737RE up at Boeing Board today

Update, 930am: The Daily Express of L0ndon (of all places) reported yesterday BCA got the approval Friday for the 737RE and that the announcement is to come today. Thanks to Heidi Wood of Morgan Stanley for this one.

Original Post:

Approval for Authority to Offer the 737 re-engine is expected to come from the Boeing Board of Directors today, according to sources.

Last Friday we published our story reporting this in Commercial Aviation Online in London and, per our arrangement with CAO, the following day on this site.

Bloomberg News published this story later on Friday also confirming ATO was expected.

Official launch of the airplane isn’t expected until fall, likely after the October Board meeting, predicts Credit Suisse.

Full design definition of the 737RE isn’t expected until next month, we are told. While it is widely expected that the CFM LEAP engine will have a 66-inch fan in order to avoid any changes to the landing gear that would complicate the work statement, as of today this isn’t definitively settled. A 68 inch fan is still a possibility, though it’s considered more remote.

According to a piece published earlier by Flightblogger, laminar flow designs in the tail and some added aerodynamic improvements will cut drag and decrease fuel consumption. The 66-inch fan is expected to provide only about 10%-12% gains in fuel economy and Boeing is counting on the other improvements to match the 15% claimed by Airbus (though Boeing only allows Airbus 13% fuel reduction in its analysis).

While Boeing promotes the 737RE as being 8% more cost efficient, including ownership costs, than the A320neo, a fleet planner who has been tracking development closely tells us the Boeing advantage will only be 2%. The 737-800 has 12 more seats than the A320neo, which accounts for some of the advantage.

It remains unclear if the 737RE will receive a 787-style cockpit or retain its current set-up to maintain commonality with the installed fleet. A new cockpit design increases the likelihood that the FAA will require recertification of the aircraft, a move that could add as much as $1bn to the development costs, according to some estimates. Boeing aims to have 90%-95% commonality with the 737NG. The A320neo is advertised as being 95% common with the current fleet.

The expected ATO comes at the “hat trick” (a hockey term) for Boeing. Certification of the 747-8 and 787 were received this month, giving boosts to these programs. First delivery of both aircraft are to come next month.

23 Comments on “737RE up at Boeing Board today

  1. Interesting that Boeing offered the RE to AA before the official ATO 🙂

    “Boeing only allows Airbus 13% fuel reduction in its analysis”
    For which engine would that be?

    “Boeing aims to have 90%-95% commonality with the 737NG. The A320neo is advertised as being 95% common with the current fleet.”
    It is all about hitting the sweet spot between development costs and performance gain. It will be interesting to see what the final spec comparison will look like. How much of an advantage will Airbus gain by offering GTF, which apparently has more room for improvement? Exciting times ahead for both OEMs.

    • Boeing doesn’t specify which Airbus neo engine. Because the LEAP engine on the neo is now considered about the same SFC as the GTF by Airbus, it doesn’t matter. (PW still believes the GTF is 1%-2% better than the redesigned LEAP.)

      • I also read somewhere that PW believe 17% SFC reduction is a realistic target to aim at for the EIS. GTF may well turn out to be a better engine but what market share will it gain remains to be seen.

  2. The new engines on the A-32X-NEO account for about 10%-12% improvement over the current A-32X-CLASSIC. The rest of the advertised 15% improvement is made up by the sharklets and other aerodynamic improvements to the A-32X airframe. That also means the NEO 15% improvement drops to the basic engine 10%-12% improvement next year with the deliveries of the first A-320SHARKLET to NZ. As I understand it, the NZ airplanes will also incoproate all, or most of the other aerodynamic improvements, in addition to the sharklets, the NEO is said to have.

    The other thing is different engines and engine support systems on the same airplane model account for some 10% of the airplane, so the 95% commonality between the A-32X-CLASSIC and the A-32X-NEO is not correct, the best it can be is 90%, which puts in in the same ballpark as the B-737NE.

    If the 66″ fan LEAP engine gives about 10%-12% improved SFC over the current CFM-56-7B engines on the current B-737, and a 68″ fan will fit without having to modify the landing gear, why not go with the 68″ fan LEAP? Neither engine (66″ fan or 68″ fan) has been fully designed or built, yet. GE/CFM is really still at the starting gate for these versions. Or is Boeing looking at the 66″ fan as a starting point and the 68″ fan later?

    I know the Laminar flow vertical tail modification is just beginning flight testing, on a B-787, but I have not seen how much reduction in drag and fuel consumption this mod is expected to achieve. Does any one know?

    • “The other thing is different engines and engine support systems on the same airplane model account for some 10% of the airplane, so the 95% commonality between the A-32X-CLASSIC and the A-32X-NEO is not correct, the best it can be is 90%, which puts in in the same ballpark as the B-737NE.”

      I don’t think that is as valid for Airbus as it is for Boeing.

      Common Engine Interface, toutet as brandnew innovation for Boeings Dreamliner
      has been state of the art for Airbus all the time. Engine handling is mostly a different
      batch of software.

      • I apoligize for not being clear. I was not talking about the software, only about the hardware differences. Me bad…

  3. UKair :
    I also read somewhere that PW believe 17% SFC reduction is a realistic target to aim at for the EIS. GTF may well turn out to be a better engine but what market share will it gain remains to be seen.

    Sometime in the 2010/11 churning of announcing the NEO some airline executive was
    gushing about nearly 20% better sfc ( engine and winglets combined ) for the the GTF
    as presented by Airbus to his company.
    My guess is the GTF is currently graded very conservatively.

    Is the situation for PW such that they better over than under deliver?

    I think so.

    • I tend to agree with you. If the engine proves itself and hits the spec target, Airbus could be holding an ace there.

    • Actually, you may very well be right about the SFC for the GTF being very conservitive. But, I think that is also true for the LEAP.

      • The recent spec pimping for the LEAP to achieve some sales
        has probably eaten that buffer already ( or even gone a bit into “hope the best” territory )

  4. This could be a turning point in the history of aviation. There is a lot at stake here. It’s about the future of the best selling aircraft in the world.

    Will they give the 737 a new lease of life or just maintain it artificially alive?

    If the fleet planner mentioned in the above article is correct about the 2% advantage in cost efficiency, then they will be okay and the 737 will continue to finance the delays and cost overruns in other programs.

    Hopefully the RE will not generate it’s own major delays. But it would actually surprise me if it did. It looks like they want to keep it as simple as possible while maintaining and edge of say 2%. It sounds realistic and pragmatic to me. So far so good.

    Now what about cost overruns? I am sure it will make a few people nervous until we find out what the cost of the RE improvements really is. But even if in the end the cost was higher than projected they will be able to live with that if the 737 maintains it’s enviable position as a best seller.

    The most important factor that will eventually determine the faith of this legendary aircraft is the performance improvements they will be able to extract from the technological choices they will make.

    But the RE is not competing with the NG. It is competing with the NEO. And the same questions about delays, cost overruns and performances should be asked for the Airbus. And only when all the real life numbers are out will the market be able to decide.

    That is where the turning point will be. If Airbus pushes the NEO design to extract the maximum performance from the Leap and GTF engines, along with better aerodynamic efficiencies and further weight savings, it could potentially outclass the 737RE.

    The main issue here is that for budget considerations the self imposed limitations of a 66″ fan could jeopardize Boeing’s chance of maintaining any cost or performance advantage. Airlines can tolerate 2-3 % underperformance. But if the disparity between the two offerings is greater than a certain figure the winner could take an insurmountable lead that would greatly affect the competition.

    I have not lost faith in Boeing. I believe they are quite capable of pulling another ace and stay on top. But Airbus does not suffer from the intrinsic limitations of the old 737. And it appears to me that both the airframe and the engines (Leap/GTF) of the NEO have more potential in them. So far we have had a draw. Boeing or Airbus. B737 or A320. Same difference. This time though one has a chance to prevail.

    But it’s no longer David against Goliath. It has become a battle of Titans. Over a relatively small airplane.

    • IMHO you can see a parallel to the classic Volkswagen Beetle and its NG / RE derivatives the 1302 and 1303 upgrades.
      The beetle was build for ~60years till 2003. For a significant part of its life it was the best selling car model ever ( from overtaking the model T in 1972 to being overtaken by VW’s Golf (Rabbit) in 2002.
      Nonetheless it had moved over to quite a different place in the market by 1975 predominantly being sold in developing economies.

  5. KC135TopBoom :
    I apoligize for not being clear. I was not talking about the software, only about the hardware differences. Me bad…

    There seem to be very little differences planeside in Airbus types to accomodate different
    engine types.

  6. Ah yes, the old VW Beetle, Hitler’s “People’s Car”, the first ones rolled off the line in what (?) 1938. It has been in production, more or less for some 74 years now.

    I doubt the B-737 will match that production time period, nor that Boeing wants to.

    • Expectable that you make the less relevant connection 😉
      And Toyota’s Corolla plays a role in there as well, if going by numbers.

      Anyway;:
      The path of the product placement over time in the markets
      is the more relevant connection to make.

  7. GE/Snecma are really betting the farm here.
    There is a lot of cutting edge technology in Leap, particularly some of the materials.
    Frankly, I believe Boeing should have hedged their bets and allowed for a GTF option just in case.
    Maybe a reduced fan GTF did not look appealing, but if Leap fails to perform then OUCH!

  8. It has often been the view that GE excels at the materials side of things and that is where their edge lies. That and compressor aerodynamics.While I know GE design very good compressors, I do not think they are as far ahead as they like to think they are.

    RR are pretty good too, and the three spool design makes for a very versatile system in the compression end, allowing the IPC to be relativey high-speed and efficient with few stages.

    A two spool design has one knob less to turn, and a very crucial one at that. The LPC must turn very slowly since it is coupled to the fan, so more stages are needed for the same pressure ratio (actually RR and GE split the compressor work quite differently between IPC/LPC and HPC, but you get the point). The same goes for the LPT in the back end.

    Now, PW has decoupled this allowing for the design freedom of the three spool engine without the crampedness of the internal systems and shafts, instead placing a gearbox where there is relatively ample space: in the fwd supporting frame. For the larger engines, the situation is less cramped in the three spool designs and the concept can live up to its full potential. I think we can expect the Trents to be strong in this segment also in the future. For the small engines, RR need to be creative to come back.

    So, GE/Snecma need to be very good aerodynamicists to design their LPC and LPT to keep up, not to mention be ahead.

    How the engines are designed structurally (= wieght in the end) I do not know in this particular case, athough in the larger segment, RR usually comes out with the lightest engines, again thanks to the very versatile three spool design (which not only saves weight by cutting stages, but also from being short and stiff from the start). GE comes out a little lighter than PW in the programs where I have experience; PW like to play it safe and have some conservative design rules that cost weight. With the GTF, they likely have some to spare, but in this business you cannot not afford to be too conservative… the other guy(s) are never far behind.

    GE really need to have something special materials-wise, perhaps for the HPT to be able to cut down on parasitics, because on the aerodynamic and structural sides, they do not have an abvious upper hand, and the fan size and speed aren’t aces and kings…

    • Does that mean the GTF is not scalable when going up in power, like Pratt pretends it is?

  9. Thank you mneja for a terrific summary of the differences between the three turbine architectures.

  10. No, the GTF is very scalable. It has already been scaled from the first engine, the 17,000 lbs PW1217G for the MRJ, to first the 24,000 lbs PW1524G and lastly the 33,000 lbs PW1133G.

    But it is the engine architecture, not a single engine, that is scalable on that level. The three engines listed above do not share many parts (I an unsure of any common part, aside from bolt, nuts, etc). So we can expect more members of the PW1000 family to come to light.

    A single engine can be scalable to some extent, like the GEnx, where the 1B, 72,000 lbs, was scaled down to the 2B, 64,000 lbs. The high pressure system in the two engines is the same, with different LPT, LPC and fan (and associated structurals, bar the FHF).

    In between, we probably can place the Trent-family of engines, which share som parts across adjoining versions, but still are scaled up and down successfully (Trent 600 to Trent 800 for example, from lowest to highest thrust).

    In fact, pretty much any engine is scalable, as long as you appreciate that scaling aerodynamically and structurally give different end results, so a straight linear scale on all engine dimensions is not possible.

  11. Just to be pedantic…

    “The term was first used in 1858 in cricket to describe HH Stephenson’s feat of taking three wickets in three balls. A collection was held for Stephenson, and he was presented with a hat bought with the proceeds.” (from Wikipedia)

  12. aeroturbopower :
    They already scaled it from the MRJ (17klbf) up to the neo (33klbf) with the CSeries in between (24klbf).

    What I had in mind is 50k to 100k lb. I believe P & W said that the GTF concept was good all the way up to 100k.

    What I am interested to find out is if the efficiency of the gear reduction system is diminished in comparison to a three spool configuration as the power goes up (50k+).

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