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Boeing biding its time on '797' family


BOEING doesn't seem to be in a hurry to move along plans for a new family of mid-range jetliners dubbed by observers as the "797" - even as some long-time customers grow impatient and a rival Airbus plane gobbles up sales.

Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing's chief executive officer, gave a peek into the complex calculations involved in building the business case for what Boeing calls the NMA program, for New Mid-Market Aircraft.

The Chicago-based planemaker plans to make a decision next year on whether to launch the program, with a possible commercial debut in 2025.

"We're looking at it both from an airplane and downstream services standpoint," Mr Muilenburg said during the company's quarterly earnings call on Wednesday.

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He's referring to initiatives to ensure the plane can reap more revenue over its 30-year commercial life, while also lowering factory expense so that Boeing can make the twin-aisle jets at a cost closer to that of highly standardised narrow-bodies.

Boeing thinks it can broaden the 797's sales appeal - and lifetime revenue - by combining an all-new airplane with a design that encourages airlines to keep buying data analytics, maintenance and spare parts from the planemaker.

Airbus's A321neo is already nibbling away at the smaller end of the 220-to-270-seat market that Boeing is targeting for the 797, and the European manufacturer may bump up its single-aisle jet's range to make it even more competitive.

Boeing's design must also appeal to a wide array of potential airline customers. US carriers such as Delta Air Lines are seeking replacements for Boeing 757 and 767 jets reaching retirement age, while rapidly emerging low-cost carriers are branching out across Asia. BLOOMBERG

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