The X-Factor, this time at Boeing

Boeing announced the name of its new 737 re-engined aircraft and like Airbus for the A350 XWB, there is now and X-Factor with Boeing: the 737 MAX-7/8/9.

Precise details on the MAX remain uncertain; Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said engineering is still deciding whether to go for a 66-inch or 68-inch fan diameter for the CFM LEAP-1B. Although Albaugh said it is believe the larger fan still will not require a longer nose gear, with a ripple-effect of changes to the fuselage, he added that there is a contingency determined if a longer gear proves necessary with the larger fan.

Albaugh said final design configuration is still some weeks away.

But Albaugh said that design changes will be minimal to the airplane, confined largely to those associated directly with the new engine. There are minor aerodynamic improvements and there will be some additional fly-by-wire features. There will not be a new cockpit, he said, because customers want commonality with the 737NG cockpit.

Albaugh acknowledged there will be at least some FAA re-certification required in connection with the re-engine but it remains to be seen how much re-certification will be needed.

As noted in our earlier post, Boeing claims its MAX is more efficient than the A320neo. The comparisons cited in the press release and the earlier post matches up the 737 MAX-8 to the A320neo. In a sidebar press conference after the main event, Nicole Piasecki, VP of Business Development and Strategic Integration, said the assumptions in reaching this conclusion are:

  • 500nm;
  • 162 seats for the 737-8, 150 for the A320neo. Airbus reconfigured the NEO to accommodate 153 seats, but Boeing sticks with the current figures because Boeing could add three seats to the 737-8, so the 12 seat advantage for the 737 remains, Piasecki said;
  • 15% fuel savings for the A320neo, including sharklets;
  • Boeing assumes performance improvement programs for the 737 but none for the A320neo; and
  • A 20%-25% maintenance cost advantage for the 737 (Piasecki could not recall precisely which figure was used).

Piasecki said the Boeing advantages for the 737-7 and 737-9 are smaller over the A319neo and A321neo, but that Boeing still has one. She added that Boeing is studying upping the gross weight of the 737-9 to give it closer range to the versatile 757 but no decision has been made.

(When we have a chance to transcribe our taping, we’ll add some detail in a future post.)

Airbus sniffed at Boeing’s claims.

“After more than 1,200 orders and commitments for the A320neo, Boeing’s decision to follow our strategy and re-engine the 737 seems more than overdue,” an Airbus spokesman. Airbus’ neo business case is based on the new technologies available today (engine and aerodynamics). We do not see this strategy changing as a result of our competitors’ long awaited conclusion to also offer a re-engined aircraft.”

“It was inevitable that Boeing would put a new engine on their classic 737,” said John Leahy, COO Customers, in a statement emailed to us. “But Airbus has the same engine, and we also have a modern, fly-by-wire airframe. If you were an airline CEO, which would you choose?”

Finally, the spokesman added, “I see that Boeing still hasn’t fixed the fan size — and therefore any assumptions on their part (and hence any comparisons) at this stage are pretty much null and void.”

Albaugh said the five unidentified airlines placing commitments for 496 airplanes–enough to skip Authority to Offer and go straight to a program launch–come from US and non-US airlines. Only American Airlines has publicly committed to the airplane. Southwest Airlines is widely assumed to be one of the five, but our sense is that they are not quite “there” yet–but are not far behind if they are not.

52 Comments on “The X-Factor, this time at Boeing

  1. Give me a break… MAX is some sort degenerate branding more in line with Pepsi than an aerospace manufacturer. I expected something a little more serious and spartan. It actually seems quite a cheap shot at childish marketing.

    What should be the brand name of the next 737?
    Here are some candidates that just seem to belong to the same league: 737 light(by wire)? 737 zero(fuel emission)? 737 diet(now with composites)? 737 AirMax(with supercool laminar flow wings)? 737 SkinnyLate(as in lower capacity, and even later than the 7late7)?

    • They should have called it the iMax and offer the iPad as standard equipment and refuelling iPods on the long range version 😉

  2. Wow, the OEM:s are really falling over each other trying to best the other companys lame marketing ploys. First Airbus beginning with dash 800 for the A380, then the “Dreamliner” nonsense, then somehow Airbus manages to come up with the even more inane name “XWB” and now i believe Boeing took the cake! 😀 Thankfully Boeing made a desicion. Bit sad we have to wait for NSA though.

  3. “After more than 1,200 orders and commitments for the A320neo, Boeing’s decision to follow our strategy and re-engine the 737 seems more than overdue,” an Airbus spokesman”

    It seems to me Boeing got their stuff together and launched the B-737MAX less than a year after the A-32X-NEO. So, what is Airbus talking about?

      • Boeing is now saying they have 496 orders for the B-737MAX from 5 airlines, including the AA order for 100.

    • We’ll they’ll brag as much as they like, because they openly stated that Boeing had no other reasonable option than to follow with a 737re. In fact, leahy even ridiculed Boeing and suggested (what are they smoking?). The thing is that A has had a laugh at B’s expense, and in the mean time both reinforced their image of industry leaders, and little kids in a playground; a silly 50/50 mix of grand and pathetic.

    • About Boeing being on the pulpit with “nobody wants a 737 reengine” just three weeks ago.

      They were dragged screaming by customers as if it would cost their life. ( probably true 😉

      As it looks the products will continue to move apart the areas of best performance.
      Boeing to the short range field, Airbus to the longer ranges. Boeing towards cheaper initially Airbus towards better longterm investment.

      The MAX website currently appears completely bloodless walloping in ballooning catchwords.

      • “Boeing towards cheaper initially Airbus towards better longterm investment.”

        I’m not sure why you perceive this will be the case for these aircraft. The opposite has historically been true for the A32X vs. 737NG (just check lease rates and residual value analysis by any of the lending firms). Part of it is due to supply (Airbus did not slow production when demand dropped after 9/11 and Boeing did), but other factors may account for some of the residual value differences as well. Do you see this changing in the future?

  4. Has Boeing finally reached the maximum potential and use of the 737 backbone?

  5. MAX… Interesting how much they paid an advertising agency for that. At least Airbus got their money’s worth 🙂

    • Aw well… Airbus got the almighty NEO!! Such a “geeky-cool” name for a dully reengined 80’s airframe.
      A&B, although clever in maximising their return over capex, will bore us to death in the narrow body market for years to come. Yawn.
      Thank god that pw will be adding some jalapenos to the otherwise bland NEO.

    • Yeah, NEO took a lot of thought. Lets just say the A-320 now has a ‘new engine option’, and call it NEO? That makes it sound like the new engine is the only improvement, and we know that is not true, Airbus is adding winglets and other aerodynamic improvements that add to the efficency.

      Seems like Airbus got an advertising company that has no imagination.

      At least MAX says there is more to the new airplane than just new engines.

      • Ohhh yes, MAX is the best, all hail MAX!

        “That makes it sound like the new engine is the only improvement”
        Err yeah, actually it is. Hence the advertisment of more than 95% commonality.

        “Seems like Airbus got an advertising company that has no imagination.”

        “At least MAX says there is more to the new airplane than just new engines”
        Yes, it’s got a new tailcone and chevrons.

      • NEO was chosen because, other than simply meaning “new engine option”, it also sounds like the word neo that is often used as a prefix (as in neo-liberal). It is derived from the greek word “neos”, which means young, fresh, new or recent.

    • I am surprised by the number of negative reactions generated by the word MAX as chosen by Boeing to designate it’s latest attempt at keeping the 737 relevant.

      My initial reaction when I saw it was very positive. I thought it sounded bold. There was energy in the word, which I thought compensated for the apparent lethargy and confusion of the Boeing upper management towards the decision to go RE, NE or NAS.

      But I will concede that the MAX designation lacks class and might not be proper after all for a company like Boeing.

      • But I will concede that the MAX designation lacks class and might not be proper after all for a company like Boeing.

        It widens the gap between projection and reality further.
        Lipstick on a pig. A cheap perfume, ..

  6. It (MAX) may also have things like weight reduction, lemainar flow tail, etc. But, at this point none of us know what the MAX will and will not include. That is other than it will not have upgraded avionics in the cockpit.

    • “weight reduction”
      Yeah, we’ll see about that.

      “at this point none of us know what the MAX will and will not include”
      It could have extra wide fuselage, then we could call it IMAX.

      Why not call it Bob for Better Operating Baseline? 🙂

  7. Trying to slip in quickly before we use up all the ether, forget the refreshing tasty Pepsi conation the facts are it’s sadly late, undefined & on what appears to be a catch up mission that EADS has now time to build in & likely address, one may ask is there any way forward after using Max….

    Sales certainly, primarily to those most receptive to the brand & delivery dates & hang the consequences. Does it address the NEO, it’s early but the figures we have calculated don’t make good reading & even poorer mathmatics.

    Fairly we have to acknowledge that today we do not have a complete technical view of the Max… but then we question does Boeing? The constraints we see within the NG fuselage without some critical fuselage surgery make the Max on todays claimed performance something of a fantasy, & thats after even further rounding off edges & material enhancements.

  8. Boeing now has an advantage in that, with a 1000+ order book plus a backlog for the standard model, you probably can’t buy a NEO earlier than 2021 at this stage. Boeing has a smaller backlog for the NG, and likely has more capacity to ramp up quicker than Airbus.

    • The NEO backlog is filled up until 2018/19 not 2021 unless Airbus have secretly scored another 500+ order than no one else knows about. Boeing saying the EIS of the MAX is in 2017 and that they already have about 500 orders, if they don’t advance the EIS, then there really isn’t much time advantage.

    • Airbus silently seems to have activated a third FAL in XFW
      with the first frame having been finished recently.

      TLS seems politics limited at the moment. Tianjin is on continuous production increase.

      IMHO Airbus has a well planned and executed expansion going.
      Again IMHO no comparison to Boeings union entrenched setup that grows
      and retracts peudopods in various direction on a a regular basis.

      • It is the 4th FAL in Hamburg: there are three now in Building 14 and one in Building 9. Makes four FALs in Hamburg alone plus one in China (the copy of the FAL in Building 9) and one in Toulouse. That’s six in total. 😉

  9. KC135TopBoom :
    Boeing is now saying they have 496 orders for the B-737MAX from 5 airlines, including the AA order for 100.

    Boeing only has “commitments”, i.e. not a enforceable contract. Airbus has signed over 1200 orders, and has many more “commitments” as well.

  10. Maybe Boeing used the term Max more to indicate that changes being made to the 737 are at the Max limit, and if they do anymore things will be headed to the min side of the curve. This is it. As for orders. Boeing can get to 1200 just as quickl as Airbus got to that point. Notice that the Airbus order party has slowed. I like the idea that they got the 747 and 787 certified within a week of announcing a new program. I would expect that the next announcement on the 777 to come when the -8I is certified or when the -9 is rolled out. One other thought, do you think they are going to use the extra time to get the program delivered on time, or should we expect 2018?

    • I am not worried about the execution of this new program. I believe it will be on time and perhaps on budget as well. It’s not a complicated project and the modifications are not extensive. Nowhere near what the NSA would have been. And besides, I think they should have learned their lessons by now.

      What I am not so sure of is if they will deliver on their promises. Will the MAX be on par with the NEO? If I had to choose between A and B, I would put my bet on A.

  11. I think Boeing will introduce the MAX earlier than the 2017 announced. Maybe even 2014 if the demand is there. 2.5 years to first flight + 6 months testing. The critical path will be the engine and its optimization.

    Wichita will be a good place to start the MAX – very near Spirit, less susceptible to force majeure, spreads Boeing’s assets. Ultimately, Renton will take the slack as NG production stands down.

    And 797 by 2020 starting at 140 passengers.

    • Dream on…LEAP-1B will not be ready before 2017 and who would spend the money ($10bn.+) to have another aircraft entering service 3 years later that cannot be better by more than maybe 5% in COC?

    • 2014?! How do you propose they get new engines by that time?! Do you believe GE will drop all of its other customers priorities in order to exclusively develope and engine for Boeing?

  12. aeroturbopower :
    Dream on…LEAP-1B will not be ready before 2017 and who would spend the money ($10bn.+) to have another aircraft entering service 3 years later that cannot be better by more than maybe 5% in COC?

    And 797 by 2020 starting at 140 passengers

    No good Boeing offering in this area. And Airbus for that matter. Only the Bombardier CSeries and maybe soon a new Embraer.

  13. One would have thought after the Dreamliner/Nightmareliner naming/execution fiasco, Boeing would have learned not to offer up a name with MAX potential for oh so many negative names. This would be especially critical if there are any delays (MAX Delay, MAX Wait) or if it fails to perform as Boeing claims (MAX Disappointment, MAX Hype) or if the GTF actually does significantly exceed, as is speculated, its advertised performance estimates (MAX Failure, MAX Bust).
    All of this could lead to MAX Disillusion and, should some of these airlines really be betting the farm on MAX, and it does not meet the MAX Hype from Boeing, then there could be MAX Chapter 11.

    Of course, we will probably have a MAX Countdown to MAX EIS (MAX -3, MAX-2, MAX-1, MAX….MAX+1, MAX+2, …….).

    Perhaps this is also the precursor to a name change for the grand old company, something rhyming with the old jokes, but really taking a new turn……MAX-Boeing.

    But wait, they can go for the nostalgia phase and dig up the old MAX Headroom videos for an advertising blitz.

    Really, the possibilities are endless.

  14. Aero Ninja :
    2014?! How do you propose they get new engines by that time?! Do you believe GE will drop all of its other customers priorities in order to exclusively develope and engine for Boeing?

    As I have said “The critical path will be the engine and its optimization”. GE and Boeing have a very good relationship with engine exclusivities in the 747-8, 777, and of course soon again the 737MAX. I think that matters a lot, specially if the orders are there for 2014 delivery.

    • GE has recently sold quite a lot of LEAP engines ( with the help of GECAS ) to Airbus customers for delivery from 2015 on. With the promised hike in performance they will
      be quite busy with getting there. I don’t think they will have all that much time to chat up
      with good old ( and always late) fellow Boeing.

    • It is not about the orders for 2014, it is the engine OEM capability to deliver and they cannot. I bet you Airbus may also have the orders for 2014, as their customers would want to have those planes as quickly as possible but it isn’t going to happen.

  15. Okay, now for a bit of dissection here. None of it is really new, but maybe somebody here can assuage these doubts.

    Boieng had been continuously claiming, right up until they started selling them to AA, that their customers were not interested in a re-engine option. Some might say that this was a brilliant distraction ploy on their part, in order to let Airbus rack up over 1,000 orders before pulling the rug out from underneath their feet in some grand, strategic, miraculous move.
    I don’t think so.

    Boeing has continuously claimed, no matter what, that the 737 family would be almost as good as (when incorporating PIPs), or better than the A320 NEO family (almost) equivalents (if they introduced a new engine). The interesting thing, which was commented on by Mr. Leahy, is that Boeing never said which engine would provide all of these great advantages.

    One would however assume, seeing as they were contemplating (albeit totally unwillingly) going so far as redesigning the landing gear in order to achieve this. Now that they are going with a significantly reduced engine size, one would assume that said performance would be reduced to a noticeable degree. But that doesn’t seem to stop Boeing! No sir. Even with a smaller engine than originally considered, our aircraft will still beat the pants off of our competitors products.

    Please!!! Most of us did not fall off the turnip truck yesterday. I did not buy the 787 first flight scenario back in 2007. I did not buy the 787 first flight scenario in the great Paris Air Show announcemnt scam!

    I really am not buying the perfomance numbers are ours to manipulate at will tactic either.

    The question is, are the airlines?

    I am reminded of an emperor wearing a fascinating new set of robes!!!
    Are the airlines seeing these robes as well? Or are they taking a much harder look at the situation? I would trust and hope it is the latter.

    Does Boeing have a “firm” order for re engined 737s? What sort of guarantees are/will be written into the contract?

    How many of these “commitments” will lead to “firm” sales?

    By the way, I have previously written that Boeing is not in deep as it appears and that it would get its fair share of orders. I still do believe those will come. I just ownder how many and from whom.

  16. Well, Airbus would know down to the last decimal point what the Leap engine can offer, so my disquiet is that Boeing keep making what could be spurious claims about how much better it is than a 32Xneo.
    The aerodynamic improvements claimed, on face value appear a little ambitious.
    Expect retaliation from GTF via Airbus which could give GE some indigestion.
    IMO I believe Boeing would have been well advised to keep the door open for PW and the GTF.

  17. If Boeing had the GTF whose advantage is in the large fan in the meantime, for the MAX it will have to do serious wing and/or landing gear mods. With the LEAP the approach is more on the hot section optimization with less on the fan side. Thus more amenable with the lower 737 wing clearance.

    Of course the next step with the GTF are new technologies on the hot section that in my opinion will better the LEAP in the next iterations of both engines. The GTF has a conceptually better approach that will lead to a more efficient engine if operationalized.

    That’s why my ideal configuration for the 797 is the Antonov An-148.

  18. cannot help wondering, why this max/boeing bashing ? after all it is just a name like xwb; on its merits, boeing has taken its share of the beating -from the market , customers (AA) and bloggers for its indecision on the nsa/ reengine options.
    Now that they have decided by default on a reengine, we should look at the new offering on its merits. After all it is a duopoly still, and B will get its share of 45/50% atleast for the max8/9 versions -the max 7 version is not that efficient esp with the new planes coming in.
    this site needs some moderation on the comments to focus on issues.

  19. MAX isn’t such a bad name from a marketing standpoint, e.g.
    – It suggests a clear departure form previous versions.
    – It’s a unique name, in 10 yrs a “MAX” will be clear even without “Boeing 737”
    – Max is a name itself, which makes it personal
    – MAX can be easily used in promotion slogans.
    – “A’ in a name is seen as attractive, “X” as modern

    • “A” in a name is seen as attractive.

      Is that why they sell so many Airbus? 😉

  20. “In fact, leahy even ridiculed Boeing and suggested (what are they smoking?).”

    Oh yeah, we can take to the bank as anything John Leahy says is true………..NOT!

  21. From the flightglobal article, “Albaugh said that while American will be one of the launch 737 MAX customers, the chances of another airline taking delivery of the re-engined narrowbody before American gets its first in 2018 is “very very high”.”

    I think he has caught a bit of Mcnernyitis!! AA has already said they won’t want to be the first to get MAX. Based on that, the options that nobody gets one or somebody else does indeed get one first!


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