Boeing is increasingly optimistic about gradually making a mid-market plane to fill gaps in its lineup

Boeing voiced more optimism on Tuesday about going ahead with a new aircraft to fill a gap in its product line, but said the time frame for producing such a plane remained years away.

Boeing voiced more optimism on Tuesday about going ahead with a new aircraft to fill a gap in its product line, but said the time frame for producing such a plane remained years away. "I would say we're a little bit more optimistic today than we have been" about the "middle of the market" plane, Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said at a briefing on Boeing's market outlook in Brussels, ahead of Boeing's results report on Wednesday.

But Tinseth said other projects will come first: bringing its 737 MAX single-aisle aircraft into service next year, adding a longer Dreamliner, the 787-10, in 2018 and developing the 777X, due in 2020. "So whatever we're going to do here, it will come after we get all those other things done," Tinseth said.

Boeing is under growing pressure to produce the middle of the market plane, which would fill a gap between its largest 737 MAX model and the smallest 787. Earlier this month, the head of Qatar Airways took the opportunity of an order announcement to further press Boeing to build such a plane. Asked in a Reuters interview when he wanted to hear more about the plane, Al Baker said: "Yesterday!"

Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in the same interview that Boeing continues to evaluate the idea and talk with customers. In addition to building the jets already on the drawing boards, Boeing's first order of business in the mid-market segment is to protect its flank from European rival Airbus, which has gobbled up orders in that space.

Airbus' A321neo is larger than Boeing's competing 737, and Boeing said it is studying a stretched version, dubbed the MAX 10, that would be easier to make than an all-new middle of the market plane. But the 737 MAX 10 is not seen coming to market until after the smallest version comes out in 2019.

Boeing could develop both a 737 MAX 10 and a new middle of the market plane, Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said at an investor conference last month. But no decisions have been made.

"We could potentially do both," he said. Boeing also could compete with the planes it has already, he added. Analysts are looking for Boeing to report profit of $2.62 per share when it posts third-quarter results on Wednesday, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Reuters

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