Both Airbus and Boeing have next generation updates to their single aisle products on track for delivery in the next few years. The Airbus A320NEO is arguably the better seller over the 737MAX but both are succeeding well enough to continue sales for quite some time.
But who will blink first?
That is, who will build the next completely re-designed single aisle aircraft that will replace the Airbus A320NEO and Boeing 737MAX aircraft in the market?
In the greater scheme of things, I continue to believe that if Boeing had built a new 737 replacement, it would have ultimately won The Single Aisle Wars for a decade or more. They would have sacrificed some sales today but . . . I think they would have cemented dominance in that market for years to come.
Sadly, that didn’t happen.
Airbus has been making the right calls lately and I think they’ve done a great job in estimating what the market wants as well as being willing to step forward and build what the market wants. Boeing hasn’t shown much courage.
Yet, I think it will be Boeing who builds that next aircraft. I think Airbus will focus on its A320NEO and I think their next project will be an A330NEO and they still have considerable work to finish on the A350 series aircraft.
Boeing has the 787-10 to complete which will be an unsatisfying derivative instead of a hit (it won’t have enough range/payload to really attract customers to it, in my opinion). Nonetheless, the 787-10 will be pretty easy to bring to market. They have the 737MAX to get done and that will be a low risk effort as well. The 777-8/9 will also be a fairly low risk aircraft, too.
Boeing has all low risk programs with everything getting to market by 2020. By 2020, Boeing will have realized that the 737MAX isn’t quite making it for the single aisle airlines. To remain in business and truly engage with the airlines of the world, Boeing will have to commit to a new 737 replacement and it will have to push the envelope pretty far.
I believe that 737 replacement will start at about the 160 seat capacity (standard 2 class) and run up to 210 to 220 seat capacity. I think all variants will have trans-continental range and I believe that at least the top two variants will have intercontinental range with ETOPS at introduction.
I do think there will be 3 variants but I also suspect many will speculate that there will be 4 variants. My expectation will be:
Variant 1: 150 – 160 seats, 3600nm range
Variant 2: 180 – 190 seats, 4200nm range
Variant 3: 210-220 seats, 4200nm range
I think we’ll see a geared turbo fan a la Rolls Royce on the aircraft or a Pratt & Whitney engine. What I don’t think we’ll see is a CFM engine. The CFM design isn’t going to make the leap into the next generation. It held up for the NEO and MAX but only barely. The Pratt & Whitney is more likely the future.
What else will be different? The fuselage will not be metal although it likely won’t be like the 787 either. The wing will be much more efficient and the cockpit will be harmonious with the 787 and the 777-8/9.
What it won’t be is a 757. As much as everyone hopes for another overpowered 757 to show up, it won’t be that. Instead, it will be an aicraft uniquely designed to answer a question for 20 or more years. It might look like a 757 but its design and requirements will make it entirely different.
But first someone has to blink.