Here is an expanded version of a story we did for Commercial Aviation Online:
Boeing launched its 737 re-engined airplane Tuesday, calling it the MAX (for “maximum” performance, capability, economics, etc) with the -700/800/900 renamed the -7/8/9 and claimed that each model is better than its corresponding Airbus A320neo competition.
Boeing’s press release and press conference focused on the 737 MAX-8 vs the A320neo, “the heart of the market,” according to Nicole Piasecki, VP of Business Development and Strategic Integration. Boeing claims the 737-8 “will have the lowest operating costs in the single-aisle segment with a 7% advantage over the competition. The airplane’s fuel burn is expected to be 16 percent lower than our competitor’s current offering and 4% lower than their future offering,” the company said.
In a small gaggle of reporters following the conference, Piasecki told CAO that “the 737-9 [have] about 5% better operating economics for its seat-mile economics and its trip costs will be about 6% better. Its operating economics are significantly better.”
Piasecki added, “We are currently working on its range capabilities with customers right now. We have a lot of range in the 737NG and we have to make sure are there missions out there that our customers want more range capability so we can be sure to capture the 757 market.” Boeing and Airbus have claimed their 737-900ER and the A321/321neo are 757 replacements, but none matches the 4,000-4,500 range of the 757.
“We believe the 737-900 is an awesome plane in terms of economics,” Piasecki said. “It’s much lighter than the 757. It doesn’t have all of the range capability that the 757 has, which is part of the reason it’s so efficient and so much more efficient than the A321.”
But the design definition of the entire MAX family has yet to be firmed—it will be several more weeks—and the trade between range and efficiency is still being discussed with customers, said Randy Tinseth, VPO Marketing.
Piasecki said the 737-7 “is a couple of percentage points better in both seat mile and trip costs than the A319neo. As it relates to the Bombardier CSeries, we believe that our airplane will be slightly more efficient. Of course, [the 737-7] has that much more to offer from Boeing and the support system behind it. That also assumes CSeries actually delivers as promised.”
Piasecki said the MAX also has an engine that is optimized for the new 737, leaving unsaid that the LEAP and GTF engines for the NEO family are less than optimal.
The assumptions Boeing uses to reach its economic conclusions are: 500nm stage length, $3.22/gal fuel, 162 seats for the 737-8 vs 150 for the A320neo, lighter weight, lower maintenance costs of between 20%-25%, 15% fuel savings for the A320neo, and the performance improvement package (PIP) incorporate today in the 737NG now being delivered vs. none for the A320 beyond the sharklets and the new engines.
Airbus dismisses the comparisons. Martin Fendt, a spokesman, said, ““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.”
Boeing continues to consider a 66-inch and 68-inch diameter fan for the LEAP-1B that will power the plane. The 66-inch fan is slightly less efficient than the larger one but won’t require any changes to the landing gear. The larger fan is more efficient but may require some changes—Boeing is still trying to figure this one out—which would mean more changes to the airframe and wings and add weight. It will be several weeks before Boeing decides what direction to go.