Is this the 767 replacement Qantas has been looking for?

Highly-respected aviation journalist Jon Ostrower has published a first image of a Boeing concept design for its proposed New Middle-Market Airplane (NMA).

The image published on Ostrower’s blog shows a concept design that features a Boeing 767-style nose, 787-style wing and main cabin windows and a 737 MAX-style tail cone.

“Highly unlikely to be the final form of the eventual 797, its attributes hint strongly at some of Boeing’s efficiency enablers for its next-generation of medium-range airliners,” Ostrower wrote.

“Elements adapted from existing aircraft are apparent across this early iteration of the NMA design: A 737 MAX-style tail cone, larger 787/777X-sized cabin windows, and a 757/767/777-style windscreen. The door arrangement matches that of Boeing’s last “small twin,” the 767-200, very strongly suggesting a twin-aisle design.”

While details are thin on the ground, Boeing is believed to be studying a two-aircraft NMA family that would carry between 225-275 passengers anywhere from 4,500-5,000nm. It would be powered by new engines in the 50,000lb of thrust class.

Entry into service is projected to occur in the 2024 to 2025 timeframe.

Qantas retired the 767 in December 2014. (Seth Jaworski)

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has publicly expressed his airline’s interest in the NMA for domestic trunk routes, trans-continental services and South-East Asian flying.

“We are actually excited and I think a lot of carriers are about the potential for that aircraft,” Joyce told media at Qantas’s first half results briefing on February 22.

“It’s still a paper aircraft so Boeing have to define the spec of it, the weight of it, the performance and the price of it, but it looks like it’s being pitched as an aircraft that would work very well in the domestic market.

“It is a lighter aircraft than some of the widebody twin-aisles that we have today. It has a range that’s designed to fly transcontinental and maybe into South-East Asia.”

Such an aircraft would in effect be a replacement for Qantas’s much-loved Boeing 767s, filling the gap between the narrowbody Boeing 737-800s and larger widebody Airbus A330-200s and -300s.

Qantas retired its last 767 passenger aircraft in December 2014 (its Qantas Freight division operates a single 767-300F freighter).

A feature article on the Boeing NMA is planned for the April 2018 issue of Australian Aviation.



  1. ian says

    What’s the maximum range of the new A321LR with a decent load ?

    It sounds like airbus might have the jump on boeing in this area.

    Would have thought a narrowbody would be much cheaper to operate than a widebody.

  2. Mac Carter says

    Any idea wether it will be of composite construction similar to the 787 ?
    Is a further scaled down version of the 787 being ruled out for the foreseeable future ?
    Should be great for Perth / East Coast services.

  3. Treb Retsof says

    The 767 was truly the aircraft that was most flexible for the Australian South East routes known as the ‘Golden Triangle’ (SYD-MEL-BNE) as it could carry 252 passengers, palletised bags and cargo, had a 48M wingspan and could operate into so many airfields and not have the parking restrictions that the A330 has.

    There are many more parking bays available to this size aircraft at domestic terminals than the limited number of the 60M wingspan A330 or even the 200mm smaller 787. This is why the Japanese carriers favour the 767 for so many of their services.

    The 76′ could be turned around in a similar time to what carriers are looking for today and that was only through ONE door instead of the current TWO door process. With 2-4-2 seating across the cabin in the economy cabin, no passenger was more than 1 seat from an aisle unlike the narrow-body types like the 737 and A320 where ‘One Third’ of passengers are at least two seats from an aisle making loading and unloading slow.

    After all the original 76′ design was formulated back during the late 70’s fuel crisis era in the US to be efficient and low drag. It only needed a refresh with newer technology FADEC engines, new flight control computers, better wing aerodynamics with winglets and the use of modern materials to be competitive with other new designs.

    The 767 was truly loved by all crew who flew it, both pilots and cabin crew not forgetting of course the engineers who kept her flying.

  4. Alan Griffiths says

    If it turns out to be as cramped as the 767 was for the average size Australian was back then (he’s bigger than many in the world – longer, sometimes wider), and for which Boeing (and now QANTAS) continues the tradition, this boy won’t be in any hurry to ride.

  5. Ian says

    Hmm……I reckon the final version will have a 787 style nose and cockpit window arrangement.

  6. Teddy says

    It’s hard to see how 225-275 pax is the middle of the market – ie the void between current aircraft offerings.

    One would think that the void is really somewhere around B752 and B762 size, which is approx 180-220 pax maximum in a 2-class fit-out, and is fundamentally smaller than the 225-275 pax being investigated.

    Certainly for utility on the thinner routes that require long range (ie the useful domain of B752) then jumping the pax volume up towards B753/B763 and above would seem to miss the point – basically existing aircraft offerings are too small or too big to be useful, and making another aircraft in that larger size bracket (albeit the bottom end) does nothing to solve the void.

    In an Australian context (yes we are only a small player), whilst QF particularly is looking at this to support and sustain its existing hub arrangements (both domestic and international), many regional cities (Hobart, Canberra, Newcastle, Sunshine Coast, Townsville are the typical candidates) will no doubt be hoping that both the manufacturer and the airlines set capacity at something attainable for these regional cities and direct routes into the Asia-Pacific. Currently the focus seems only to be what extra frequencies (and not necessarily even extra routes) it will enable from BNE, MEL, SYD.

    That smaller size would similarly open up a multitude of direct markets across the globe currently un-serviced or under-serviced, particularly across the Atlantic, across the Pacific and through Asia. At 225-275 pax, the smaller markets would again seem to miss out, with the perceived utility limited to relatively thin long-range routes from existing hubs.

    Whilst Boeing is smart and full of clever analysts, one could argue that the airlines have always argued for more capacity not less, and with some frequency that has turned out to be a poor appraisal, and an Achilles heel (at least temporarily) for the manufacturers.

  7. Brad says

    At some point Boeing will have to define this proposal a lot more and then some airlines are going to be very disappointed. At the moment the NMA is proposed to do a whole range of things, some obviously contradictory.

    Some airlines are looking for a smaller medium (regional) range aircraft whilst others are looking for an aircraft that can economically do 1 hour flights upsizing from an A321 or B738. Likewise some (principally Asian carriers) are looking for decent belly freight whilst US carriers are more interested in a 757 replacement so belly freight isn’t so important. All this will inevitably come to a head in wingspan. US airlines won’t want a plane that can’t fit into a gate that currently takes a 757 whilst those craving more capacity and range will need a larger wingspan similar to that of an A330.

  8. Michael Angelico says

    If Boeing are smart, they’ll design the 797 fairly short, but put plenty of doors in and plan for stretches on both sides of the wing. If it cannibalises the top of the 737’s market in the short term that’s not a huge problem, because they’ll finally have a product that’s flexible enough to take on the whole of the A320 family. Today an airline can either go to Boeing and end up with a mix of 737s and 787s, or go to Airbus and have a fleet which they can qualify their pilots on with a single type certification.

    I don’t think they’ll be able to replace the smaller versions of the 737 with a twin aisle, but if they can, that also solves the problem they’ve been wrestling with for the last 20+ years.

  9. Ben says

    @ Treb Retsof I think you’ll find the economy cabin cross section of the 767 was 2-3-2 not 2-4-2. Having said that, I agree with your post. The 767 was a great aircraft and was the true pioneer NMA aircraft that is now being talked about. I always wondered why the 767-400ER was not more successful.

    The A330 as a domestic wide body replacement has always seemed a bit too big. The A330-200 with the shorter fuselage seems OK, but the wingspan is still wider than the 767, meaning there are parking issues. I remember taking several QF domestic flights about 15-20 years ago (SYD-BNE, SYD-PER, SYD-CNS) I even took a 747-400 on a SYD-BNE flight back in 2002. The more recent flights was where they were using the A330 much more widely on the domestic network. These days you’re lucky with QF or VA if you snag the A330 on a SYD-PER or maybe SYD-MEL flight. Even these sectors and most or all others are almost monopolised by the 737.

    Nothing wrong with the 737 or A320, but it is nice to get a wide body or semi wide body on the domestic network. So hopefully this will become more common if the NMA concept is launched,

    @ Teddy Hobart and Canberra are State and National capital cities, not exactly regional. However I understand your point as far as the size of the markets they serve. Having said that, regional/smaller cities could benefit from higher capacity aircraft to some markets. Think MEL-HBA or a high capacity ultra short haul SYD-CBR shuttle. Wide bodies can also serve high growth regional centres. Gold Coast would be a no-brainer. Ansett used the 767 to Hamilton Island back in the day. Townsville, Newcastle, Sunshine Coast and even other tourist destinations such as Ballina/Byron, Coffs Harbour or Port Macquarie could be used seasonally. Not to mention Broome and/or Port Headland in the West. Ayers Rock, Alice Springs… the list could be quite long. Although runway and parking capacity may be an issue in some areas. Then again, this could depend on the aircraft specs.

  10. GARY says

    Still don’t understand why Boeing would want to spend billions on a new clean sheet aircraft to replace the B757 and B767 aircraft out there now, when they need to replace the B737 by the end of the 2020s. Would make more sense to do a NEO on the 767 with GEnz 2b emgines until such time as they replace the B737, B757 and B767 with the B797 series.

  11. Mike says

    @Treb Retsof (Is that you (Bret Foster?) I’m with you in your detailed description of the various advantages of the B767 compared with the larger A330 and with the economy seating arrangements on the B737/A320.
    The only discrepancy is that you described the B767 as having 2-4-2 seating in economy. The B767 in fact had a 2-3-2 economy configuration in Qantas service. I don’t know if eight across seating is even possible in the B767?

  12. Mike says

    I stand self-corrected @Treb Retsof/Bret Foster!
    A quick search of “B767, eight across economy seating”, revealed that a number of UK charter operators (and possibly some others) did in fact squeeze their B767 passengers into a 2-4-2 tourist configuration!
    Guilty parties included Britannia, MyTravel, Air2000 and Excel. The common denominator is that all these carriers flown into the history books!
    The cramped seating was not however adopted as a standard by non-charter airlines…thankfully!

  13. Arkair says

    Qantas 767-300 actually had a unique business and first class layout when first delivered. Business was on left hand side of a dividing wall with first class on right.
    Both Ansett and Australian were very impressed with 757s that operated here during pilots strike.
    Australian were about to order some just before merger with Qantas.
    I think most passengers wouldn’t care if the plane was single or dual aisle! What they care about is the seat, service provided onboard, route flown and most importantly the fare.

  14. Derrick Aguero says

    I am curious is to why Boeing will start an new clean sheet design for the 797, when they could have built the 787-3 or built the 767X as they have done with both the 737X and 777X.

    Just seems to be a waste of time and money for the shareholders, Boeing will be building new 767 as kc-46 for the next 10+ years and the 787 is going from strength to strength. They could build the 76 body out of carbon fibre, new engine options, new wings and larger windows as with the 73 and 77. Or build the killed off 787-3, both options could be rolled out within a few years, as both wouldn’t need much to get started.

  15. Chris says

    I don’t think that this is going to be a completely new airframe at all.
    It sounds to me that Boeing is going to propose something that ‘borrows’ from the 767 as far as fuselage is at least concerned and then whack modern composite wings, elevators, rudder and other ‘bits’ in and on it.
    The commercial sense of this strategy would be that it could be built alongside the USAF KC-35 Pegasus tankers which are also based on the 767 airframe.
    Cost blowouts on the aerial tankers would be assisted with such a plan.
    Am I being too sceptical?
    But let’s be honest, you wouldn’t put anything past Boeing.

  16. random says


    I think you’ll find the 787-3 wasn’t the lower capacity being suggested by the NMA, it was simply a short range variant, akin to the 747SR made specifically for the Japanese market.

  17. Craigy says

    @Ben When the A332 was first introduced, it was used to replace B763 aircraft and had CityFlyer written on the side of the aircraft. AJ has been quoted recently saying that the A330 is too heavy for the short Mel – Syd type route as it was designed for long haul and had to be able to carry the fuel. This means that as a per seat cost, it is more expensive and therefore don’t really gain profit wise despite the higher seat count. What makes the NMA interesting is that it is designed for the short haul to medium haul high capacity markets and therefore will be a light airframe design. The B787 suffers from the same problems as the A330 and what the B783 was meant to address.

    As for Townsville, Newcastle and Hobart and international destinations.

    Townsville for the most part is a defence town with the army at Laverack Barracks and at Garbut. Also RAAF at Garbut. It also is a services town supporting mining in western Queensland unlike Cairns which is an inbound tourist destination for domestic and international passengers. Apart from Magnetic Island, it is not a real tourist destination. Takes too long to get to the reef so even reef tourism is problematic. So finding destinations with sufficient demand is a problem. Qantas tried Townsville direct LA with B747SP in the 80s but withdrew. Then tried Sin -Dar – Tvl – Akl and back once a week. Initially using B742 equipment and then B762. There was insufficient demand to maintain the service. And the latest of course was Jetstar and Bali. Due to the nature of defence, you can’t rely on them to support international services.

    Newcastle has a population of around 500,000 (I think including the Hunter). Selecting international destinations is problematic as you can only use B737 size aircraft due to facilities. 1 the terminal is small and has only small immigration ets facilities. Also the tarmac space is limited and parking a wide body on the tarmac would result in major operational disruption to other flights. There isn’t space to really expand as first and foremost, Newcastle is a RAAF base and therefore non-military facility expansion limited. People suggest Auckland but there aren’t a lot of kiwis in Newcastle so the airline would be relying on domestic generated demand. Jetstar could prob consider a couple of services a week to Singapore and Bali.

    Hobart is an interesting one. QFhad to change to B712 for the majority of services to make Hobart profitable. Is there international demand for tourism in Tasmania? I’m not sure there is with a volume to sustain international options. Could be wrong of course.

  18. Ben says

    @ Craigy I agree with you re: A330-200 or A330-300 for domestic widebody ops. I’ve flown both types domestically in the 2003-2006 timeframe. Destinations like SYD-PER and SYD-CNS. They’re just too big.

    Agree also about the international capability of some regional centres and smaller capital cities. I’m thinking more about the potential for these centres to accommodate larger domestic aircraft when the NMA is launched.

    Hobart is interesting from both an international and domestic perspective. I always look at a ‘build it and they will come’ approach. If HBA had a 2-3 storey terminal with a few aerobridges and a longer runway, it could attract higher density domestic flights and maybe international flights to NZ or Asia. Singapore, Bali or destinations in China come to mind. They are getting a runway extension and I think a full length taxiway. This will help, but I doubt there will be any major new destinations until a completely new higher capacity terminal is built

  19. Arkair says


    Hobart has recently opened its runway extension. Massive number of chinese tourists visiting the state. China Southern are reportedly about to announce direct services! Agree they need to upgrade terminal with aerobridges.
    Air NZ also considering Auckland- Hobart a320.

    Newcastle is quite capable of handling mid size wide bodies. Regularly handles diversions and charter fligjts.

  20. Scott says

    I would imagine any HBA – CHINA flights will hinge completely on outbound frest food freight direct into China 365 days a year. The pax and tourism will be revenue bonuses during busy times

  21. Ants says

    B767 was indeed a much underated airplane. Boeing DOES have a cost effective opportunity to redefine the old 767 in the KC-46 programme, with latest tech and engine developments, albeit with dovetailing with the military project, just as it did with the 367 dash 8, which iterated into thr KC 135 and B707 series of airplanes. So use your head mr Boeing, and get the jump on that Euro consortium!

  22. Tony Pearce says

    This brief for a new aircraft was done by Airbus in the late 1960’s and resulted in the A300 and A310. Is boeing seeing something that really isn’t there?

  23. Craigy says

    @arkair I am curious where do these mid sized wide bodies park at Newcastle. There is very limited space at the terminal.

  24. AlanH says

    Hobart now has a longer runway but not a full length taxiway, so backtracking is the go there. Do wide body international operators really want to do 180s at the end of the runway and backtrack to a single level terminal with no aerobridges?

    As for twin-aisles versus single-aisles, for longish flights, esp international ones and SYD-PER, I think the twin-aisles are less claustrophobic and provide a better flying experience for the pax. Just my humble opinion.

  25. Ben says

    @AlanH agree with you entirely re: HBA. Wide body international operators probably do 180 turns and back tracks to single level terminals with no aerobridges. However they’re more likely to be to destinations in Aftrica or some tropical island.

    Interestingly both HBA and LST have said they don’t want aerobridges as they want people to experience the fresh, crisp and bracing Tasmanian climate and the great scenery from the moment they step off the plane. I love Tassie and I broadly agree with their sentiments, I wonder if they actually believe it themselves, or if they simply don’t want to spend any money on aerobridges.

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