This is Boeing’s NMA

Exclusive: The Boeing 797 of 2025 will evolve out of this 2018 conceptual rendering of the New Middle-Market Airplane.


Jon Ostrower
This is Boeing’s NMA

This is Boeing’s New Middle-Market Airplane.

Or at least this is what its concept looks like in 2018.

The artistic conception made by Boeing, revealed below, is the first complete look at the company’s NMA. The rendering gives an insight into how Boeing – which has shared few details about the jet – is thinking about its first all-new airliner since the 787 Dreamliner.

At first glance, the NMA resembles the familiar form of the modern airliner for the last 65 years, building on the generational evolution in subsonic aircraft design since Boeing’s 707.

Highly unlikely to be the final form of the eventual 797, its attributes hint strongly at some of Boeing’s efficiency enablers for its next-generation of medium-range airliners.

Boeing and its suppliers have the better part of a decade still to go before airlines and passengers get their hands on the aircraft.

The yet-to-be-launched NMA is slated to arrive in 2025. First with the base model, the NMA-6X (225 passengers at 5,000nm) and the NMA-7X (265 passengers at 4,500nm) two years later, according to two people familiar with Boeing’s planning today.

The apparent small twin-aisle NMA-6X is pictured in the artist conception.Boeing's NMA-6X will eventually become the 797 - jonostrower.comSo, what might Boeing’s ‘Atlantic Fragmenter’ become?

(Historical aside: The Pacific Fragmenter was Boeing’s name for the Sonic Cruiser/7E7 design and its long-range capabilities to overfly major hubs connecting Asia with North America across the Pacific. The NMA is aimed at doing the same across the Atlantic.)

Existing Designs & New Features

Elements adapted from existing aircraft are apparent across this early iteration of the NMA design: A 737 Max-style tail cone, larger 787/777X-sized cabin windows, and a 757/767/777-style wind screen. The door arrangement matches that of Boeing’s last “small twin,” the 767-200, very strongly suggesting a twin-aisle design.

But under the wing, the engines illustrate Boeing’s development work on a shorter inlet design to increase fuel efficiency. Boeing in February released a video detailing its testing of the lighter-weight nacelle to reduce fuel burn as fan sizes increase.

Matching the jet’s familiar elements to today’s designs, Boeing vice president of airplane development, Mike Delaney, described the NMA wing design in these terms in June 2017:

“An NMA wing on a flight line, you will not be able to tell the difference between an NMA and a 787.”

Equally important is what’s not visible. The angle doesn’t show the most distinctive – and potentially technically challenging – aspect of the design. The ovoid shape of the fuselage isn’t readily apparent, but the curve in the future nose hints at the ‘hybrid design.”

The aim of such a design is to maximize the passenger space in the cabin; notionally a seven-abreast 2-3-2 twin-aisle economy arrangement above the floor with room for a single-aisle-sized cargo hold below, according to those familiar with the design. The debate between North American and Asian airlines over the shape and capacity of the belly (and ensuing wing-sizing and engine thrust capabilities) was detailed last week by Bloomberg News’ Julie Johnsson.

Boeing 797 / NMA-6X Annotated - jonostrower.com

Boeing spokesman Bernard Choi declined to comment on speculation around program timelines or specific design attributes for “any supposed infographic” of the NMA:

“We continue to take input and suggestions from more than 50 customers around the world. Our NMA team remains focused on building a solid business case including understanding market opportunities, reducing program risk, and working through design tradeoffs. No decision has been made. Our Board will make one when it is ready.  It’s a decision they will get to over the next year or so. If a program is launched, entry into service would be in the 2024-2025 timeframe.”

Prior Hints

We’ve actually seen this rendering before. A significantly blurred out version first appeared at the Paris Air Show in 2017 in the company’s presentation on its notional NMA plans. The longer NMA-7X, with its additional mid-aft exit door, was part of the notional family lineup shown between the 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner as part of that same presentation.


Flightglobal on February 14 attached an image to a tweet about Delta Air Lines’ interest in the NMA. Its image was a significantly blurred out version of what you see above.

Historical Perspective

But why is this rendering somewhat inconclusive here in 2018? While it shows the direction Boeing is headed, history has shown that the first images of a new design rarely, if ever, resemble the final product. Plane makers frequently use artist conceptions to facilitate discussions with customers rather than risk showing ‘their hand’ to eager competitors.

The first 7E7 rendering, replete with red, white and blue Americana colors from the 1980s and 1990s, showed up in 2002 when Boeing formally killed the Sonic Cruiser. The top down view of a shrunken 777-200LR/767-400ER soaring over the mountains offered an yet-to-be refined look at what became Boeing’s infamous sharktail 7E7 and the 787-8 five years later.

Note: This post was updated to clarify that the NMA rendering was created by Boeing.

Show Comments (36)

Comments

  • Aviaponcho

    Hello Jon

    Was will be the exit limit with this layout ?

    2*110+ 35 = 255
    Adding one more type III and you only go to 285
    Is it sufficient for low cost high density ? That’s only 45 more than A321ACF

    Best regards

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    • Checklist

      Hello Poncho !

      I do not think that it is still important that the question of the efficiency ratio structure / passenger is evoked. The goal is first to understand the functionality of this NMA.

      The basic version (-6X) seems to satisfy the US3 airlines with a transatlantic range relatively few passengers and freight in a 2- or 3-class with a real comfort lie-flat for the business class seat. What the A321 does not do in this case.

      And a stretch-7X that will carry more passenger and cargo for the Asian market! As for the question if it will not carry enough seats in a dense 1-class configuration compared to the A321 the question does not even arise …

      Un petit coucou Poncho de la part de Checklist ancien membre de aeroweb-net.fr

      (Je vous suis parfois dans votre forum)

      Bonne continuation !

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  • PAULO SERGIO MARTINS

    The use of the 757/767/777 Section 41 is interesting, if this jet is majority aluminium. If it’s composite, then Boeing should go with the more efficient 787 nose design.

    The tussle between North American and Asian carriers on cargo is quite interesting. IIRC, Cathay Pacific flew A330’s at night on cargo only flights, so profitable were these missions.

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  • J Jensen

    Hi Jon,

    Nice article! I remember the shark tail and bullet train nose of the 7E7, the concept artwork that was released just before the final design was announced. I am sad they did not follow the concept art as it look so futuristic. Oh Well, I am looking forward to more NMA/797 news and I’ll be checking back often!

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  • Rob

    Any thoughts on where they will build this thing?

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    • TEWFIK M BOULENOUAR

      I am willing to bet that a big percentage of it will be built by Embraer in Brazil.

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      • Chris Schneider

        Wouldn t that make America less great?

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    • RogerLT

      North Charleston, South Carolina… We are ready!

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  • Tortugamon

    Hi Poncho,

    The 767-200 exit limit with the same door configuration is 290; I imagine this would be similar. So 20%+ larger and flies 25% further with similar cargo.

    I am interested in what type of door the -7x has being ‘mid-aft’.

    Great piece Jon!

    Tortugamon

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  • azat

    the render is very reminiscent of the forgotten shortened version called 757-100 of the early 80’s)) especially the glazing of the cockpit 757/767/777

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  • José E. Iglesias-Sousa

    Hello Jon,
    First of all, GOOD LUCK ON JOB-HUNTING…
    I just wanna add a commentaire… Definitely, Farnborough is going to be the showcase in order to see if there really is a market for this babe. My bet is that British Airways (and not IAG), will be the launch customer… Based on your experience in the market… What’s your feeling for this?

    Great having you back in your forum. Being following you for many years now.

    Yours sincerely,

    Joe-Ric Churches

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  • LaL

    Any possibility that this is a beginning of new “lower” half of Boeing product lineup? I.e. they start with the biggest versions (NMA-6, NMA-7) and eventually come out with a B737 replacement. With commonality in pilot training, maintainance etc. ala Airbus.

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    • TCook

      If it is a 2-2-2 fuselage, I see the next aircraft for Southwest beyond the 737, the NMA-5 at 3,000nm max range. Seating for 200 including some wide upgrade seats. Wing and engine performance for Midway Airport. A new 40m wing that folds to fit a 36m gate, smaller 35K to 40K engines, about a 145′ length.
      Being 25 seats below this, when will the MAX 8 need to be replaced with a new single aisle? Historically 20 years, so I think the next fifteen years is prime time to invest in NMA opportunities.

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      • GregS

        Southwest?? Not likely!! Southwest just started taking 737MAXs last year, so they have another 15-20 years of purchasing those planes, and another 40+ years of operating that model (assuming they take the last units off the production line 15-20 years from now, and they operate them for 20+ years). This includes the MAX9 and/or MAX10 variants, which are very similar in spec to what you describe above, although single aisle. A key operating strategy of Southwest is fleet simplification, and using only one family of airplanes, i.e. the 737. It will likely take one heck of a sales pitch to get them to ditch that model, add another airplane to the mix, and really complicate their operations while potentially increasing costs in training, spares and maintenance.

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  • TCook

    Scale up the 757 forward section, can’t go wrong with that. Hard to judge dimensions from a picture, but I’d say 160′ long, 170″ outside diameter fuselage, 90″ fan engines. Does “hybrid” fuselage refer to the position of the floor within a circle, or is the fuselage actually wider than it is tall? Will the benefits of an ovoid belly be worth the structural and manufacturing costs.

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    • jim

      you would have to go to a 198in cross section, 767, to get 7 abreast

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      • Jon Ostrower

        198 inches (186-in cabin width) was based on an 18-in wide seat, generous arm rests and a 19-inch aisle. Boeing figured out how to shave 4 inches from the frame and sidewall width for 777X, 787 has an 18-inch wide aisle and 777X has a 17.2-inch seat with slim armrests. Strong signals this fuselage won’t be 198-inches wide.

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        • Checklist

          I agree !

          We must also add that they will shave the belly freight to make a flat fuselage they call “hybrid” and shave off the weight.

          This gives me idea that they can keep the 767’s cross-section with a brand new flat belly for de-risking and getting the business case for the program.

          The competition will be absent with an Airbus A322X concept. There will not be enough lie-flat business seat without a wider cabin. She is will out of the game.

          There is nothing to constrain Boeing to optimize aerodynamics so far as we see with a traditional 6 cockpit-glass because it is better to lose 2-3% on aerodynamics to re-use a design than to make a high cost brand new design. Optimization kills flexibility. It’s a hell if you can not improve it later.

          Make in mind the “old” 737 “section-41” removed later for the 757 program in 1979. Or a new tailcone for 737 Max in 2011. Composite sidewall for the 777-X cabin in 2013 for exemple.

          That’s what I understand because only keeping the 767 “section-41” for the NMA does not make sense to me.

          Thanks Jon !

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      • TCook

        Well, I’m hoping the reason for picking – 6 is a nod to 2-2-2. Versus starting with 100, 200, or 3.
        Also today I see Leeham say 224 seats, I always call the A321 200 seats, so four more rows for the NMA-6 is plus 24 seats.
        But 2-3-2 or 2-2-2, the length of the aircraft in the Boeing rendering against the 788 and 7310 scales out to about 160′ to 165′.

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  • Matthias Karl

    I was curious what the market potential is for that NMA and calculated the potential routes for such a type. It’s between 1,000 and 3,000 on the medium size routes alone, not including shorter, but dense routes where an A321 is too small. Have a look here: https://www.asroutemap.info/nmaroutes.asp

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  • JXCAP

    Help me understand. Airlines want a 240-280 seat aircraft with intermediate range and much lower operating costs. The 787 family will reach a great cost transition at 1400 copies built (where Boeing completes the write-down on development/tooling/testing costs). If the 787-8 had its max fuel loading reduced by 12,000 gallons this leads to ~70,000 lbs. A reduced MTOW leads to lower costs (landing fees). The same gear and engines can have their life limits (cycles) increased due to having to support the lower weights.
    So we have the 787-4 with 5000 nm range, lower fees, lower MX cost (from gear/engine adjustments), lower acquisition due to manufacture volume, and lower op cost from common crews/equip. Why isn’t this an option?
    A 120″ shortened 787-3 gets even better with 2 class 235 seats, but that adds development/test costs. And a 787-5 is a 2-class 300 seat regional monster. Plus the 787 rocks at cargo.
    A 787-5 with a US standard 285 seats can go from HNL/OOG to DFW and replace the 767-300 while a 787-4 with 240 seats can do LIH/KOA to DFW and replace the 757.
    What am I missing?

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    • Tortugamon

      JXCAP,
      I see where you are coming from. A couple thoughts:
      1) the 788 is said to be so unique vs the 789/10 that they Boeing can’t make money on it even at ~$100m a piece. The NMA can’t be priced North of $70m and succeed.

      2) weight: even if you derate the aircraft it is still an 8knm bird with a 3-3-3 Y fuselage with 13k lbs 80klbf engines hanging off an overbuilt wing and gear meant for 560 lbs MTOW missions with double wide LD3s in the belly. That won’t compete with a 2025-era 40klbf engine with light weight components, cutting edge 5th generation carbon wing, 2-3-2 Y, with sing LD2 in the belly. It would eat its lunch.

      tortugamon

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    • Matthias Karl

      Same reason why nobody buys the A330 Regional. The bird is still way too heavy for its target use.

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    • Chickpea

      Are you sure the original costs of R&D, tooling etc will be covered after 1,400 units of B787. What you are referring to is the deferred production cost of c.30bn USD which simply relates to the day to day cost of building the frame.

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  • Andrew

    Without saying too much, the 797 has entered into the realm of “When” and not “if”.

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  • Peter

    Wonder how much lift the flat belly provides which can provide savings on how the wing is designed.

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  • Chris Kjelgaard

    The nose and flight-deck windshield configuration as pictured in the conceptual image is rather reminiscent of both the 757 and 767, which had a common cockpit configuration. The 767 has always been my favorite Boeing aircraft in which to fly, because of its 2-3-2 economy-class seat-row config. I suspect that’s what Boeing might be thinking of for the NMA.

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  • Joel

    Will the 797 have the same performance as the 757 for hot and high airports?

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  • Bobby

    Boeing made a huge mistake in not re-desiging the 757 and 767 to today’s technology….they put all their eggs into the 787 basket….I would really like to know if DL, AA and other airlines would have gone for a re-designed 757/767 instead of the airbus A321’s….the desire for these revamped planes was there but Boeing ignored this and went the 737/787 way….airbus gained large orders for planes that should have gone to Boeing but Boeing didnt listen and the Middle of market planes looks like re-made 767…..just my thoughts

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    • GregS

      Bobby, I totally agree with that assessment, and you could have a nice mid-size family without cannibalizing the rest of the product line. 757-8, taken from the -200ER; 757-9 (from the -300); 767-8 (from the -300ER); and 767-9 (from the -400). Throw some new GTF (or like) engines on, split scimitar winglets and other wing improvement taken from new 787 & 777-8/9 development, and you have some great airplanes!

      On a side note, I wonder if Boeing is regretting making a Franken67 for the USAF, when they had a tried and true product in the 767-300ERF? Great aircraft which obviously the freight companies love, as they are still rolling off the line today. Would have been much simpler development to go this route, and less costly too!

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  • Edwin paulino

    Boeing 797 6x 225 seats is too small add 240 seats or 245 seats. Why not make boeing 797
    5x to carry 225 passengers

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  • David Jay

    Thanks for the update, Jon.

    Your blog has joined my aviation “favorites” list.

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  • Grant Vergo

    I’ve never understood the motivation for a 2-2-2 seating arrangement. The overhead bin space in the 2-3-2 arrangement of the 767 doesn’t really work in a modern world, even with the newer overhead bins. 2-2-2 seems to me that it would be the seating equivalent of 3-3 with less bin space.

    Also, it seems to me this is starting to look more like a 767X than a 797.

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  • Matt

    That concept is missing the chevron nacelles from the 787. Considering they have shown up on the 787, 747-8, 777x, and 737 Max I have a hard time believing the 797 wouldnt adopt them as well.

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  • steve ell

    what’s your best guess on the engine supplier give today’s (6/27) news? thanks

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  • Edwin paulino

    The boeing 797 7x is 4,200 nautical miles ain’t enough
    add 4,500 nautical miles.

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