If Boeing Had Taken a Different Path


I received a note from a reader, Joel, asking for my thoughts on an article entitled The Coming Boeing Bailout? in Big by Matt Stoller. I sent him a response, but then I just kept thinking. And it turned into this post about what would have happened if Boeing had chosen a different path. You can start by reading the article which, from a simplistic point of view, isn’t wrong that the financial-focused culture of McDonnell Douglas hurt Boeing after the merger. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, — Boeing had its own problems before the merger– but it’s fascinating to consider what might have been had Boeing chosen a different strategic path. Where would it be today?

McDonnell Douglas

McDonnell Douglas was run into the ground by its leadership team after McDonnell and Douglas themselves merged in 1967.  Put it this way: In the thirty between that merger and when it merged with Boeing, McDonnell Douglas never launched a new commercial airplane.  All it did was both shrink and extend existing airframes to save money. The DC-9 was stretched into the MD-81/82/83/88. Then it was stretched again and re-engined into the MD-90. Then it was shrunk and re-engined again into the MD-95 (now 717). The DC-10 — the last new airplane that the company launched more than 50 years ago — was stretched into the poor-performing MD-11. There were plans released to do something new, but those never made it beyond pretty pictures.  The bean counters got conservative, failed to innovate and ran that company into the ground.  

While mergers may have been encouraged by the government, as suggested in that Big article, McDonnell Douglas was in really bad shape by the 1990s.  It wasn’t likely to survive as a commercial aircraft manufacturer on its own.  So it’s hard to say that the Boeing/McDonnell Douglas merger killed two fine companies.  McDonnell Douglas was killing itself quite capably.

Boeing’s Problems Pre-Date The Merger

For Boeing, it is a somewhat different story. While the introduction of the McDonnell Douglas mindset and culture made things worse, Boeing was already going down that path. For example, Boeing had the (very-troubled) launch of the clean-sheet 787 as it tried to wring costs out by outsourcing around the globe.

Beyond that, consider what Boeing’s big projects are today: the 777X and the 737 MAX, both stretches.  The new midsize airplane (NMA) 757/767 replacement is in progress, but it hasn’t yet been launched. Had Boeing chosen a different path many years ago, it probably wouldn’t need that airplane at all.

Consider the 737 MAX, the NMA, AND the Bombardier C-Series to see how Boeing has really messed things up for itself.

You’ll remember that Boeing’s response to the C-Series — an airplane it did not compete with — was to try to kill it through politics and have massive tariffs implemented. What Boeing should have done is acquired the C-Series outright and touted that as the company’s replacement for the 737-700 and smaller. Instead, Boeing lost the tariff battle and Airbus swooped in, turning the C-Series into the A220, a powerful airplane with no real competition.

Boeing had to settle for its joint venture with Embraer. The problem is that the Embraer E2 is far from a replacement for the 737-700. It’s a much smaller airplane and it lacks the range. Southwest will have to order an airplane smaller than the 737 MAX 8 someday, and the A220 would have been a no-brainer under Boeing’s umbrella. Now, Boeing has to push Southwest to another manufacturer to replace the 737-700 because Boeing has nothing.

The MAX is Not Small Enough at One End and Lacks Range at the Other

Isn’t the MAX a replacement for the 737-700? Not even close. The 737 MAX 7 is dead on arrival. Southwest ordered 30 of them, but it modified the order to only take 7 in the near term. The other 23 have been deferred out several years. That is hardly a vote of confidence considering it has over 500 737-700s that will need replacing eventually. WestJet has the only other significant order for the MAX 7. It has also deferred its initial deliveries and seems more interested in bigger versions.

The MAX is really focused on the MAX 8/9/10 size category. It competes with the A320/321neo airplanes, but it doesn’t have the range capabilities of the neo. Boeing made the fateful decision to rush out the MAX to compete with the neo after Airbus announced it. Airbus put Boeing into a really tough position. If Boeing went ahead and built a clean-sheet airplane, it would have given a several-year lead to Airbus. Instead, it modified the 737 into the MAX, and that has led us to where we are today.

The MAX computer issues will be worked out, and the airplane will be successful, but a new airplane could have been more successful. Even with all the work put into turning the MAX into something great, it can’t do what the neo does. The neo, especially with the new A321XLR version, can comfortably replace not only A320/737 family aircraft but also the 757.

Boeing doesn’t have that luxury.

The MAX 10 has more than double the capacity of the original 737-100. This airplane has been stretched out so much that it just doesn’t seem possible to gain the range and performance of the A321XLR in the same airframe.

The NMA Didn’t Have to Be

Because of that, Boeing now has decided to go and create the NMA, a brand new airplane that’s supposed to replace the 757 and 767. Though it hasn’t been launched, work is being done on the design. This means Boeing will now require operators to have two airplanes (MAX and NMA) to do what the A320neo family can mostly handle on its own. (The A330neo is needed at the top end as a 767 replacement for some carriers.)

It’s easy for me to write this when I don’t have to actually make the decisions. And it’s even easier with hindsight. Yes, if Boeing had gone with a clean-sheet design for a 737 replacement, it would have given Airbus a head start. That being said, it would have set itself up better for the future that might look something like this.

The C-Series could cover up to 150 seats, the 737 replacement could cover from 175 to 225, and then the 787 could take over from there as a 767 replacement (same capacity but pull out range and modify as necessary to gain efficiency to match the A330neo) as well as a 777-200 replacement. Then the 777 can continue the line with the 777-300ER. The 777X? It’s a really big airplane that probably has limited appeal. That’s another one that probably shouldn’t have diverted engineering resources away from more important projects.

It would have been a gamble, but you know how it works… high risk is how you get to high reward. Now Boeing finds itself in a corner with no easy way out. Does it now launch a 737 replacement to cannibalize its MAX? Probably not. It needs to wait until there’s new technology to help it leapfrog the MAX and whatever Airbus has up its sleeve for the future. If only it had taken a different path years ago, it wouldn’t be in this predicament.

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45 comments on “If Boeing Had Taken a Different Path

  1. Very interesting analysis. Stuff like this is why I have been reading this blog for over 10 years. Keep it up!

  2. very good and accurate commentary. Living right next door to the former Douglas plant helps you maintain the perspective that others lack.

    One of the best books on engineering and risk-taking in the commercial aircraft business is “The Sporty Game.” Its principles are still valid.

    Boeing has lost its soul as engineering and innovation company. The 787 is technologically at the front of the industry but Boeing couldn’t cost effectively manage the program so they now play all kinds of games to avoid facing the mistakes they made with the 787 including rehashing old programs.

    Airbus has always waited for Boeing to put its cards on the table and respond w/ products that are just good enough to compete with Boeing. The Chinese, though, are dead- set on world domination and they are poised to use their government’s influence in global affairs to be a far bigger threat than Airbus ever could be. Nobody thought decades ago that the seat of global manufacturing would be in China but it is and they are pushing for more and more high-tech and high value products in their manufacturing portfolio.

    Boeing’s strategies don’t work in a globalized aerospace industry that is still focused on best in class even if Boeing is not.

    1. CF,

      I believe the 787 entirely post-dates the BA/MD merger. The Sonic Cruiser came just before, but was cancelled and replaced with the 7E7 during the tenure of former MD CEO Harry Stonecipher. I’ve heard it claimed that MD was mostly a military manufacturer that tried to build in all the important politicians’ districts and brought that ethos to the 787 with disastrous results. Hadn’t considered that the derivate instead of innovate motive was theirs as well. It’s so sad to see a company that used to be so innovative commodify it’s own engineering. Thanks for the good read.

      1. What Boeing has done seems common to many US companies. For example fast food. They kept cutting back on quality, cleanliness, in order to max profits that they started to lose business to newer companies with better quality employees such as chick Fil A, in n out, jimmy john,shack shack, etc.

        Companies are too obsessed on short term profits rather than long term success. Too many weak CEOs.

      2. Yes, disappointing that the author does not know that the 787 program was launched years after the merger. The disastrous global supply chain was a creature of the post-merger McDonnell beancounters not the pre-merger Boeing engineers

  3. Through the mid-80s, McDonnell Aircraft Company (also known as McAir) was almost entirely military production. Navy contracts were awarded to McAir, not MDC. Douglas, except for the T-45 trainer, was almost entirely commercial. Very separate companies with very different cultures.

  4. “All it did was both shrink and extend existing airframes to save money.”

    Well that sounds familliar

  5. Member of Military-Industrial Complex. Check

    Shaking down states for tax credits. Check.

    Lobbying for Boeing’s Bank, the Export-Import Bank. Check.

    They’ve chosen the easier path, political “entrepreneurship”, rather than engineering and actual entrepreneurship. Our only hope is that some good plaintiff’s attorneys shake it up.

  6. I agree Boeing really screwed the pooch on the MAX, letting Airbus make its decisions for them. I think they should have build a new narrow body with two different wings, one for sub 150 seats and another for variants above that. Sure, Airbus would have had a bit more of a lead but a clean sheet design would have been more efficient.

  7. This is the kind of meat story I enjoy reading. Great hitting the bullet points on the history. But I think you left out part of the 787 story. Yes, they outsourced to save on costs. But it’s probably fair to say that politics played a role there. At least from a marketing angle. In a global economy, saying things like “If you buy X number of Dreamliners, you can have pride of knowing that each one contains X parts/labor content from the people of your little fiefdom”, or something to that effect.

    “Buy American” and Nationalism is/are, for whatever reason seen as xenophobic-and therefore-stigmatized here in the States, it’s a huge plus and major selling point pretty much everywhere else. Can anyone sit there and say that this doesn’t factor at least somewhat into the sales record of that plane?

    Now getting back to the 737, I couldn’t agree with you more on that leaving two gaping hole in their lineup. But I also don’t think it’s fair to lay the blame for that at the feet of the C-Series either.
    The 737, as a short haul plane was finished with the advent of the -700, which came out long before the C-Series/A220 was even a concept. That was too big and too much of a plane for what it was ostensibly to replace. Both the -300 and -500 were rock stars at what they did: small, lightweight, perfect for 100-130 pax doing high frequency/short hops like LAX-SFO, LAS-DEN, ORD-PHL, and so on. It didn’t *need* to go higher, faster, or further, the way the -700 does. Here, Boeing managed to shoot itself in both feet: 737’s were now running transcons, which the 757 and 767 were doing. That killed off those planes. And the -700 was too heavy to do the short stuff. That threw the door wide open for CRJ’s and ERJ’s to take over on the short side and made orphans out of the other two at the high end. The result being that Boeing’s current lineup isn’t really suitable for either. I still can’t figure out why Southwest loves the -700. No one else does. Maybe it’s because they have strayed so far from their original focus of the short hops. I know they still do those, but that’s no longer their bread-and-butter the way it once was. But that’s another topic for another day.

    If the existing -300 and -500 were left with the same external dimensions and weights and updated only with maybe better engines and avionics as the -700 and -600 respectively, the C-Series probably never would’ve been developed in the first place. They should’ve updated the 757 (or come up with something else) back then to fill the role of the -800/757 and they would’ve been a winner.

    But no. They tried to do it on the cheap with too little being asked to do too much, and the result is the quagmire they are in now.

    I know you aren’t big on nostalgia or looking back, but this is one instance where “older” and “the past” really was better. Boeing was the undisputed king of the airliners back then, when they had a comprehensive lineup.

    Boeing can’t keep up with this reactive, incremental, what’s-the-cheapest-way-to-do-this approach forever and expect to remain competitive forever. Sooner or later, they’re gonna have to take their lumps, spend the money, take the time, and do it right.

    Why is “being first” so important anyway? The MD-80, which competed with the -300 had a five year head start. The airlines understood that quality was worth waiting for. The 737 Classics went on to still outsell the Mad Dag by a 4:1 ratio if I remember correctly. Might have been “only” 3:1, I don’t recall or have the exact frame counts handy, but my point should be clear.

    What’s changed in this area since then? Why is first now more important than better?

    1. Going first is often a bad thing in commercial aviation. The 777 came out after the MD-11 and the A340 and killed them both off, because it was a twin. The 707 followed the deHavilland Comet. The original 737 was a reaction to the DC-9 and Caravelle, etc.

    2. SWA deemphasized short haul because of the TSA. Security and all the hassle made it quicker or at least competitive to drive instead of fly.

  8. I used to be passionately anti-Airbus because of the blatant government subsidies back in the day. Now with Boeing doing everything wrong, from wasting time and effort moving HQ to Chicago, to problems with the McD merger, to not upgrading or replacing the 757 and the cluster that was the 787’s early years. And, of course the follies with the 737 which are inexcusable. This is not the company of Bill Allen, Tex Johnston or Joe Sutter. These days, you cannot fault an airline for going to straight to Toulouse.

  9. Boeing made so many missteps over the years which I feel began with the McD to Boeing merger. The company used to be run by engineers but gradually shifted to bean counters. Another huge mistake was Boeing bypassing Alan Mullaly for CEO. Mullaly was a homegrown Boeing engineer for many years and was instrumental with the success of the 777 program. Boeing would not have been in the situation that they are in if Mullaly was CEO especially with all the issues with the 787 delays. Look at the massive turnaround that Ford experienced under Mullaly’s leadership. Instead of Mullaly, Boeing got McNerney who publicly declared that Boeing would not do anymore “moonshot” projects and he would “cower” over his employees. What a wonderful attitude by a CEO to encourage and motivate your workforce. Boeing has had bad CEO and McNerney was perhaps the worst the company has ever had.

  10. One could also make the case that Boeing should have kept producing and improving the MD-90/95 / Boeing 717 (even though that flies in the face of your investment argument to some extent). Those aircraft were designed as 100 – 150 seat aircraft and would have filled in the C-Series / A220 / 737-700 gap nicely. There may not have been a need for the C-Series / A220 if Boeing had kept the 717 around, even if the design is dated. Every company wrestles to find the right balance between cutting costs and investing in its product. You’re seeing that play out in the airline industry where misreading consumer sentiment either way can be very costly. You also see that with companies like Sears, which was the Amazon of its day. As Howard Cosell used to say, “Hindsight is always 20/20.”

    1. Is it time for a 717MAX? The E175 E2 is a failure in the US market, and the larger variants cannot replace the -700.

  11. Very insightful analysis, although I do think that – in some respects – you’re giving Airbus perhaps a wee bit too much credit – a lot of this is luck in guessing the market, after all. For example, the A380 – while a technical triumph – is a dismal commercial failure as Airbus guessed the market wrong on that one, and there are other aspects of other programs (particularly the long range widebodies) that I feel Airbus and Boeing are more evenly matched in.

    But nonetheless I feel you and the other comments are essentially spot-on – Boeing is in real trouble here, and the combination of the A220 and A320 families is a powerful world-beater that should be striking fear in the corridors of Seattle…err, I mean Chicago!

    The tragedies of the 737 MAX losses are awful indeed – nearly 350 people dead because of what are essentially software coding complications that should have been better “Beta tested”, for Pete’s sake! – but it’s likely that even if the 737 MAX were completely safe and had not suffered hull losses these issues we are discussing here would have cropped up for Boeing in any event.

    I feel Boeing’s “original sin” here was back in the 1990s, when (and this may all be a little faulty, as I’m relying purely on my memory here) United (pre-CO merger, mind you) was looking for a big narrowbody order, and (if I recall correctly) was hot-to-trot for some type of “757-100”. But for whatever reason Boeing didn’t want to undertake the 757-100, and United placed a huge order for the A320 instead. I feel, in retrospect, this specific order was as big a deal for Airbus as Eastern ordering the A300 in the 70s, as it solidified the A320 in North America beyond just being something the Checchi ownership group bought for pre-DL merger Northwest (at what was likely a great price). It gave the fly-by-wire A320 real legitimacy in the American market. (And deservedly so – it is a great airplane.)

    I believe the loss of the big United narrowbody order – and specifically the fear that Southwest could eventually also walk to another airframer – pushed Boeing and to decide to update the 737 family (for the “NG” -600, -700, -800 and -900 series) instead of doing anything with a “shrink” of the 757. With the benefit of 100% 20-20 hindsight, further development of the 757 family on both ends of the size spectrum (and not just the -300 stretch) might likely have been a better longer-term investment for Boeing, given the engineering challenges associated with the 737 MAX and its ground clearance/engine mounting/center-of-gravity issues.

    What I’ll never really fully fathom is this: as I understand it, the “NG” 737 family was not a simple re-engine program. Boeing – and I could be off on this – developed two wing and landing gear types – one for the -600 and -700, and another for the -800 and -900. (The Boeing Business Jet “married” the -700 fuselage with the -800 wing/undercarriage, as I understood it.) The flight decks were completely redone relative to the -100 through -500 series as well. Given this level of investment, and given the limitations inherent in the basic fuselage size and ground clearances that they did not alter on the 737, I find it really odd that Boeing didn’t instead just choose to completely re-focus their narrowbody airliner family on the 757 instead. Had a similar level of investment that the 737 NG and 737 MAX families enjoyed been instead placed on the 757, I feel that Boeing would be in a much better position with a more robust range and capacity spectrum than they are in today. (But they still might have needed something in the A220 family range, methinks…) In any event – this is another “alternate history” to ponder…

    Finally, what I also don’t get is this: why the relative neglect of the 757? When it came out onto the market (I still remember those days – people were genuinely excited by the 757 and 767 – two new airframes developed at the same time!), the 757 was touted as the 727’s replacement, and at that point the 727 was the best selling airliner ever. Why did Boeing ever choose to refocus on the 737? Time will tell if this was the smart move…

    1. very good analysis…so what was the end of lockheed? the L-188 was a great plane and so was the L-1011 tristar. My thought is Bombardier makes great snowmobiles, but also great airplanes…and they should have never sold off the twin otter, the dash-8, the Q400 or the CRJ200/700/900/1000 or the cs-100/300. had they kept all of these in house today they would own the 20 seat to 150 market. eventually the a220 will sell like pancakes…but the cs-500 is dead because it is a threat to the a320 just like the 717 was a threat to the 737-700.

      1. The Tristar truly was a marvel of engineering. Some would argue over-engineered (perhaps which is why it failed commercially) but along with the 757, I would argue those are two of the greatest airframes ever produced.

        1. TriStar depended on the Royce RB211 because this engine used 3 spools and so was therefore unusually short. This made it ideal for the S duct of the central engine. Unfortunately Rolls Royce could get it to pass birdstrike tests and lost years in converting to a titanium based fan. The delay sent RR bankrupt, it needed a bailout and the car division is now owned by BMW. The delay also mean Lockheed ended up delaying TriStar and almost suffered the same fate.

    2. > Given this level of investment, and given the limitations inherent in the basic fuselage size and ground clearances that they did not alter on the 737, I find it really odd that Boeing didn’t instead just choose to completely re-focus their narrowbody airliner family on the 757 instead.

      I assume this was because of the need to ensure that the “new” narrowbody shared a common type certificate with the 737, so as to eliminate the need for significant investments in additional pilot training/certification. IIRC, that was one of the main selling points of the Max, after all… Just have them take a very quick and easy course on the changes embedded in the Max, and airline pilots that are already qualified to fly the older models of the 737 can now fly the Max as well.

      As we saw with the crashes of the Max, that concept crashed and burned in Boeing’s face (pardon the bad pun), and future plans for redesigned/upgraded planes to be added to existing type certificates will be scrutinized by regulators and airlines much more closely.

    3. I know the conventional wisdom is that the A380 is a commercial failure. It might well be. However, it was a stunning strategic success.

      Had Airbus not produced the A380, Boeing would have sold 250 hugely profitable extra 747s. That alone would have funded a B737 replacement or NMA. Additionally, with no A380, Boeing would have had Emirates sewn up as a market. What chance of introducing an A350 into the B777 and B747 ecosystem? Far more difficult than selling into airlines already running Airbus heavies which is what the A380 did.

      The A380 ran Boeing’s cash cow out of the sky, depriving Boeing of capital needed to wipe out the A320 with a B737 replacement. It got the Airbus ecosystem into airlines like Singapore and Qantas which were mostly Boeing before the A380.

      While the A380, looked at from a bean counting point of view was unsuccessful, a plane that kills your competitor’s cash cow, ability to fund new models and gets your foot in the door of your competitor’s traditional markets… is that really unsuccessful?

    4. Before Airbus Brought the A320 to market Airlines were expected to use larger aircraft such as the B727 or B757 to do transcontinental flights rather than a B737. The improvements made to the B737 to compete with A320 allowed it to perform most of the B757 missions such as LA to New York. To carry fuel the B757 was a slightly heavier aircraft so was less economical on short routes.

  12. You did not mention the mid-90s snafu when BA lost control of its manufacturing processes, put wrong windings on wrong aircraft, etc. Head of BA commercial air was fired, company gave opening to Airbus, rest is history.

    MDouglas transformed BA from engineering first to $$ first, witness 787 fiasco, etc.

  13. It’s clear Boeing has made a lot of blunders since the merger, including the handling of their narrowbody offerings, but I think too often the pressure from customers is what ultimately forced their hand with the MAX decision. This article reflects on what they were facing:


    That said, I do think one of the problems has been how public Boeing is with what they’re working on. They talked and talked about the NSA plane they were working on, but never seemed ready to pull the trigger. They’ve done the same thing with the NMA. I don’t know if they were daring Airbus to respond or if they just miscalculated how successful the NEO would be. But I think it’s safe to say they will end up like McD if they are not careful.

  14. And don’t forget that useless move to Chicago to really take it’s eye off the ball. To quote Sergeant Schultz – “I see nothing….”

  15. Lots to chew on here, interesting stuff.

    Two nitpicks:

    Minor typo at the start, you missed a “years” after “thirty.”

    The crux of Stoller’s article was that things went down hill for Boeing after the merger; your article has a section, “Boeing’s Problems Pre-Date The Merger,” and they very well could have, but, everything you mention in that section was post-merger.

  16. Many of you have touched on the following important factors as to why companies do what they do.
    1. Consumers drive most markets by demanding the lowest price for everything (the Walmart syndrome) with little regard for quality. Airline’s customers are consumers. Airliner manufacture’s customers are airlines.
    2. Publicly traded companies’ goals are usually driven by investors who demand return on that companies stock (via growth or income), usually in the short term. Many times, this zest to please investors translates into running the company with finance based talent instead of technology based talent.

    These points don’t explain it all but you can see how Boeing’s decisions were affected by the above.

    1. except Airbus and Boeing are in an oligopoly which does not necessarily involve the lowest pricing. With two competitors, you don’t have to compete on price.

      Yes, companies have a responsibility to stockholders but screwing up products is not necessary just to please stockholders – short or long term. Boeing simply was consumed with profits to the exclusion of building solid products. In a long-term, durable equipment manufacturing environment, cheap does not sell. Boeing is supposed to be a world-class manufacturer, not competing w/ the Chinese for the lowest priced gadgets.

      Boeing simply lost its focus and has put its stockholders at greater long term risk because of its short-term focus. There is no justification.

  17. “While the introduction of the McDonnell Douglas mindset and culture made things worse, Boeing was already going down that path. For example, Boeing had the (very-troubled) launch of the clean-sheet 787 …”

    No. The merger occurred in 1997; Boeing didn’t start seriously pitching what was then called the 7E7 (later the 787) to airlines until 2003. The problems with the 787 can be placed squarely on the McDonnell (-Douglas) team. (Douglas itself had a fine engineering tradition, tanked when they bit off more than they could chew with too many derivatives of the DC-8 and DC-9 and were then “rescued” by McDonnell.)

    Boeing also had sent some work overseas in order to curry favor from government-influenced customers, albeit not at the scale as was done with the 787 and certainly not with crown-jewel technology like the wings.

    Great analysis other than that.

  18. The reason that Boeing did the MAX instead of a new airplane was twofold. First, Boeing’s product development strategy in the early 2000s was to finish the 787, then turn to doing a 737 replacement and getting it into service by the mid-2010s. However, the time delays and cost overruns on the 787 conspired to kill any 737 replacement at that time (as did other problems, such as production rate issues). Second, Airbus’ launch of the A320neo pushed Boeing to do something quickly to try and maintain market share. The MAX was thus launched with new engines and other upgraded features.

  19. I remember Boeing was considering an all new narrowbody to respond to the A320NEO. But when talking to the airlines, most of them wanted an updated 737 sooner and cheaper, rather than spend more for an all new plane later. So Boeing produced the 737MAX. Though I agree Boeing rushed the 737MAX development and cut corners for the sake of maintaining marketshare.

    As for the 757, that plane would have a hard time selling against the A321NEO/LR/XLR given the latter’s superior economics. Not sure if a re-engined 757 would fare much better. And a hypothetical 757-100 (as is the case with many airplane shrinks) would probably have horrible economics – similar operating costs as the larger -200 but with fewer seats.

  20. I’m not sure the MAX line will survive much less be a successful aircraft. I am a retired AA flight attendant. A number of people who know that I used to be part of the industry have said to me something in the line of “I wonder what else Boeing hasn’t told the FAA and us” or even “I will never fly a MAX a/c.”

    Can that sort of public perception of the aircraft be overcome with well-managed public relations? We’ll see.

  21. I am not in the airline/airplane business, so my view might be too simplistic… but I’ve always been if the opinion that Airbus designs airplanes for airline passengers. Boeing designs airplanes for airline accountants.

  22. It seems as if your arguing that Boeing should have stepped in and bought the C series program when it was first developed. I think it had to be remembered at that point in time both Boeing and Airbus pursued the same strategy (largely successful) of trying to kill the program before it could get off the ground. Certainly Boeing would have done well to but the C series and but it was their trade case which helped create the conditions that drove the sale to happen. A trade case which essentially eliminated Boeing as a buyer I suspect.

    The other piece of history I feel you missed is the fact that Boeing’s planned counter to the then proposed 320 NEO was a clean sheet new narrow body airliner. That plan died when long term Boeing customer AA rejected the new aircraft in favor of NEO’s. Which forced Boeing’s hand because it was apparent that customers were not prepared to wait the new airframe to be developed when Airbus had the NEO available now.

    Which leads us to some interesting what ifs. What if Boeing had not filed the trade case and instead focused on just buying the C series. Would Bombardier have been willing to sell? Or might they have tried to hang on hoping to ride the Delta order and service launch into more success.

    What if Boeing had rejected the MAX in favor of a new clean sheet airplane? Airbus would almost certainly have been handed an enormous lead in the narrow body market. Might that lead have given them the ability to offer NEOs so cheaply that it undermined Boeing’s newer and better clean sheet airplane? After all one of the challenges of the all new airframe at that point was that it could not offer a quantam leap over and old airframe with new engines.

    Recent developments also raise another question. The NMA is said to be on the back burner until the MAX is back in the air. But supposedly Boeing has outsourced the software fix to cheap labor. Which makes you wonder why the NMA needs to be on the back burner?

    1. Boeing had the option to buy the CSeries program. And was approached before Airbus:

      “Yet when Bombardier was looking for a savior last year, it could have been Boeing instead of Airbus.

      The Canadian government, keen to rescue Bombardier, invited Boeing last summer to discuss some resolution of the trade dispute and a possible CSeries partnership.

      But according to people with knowledge of those talks, Boeing was never really interested and, after polite discussions, walked away.

      The implicit message was anything but polite: See you in court.”


    2. As a 121 Pilot how do u feel about the aircraft’s inability to reach up to 40 K to avoid weather? I avoid the 121 as much as I can on trips. Any hope improvements can be made in the future?

    3. 121 – No, my argument is that instead of trying to get tariffs slapped on Bombardier, Boeing should have stepped in and taken a stake then. That’s when Bombardier needed cash and when it was most vulnerable. Basically, if it had picked up the C-Series right before Airbus did, it would have changed the landscape.

  23. It is even more interesting if you take into account that the A220 addresses partially the same segments the A318 and A319 does. What could have been a “we are not interested, it is not better than our models” became an interesting extension to the current lineup. The overlap could have triggered a more defensive position by the management, and instead was perhaps the start of the line for the A321XLR by refocusing the A320 family. It is difficult to asses what was going on in their minds, but the first step was surely not an easy one. After that it has proven a wise decission.

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Cranky Flier