Boeing Co. is looking to Apple Inc.’s tablet and phone upgrades as it contemplates a new jetliner that could fly transcontinental U.S. routes or across the Atlantic.
Apple’s culture of continuous innovation, not gambling on “moonshot” breakthroughs, will guide Boeing’s work on new aircraft, Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney said today at an investor conference in Seattle. The latest plane on the drawing boards would borrow from Boeing’s investment in redesigning the narrow-body 737 and twin-aisle 787-8 Dreamliner, he said.
Boeing is shifting away from focusing on “a singular technology launch” such as the 707, the plane that first flew in 1954 and helped usher in the jet era, Chief Operating Officer Dennis Muilenburg said. “That’s the big change here.”
Muilenberg drew parallels between Apple, the smartphone maker known for sharing a breakthrough in one area across its product lines, and Boeing’s experience with the 777X. That plane will be an update on a model that debuted commercially in 1995, instead of an all-new aircraft like the 787 with its years of delays and teething pains.
Engineers at Chicago-based Boeing already have a full plate. Besides creating the Max version of the 737 with new engines and the 777X, the planemaker is working on two stretched versions of the Dreamliner.
A new Boeing jet won’t appear soon, McNerney said, because the company doesn’t see an immediate need for a model targeted to flights of about 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 kilometers) or more. Airbus Group NV is considering whether to focus on that market niche by adding new engines to its wide-body A330.
Tailoring a plane for the so-called mid-range market would plug a gap left when production ended in 2005 on the single-aisle 757.
While the Max 9 is intended to fill most of the missions operated by the 757, there are still some routes that the smaller plane can’t serve. The 787-8 is Boeing’s next step up in size as demand wanes for the 767 jet, which was designed in tandem with the 757.
McNerney mentioned the exploration of the new jet in response to questions. Jets already in the works at Boeing will start arriving as soon as mid-year, for the 787-9 Dreamliner, and stretch out to about 2020, for the 777X model.