Its Next Commerical Aircraft
787 deliveries have been halted as the company works with the FAA on production issues. Photo: Getty Images

A lot of time has passed since January 2020- perhaps enough time for Boeing to have more firm details on its next commercial airliner. However, given the planemaker’s issues over that period, which include 737 MAX recertification, 787 production, and 777X development and certification (all in the midst of a global health crisis), it’s not at all a shock that the 797/NMA has continued to take a comfortable position at the bottom of Boeing’s list of priorities.

Thus, given these existing priorities, we may still be quite some time away before we even have a confirmed name for Boeing’s next commercial aircraft program.

When do you think Boeing’s new aircraft program will be announced? Let us know by leaving a comment.


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