Boeing has outlined the design of its projected new midsize airplane (NMA), but is keeping the details close to its chest as it waits for the expected response from Airbus.

Despite this, the manufacturer has confirmed several new configuration details for the first time including the use of a fifth-generation composite wing, a “hybrid” composite fuselage, next-generation digital architecture and super-efficient, very-high-bypass turbofans. A conceptual graphic and side-view profile also showed a clear melding of 777 and 787 design features.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president and general manager of airplane development Mike Delaney remains coy about the precise meaning of a “hybrid” fuselage, but it is believed to reflect the proposed geometry of the cross section rather than the choice of structural materials. The cross section is therefore expected to combine the width and profile of the upper lobe of a 787- or 777-like design with the lower lobe of a 737-like ovoid fuselage.

Delaney also outlined a notional timetable for the NMA development program, should it be launched in early 2019. Design would occur around 2020, with fabrication in the 2021-22 period and build would be in 2023. Flight tests and certification would take place in 2024, with entry-into-service in 2025. Using multidisciplinary design optimization systems and model-based computing, the company is also analyzing the design, construction and testing of the NMA in advance of any formal go-ahead decision.

“Today we are very early in a program that’s not launched, and we already know what the production system looks like,” says Delaney. “We already know what the assembly sequence looks like, we are already starting to build parts in the computer. Because we are trying to build the first couple of hundred in the computer – that’s the power of the digital thread,” he adds.

The work is key to helping Boeing make fundamental changes in its production process to enable the NMA to be built for lower cost than previous twin-aisle designs. “Right now, the price will be set by the market, but my team is working on figuring out the cost that it is sold at to support that price and our company’s vision of the business case in 2025 as laid out by our leadership,” says Delaney.

Depending on the outcome of the business case study, Boeing is expected to decide next year whether to start offering the aircraft to the market. “I’m very optimistic we are going to close out the business case,” he adds.—Guy Norris