When it comes to the New Mid-market Airplane (NMA), Air Lease executive chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy says that Boeing could end up building two new aircraft: one for range and another for optimal economics.

“The NMA programme is a huge undertaking,” says Udvar-Hazy, often credited with redirecting Airbus’s original plans for the A350. He was speaking at the JP Morgan aviation, transportation and industrials conference today.

“It will involve new ways of producing airplanes. Boeing knows it has a lot of work to do. With the scars they have from the 787 programme – cost overruns, delays, problems with subcontractors, partners – they are taking a thoughtful approach.”

While some airlines are keen on range, as noted by moderator Jamie Baker, a senior research analyst at JP Morgan, others are focused on the lowest cost per seat kilometer.

The widebody NMA would seat 200-270 passengers with a range of 4,000-5,000nm (7,400-9,300km), aiming directly at the heart of the so-called middle-of-the-market between Boeing’s largest 737 Max and smallest 787.

“Some of the Asian airlines are less interested in range and more interested in a higher capacity version, delivering the most optimal economic performance,” Udvar-Hazy says. “Ultimately, I think it’s driving towards two different models. Boeing will have to address which comes first.”

This is not the first time it has been suggested that the NMA will be larger than just a single aircraft programme.

“It’s a two-aircraft deal,” Kevin Michaels, managing director at consultancy AeroDynamic Advisory said of the NMA on 12 February at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance. “You work out this new business model on the 797, and you take this to the new single-aisle later on.”

Yesterday, Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian confirmed the carrier’s interest in Boeing’s NMA. “Boeing hasn’t decided if it’s going to launch that aircraft – we hope they will,” Bastian told investors at the JP Morgan conference on 5 March.

Boeing had planned to make a decision on the NMA this year but recently postponed that to 2020, in a move that took many in the industry by surprise. The airframer maintains that, if it launches the new aircraft, the type would debut in 2025.