Airbus will be at least two years without being disturbed in the niche occupied by the A321, with aircraft capable of carrying between 200 and 240 passengers. The reason is that Boeing this week decided to postpone the first delivery of the 737 MAX 10 to 2023.
Before that, the biggest variant of its best-selling jet was expected to enter service this year. The problems with grounding of the MAX series and the damage caused by the pandemic, however, pushed the horizon of the 230-seat aircraft away.
With 467 firm orders, the 737 MAX 10 was launched as an interim solution to face the immense success of the A321LR and A321XLR, variants of the Neo family that are capable of offering large passenger capacity with a transoceanic range. However, the massive 737 lags behind both in performance.
Still, for airlines like Southwest and Gol, MAX 10 is a good bet due to the standardization of fleets. Without the Boeing plane, they would have to decide between ordering the Airbus rival (and thereby putting together a whole support infrastructure for it) or losing competitiveness on some routes.
While admitting delays in the 737 MAX program, Boeing is resuming studies for a new aircraft coming from the New Midmarket Airplane (NMA) project and which is internally called “-5X“, Aviation Week recently revealed.
The new airliner is rated to offer between 250-275 seats and to be configured with a double aisle, features already seen in the NMA. The range should be around 5,000 nm (9,260 km) using current Leap-1 turbofan engines, but the manufacturer expects to have the option of the future Ultrafan, developed by Rolls-Royce.
Therefore, the aircraft will be larger and more capable than the A321XLR and can occupy a segment closer to the 787-8 and thus be a more efficient option for hundreds of 767 and A330 that are in use today.
However, the revision in the planning of the new aircraft indicates that its debut should occur only at the end of the decade, if the program is launched between 2022 and 2023. To accelerate and reduce costs of its development, Boeing intends to maximize the use of structures and systems in production.
The decision to prioritize a small widebody, however, does not solve the visible aging of the 737 family. To compete with the A320neo and its promised successor, already announced by Airbus, a clean sheet project will be needed, which was considered in the proposal of the FSA (Future Small Airplane).
With no funds after a record $ 12 billion loss in 2020, Boeing will need a lot of perseverance and patience to become a tough competitor for Airbus again. In the meantime, the A321 should continue to take advantage of its unbeatable capacity today.