Earlier this morning, the board of Boeing officially approved the launch of a new engine variant of the Boeing 737.
Boeing says that the 737 MAX 7/8/9 (coinciding with the 737-700/800/900 in terms of size), was launched “based on order commitments for 496 airplanes from five airlines and a strong business case.” Of those 496 order commitments, only 100 have been announced (for American Airlines). Leeham News expects that Southwest Airlines may be responsible for another order, and Copa Airlines indicated interest in the re-engined 737 in its most recent quarterly earnings call.
According to Boeing, the re-engined 737(s) will have “a 7 percent [cost] advantage over the competition.” They also state that the, “airplane’s fuel burn is expected to be 16 percent lower than our competitor’s current offering [A320 classic] and 4 percent lower than their future offering [A320neo].”
However, as Leeham News pointed out, Boeing’s seat-mile cost figures assumed a 12 seat advantage in size for the 737 MAX 8 over the A320neo, a package of performance improvements for the 737 MAX 8 (none for the neo), and a 13% fuel burn advantage for the neo over the A320 classic, versus the 15% gain Airbus is claiming. So these figures must be taken with a grain of salt.
Regardless of those questions however, Boeing’s 737-800W was equal to, or better than (in terms of seat mile costs), the A320 classic. And as such, the 737 MAX 8 should at the very least match the A320neo economically.
The aircraft will be powered by the CFM Leap-1B, but Boeing refrained from releasing fan-size and/or other technical details in its press release. The aircraft is targeted for entry into service in 2017, more than a year after Airbus’ neo is scheduled for EIS (target date; October 2015).
In terms of program leadership:
“Boeing has named Bob Feldmann vice president and general manager of the new engine 737 family. With 35 years of aerospace experience, Feldmann most recently led the Surveillance and Engagement division within Boeing Military Aircraft, a unit of Boeing Defense, Space & Security that includes several commercial derivative programs based on the 737 platform. He has been instrumental in leading the successful development of complex programs such as the EA-18G Growler and the P-8A Poseidon.
Michael Teal has been named vice president, chief project engineer and deputy program manager. Teal’s most recent role was vice president and chief project engineer on the 747-8 program, where he was instrumental in managing the airplane’s configuration and integration, performance, safety, test and certification.”
As of Sunday August 21st, 2011; Airbus had 1245 orders and commitments for A320neo. If Boeing’s 496 commitment figure stands, then it would mean that the re-engined 737 has already garnered close to 40% of the orders that the neo has; and it’s only truly been in the cards for 2-3 months.
Still, there are definitely far more delivery slots open for the new 737 option than the neos. With Airbus all but out of delivery slots from 2017-2019; Boeing now has a chance to garner a lot of orders from carriers who have not yet made a decision (Air France-KLM, IAG, ANA, United, and many more).
It will be interesting to see if the re-engined 737 MAX 8 can make any more inroads amongst Indian carriers. Jet and SpiceJet are both potential customers with their current fleet of 737NGs, but could we perhaps see an order from the erstwhile national carrier?
Edit 1: Air Insight has done an analysis of 737MAX vs. A320neo; looks like 737 MAX 8 will be competitive with the 320neo; no word on MAX 7/9 vs. 319/321neos just yet.
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