Trump’s trade war could prevent Boeing’s launch of a 797 at Farnborough Airshow, expert says

Key Points
  • Boeing is tipped to release a new plane that will become the 797 series.
  • A senior aviation executive at Accenture says the uncertainty caused by the trade war could delay the project.
  • Boeing has previously said it wants a new mid-sized airliner in the skies by 2025.
Dennis Muilenburg, chairman and CEO of Boeing. The company says 1 out of every 4 jetliners rolling off its assembly lines is being bought up by Chinese customers.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Boeing’s plan to launch a new type of aircraft which would eventually become the 797 could be delayed by ongoing trade war threats, according to one industry expert.

It has been widely reported that a deadline has now passed for engine makers to provide their initial design for how the new mid-sized plane (NMA) would eventually be powered.

Boeing’s first version is said to be the NMA-6X, a 228-passenger medium-range aircraft with a 5,000 nautical mile range. A second version, the NMA-7X would be larger with 267 seats, but a range of 4,200 nautical miles. Both concepts would evolve to become the Boeing 797.

The single-aisle plane would be pitched as a direct competitor to the likes of Airbus’s A321LR.

Boeing's new 777s will have folding wings

The U.S. plane manufacturer has remained tight lipped over any new aircraft series, leading to speculation that an announcement could be made at the bi-annual Farnborough International Airshow which starts on July 16 in the U.K.

A senior aviation executive at global management consultant, Accenture, told CNBC via telephone that while he previously thought the 797 might be unveiled at Farnborough, it is now less likely because of doubts surrounding global trade.

“I guess a couple of months ago I might have said there was a high probability,” said John Schmidt, global managing director at Accenture’s Defense & Aerospace division.

“But when you throw in tariffs and ask ‘Are they going to stay and how will President Trump or the Chinese respond?’ All you are doing is throwing a lot of uncertainty out there. NMA at Farnborough? I don’t see that personally,” added Schmidt.

Airbus A321 of the Icelandic low-cost carrier WOW air at Keflavik International Airport. 
ullstein bild | ullstein bild | Getty Images

The number of aircraft in the skies will more than double by 2037, according to the latest forecast by Airbus released Friday.

The plane manufacturer said a strong majority of new planes will be smaller and forecast a need for 28,550 narrow-bodied jets. That number is similar to Boeing’s most recent assessment which calculated a need for 29,530 single-aisle aircraft over the next two decades.

Aviation equity analyst at Jefferies, Sandy Morris, told CNBC via telephone that the industry should fill these requirements with investments made over the last few years, rather than looking to announce new planes.

“It has been a long term phase of investment, therefore it should naturally follow that there is a long term phase of harvest,” said Morris.

“If we keep banging on about new aircraft programs, investors will think we are never, ever going to get the return here,” the analyst added.

Morris said while new aircraft demand would remain robust, airlines would likely learn from the mistakes made by Etihad and no longer order planes for delivery in 10 years’ time.

A spokesperson for Boeing was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.