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Analysts Say UK Airshow Will Be Abuzz With Talk Of Possible Midsize Jet From Boeing

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Ashley Gross
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KPLU
The 787 production line in Everett. Boeing is considering whether to introduce a smaller plane that would fly shorter routes than the 787.

This week, the big focus in aerospace is the Farnborough International Airshow, southwest of London. That’s where Airbus and Boeing normally announce new orders and showcase their aircraft. 

Analysts say that this year, there will likely be a lot of talk about whether Boeing plans to build a new jet.

The possible jet people have been talking about is dubbed the “middle of the market” aircraft, or new mid-market airplane. According to analysts, the plane would be capable of flying transatlantic or inter-Asia routes. But the big question is, will the plane be a single-aisle aircraft or a twin-aisle?

Analyst Richard Aboulafia said it’s a decision Boeing has to consider carefully, but he said Boeing needs a new midsize offering to compete with Airbus models such as the A321neo and the larger A330neo.

"It’s absolutely something they have to address because it’s an area where Airbus is superior and there’s probably going to be a lot of cash generated in this segment over the next couple of decades," Aboulafia said.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said in a statement that the company continues to talk with customers about their needs and study the business case. He said if Boeing moves forward with a new midsize jet, it wouldn’t enter into service until the middle of the next decade.

But the memory of the fight to win the 777x production line is still fresh, and a new plane program raises the question again of whether Boeing will build it in Washington state. 

As for order announcements at the Farnborough airshow, analysts said it's less likely that Boeing and Airbus will announce a flurry of new deals as they have done in previous years. They said airlines have become more cautious after booking lots of orders for new planes for quite a few years. 

“I just think that orders will continue to slow over the next few years," said Scott Hamilton, an aviation industry consultant. "It may reach a point where the new orders don’t match the number of new deliveries.”

So far this year, the number of planes Boeing and Airbus have delivered has exceeded the number of orders they've received, but both companies have large backlogs of planes to build.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said that even though the order cycle fluctuates from year to year, the market is sound over the long term.  

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.