Boeing claims 737MAX better than each NEO

Here is a very clever photo shop of the Boeing MAX colors.

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.

74 Comments on “Boeing claims 737MAX better than each NEO

  1. In another news break by 2020… “After the first two years of life of the MAX series, the operational data shows that X, grossly underestimated/overstated their projected improvements and therefore their competitiveness with their rival series”.

    Your call…

  2. B-Treck : Where no bold sales(wo)man has gone before 😉

    Great care has been taken to produce an “even” playing field.
    Now for the suckers to line up and pay up ;-?

  3. Are the 737-9/321NEO comparisons also based on a 500 nm trip? Very convincing, competing for the 757 replacement market…

  4. Let’s see… It was the 737RE it’s now the 737MAX. Perhaps the best nickname would be the “Re-Max.”
    They could borrow some nice red, white and blue marketing materials from the real estate company.

  5. How come GTF and LEAP are considered to be compromise solutions for the A320?

    Between that and how Boeing can make all sorts of performance claims before deciding on an engine size, I am thoroughly confused.

    • A long time ago, CFM told me the LEAP should be designed and optimized for a new, clean sheet airplane for best performance and that hanging the engine on an existing airplane is a compromise. This was at a time when the C919 and CFM first announced their mating and we were writing a story about the prospect of doing a 737RE or A320RE. CFM, at that time, tried to dismiss the idea and made the statement above.

      The GTF was, of course, designed for the clean-sheet CSeries and subsequently the MS-21. Initially when Airbus tested the GTF demonstrator on the A340-600, we suggested that this was a precursor toward an A320RE, which Airbus at the time also dismissed firmly and as fantasy. (How times change.) Our view is that putting a new engine on an old airplane is a compromise solution; new engines deserve new airplanes, and this was the position of CFM.

      Further, the A320neo with the LEAP-1B has a 78 inch fan and downsizing the MAX fan to 66, 68 or even 71 inches is a compromise–on its face.

      The question here with Boeing saying the LEAP-1B (the C919 has the LEAP-1A) is “optimized” for the MAX is what is being done to optimize the -1B to an old airplane using a smaller fan? When the final configuration is determined, we can’t wait to talk with CFM to ask this question.

      • Interesting comment from CFM considering the fact that their first customer was the DOD (KC-135 re-engining). 😉

        As for the A320, it was essentially born to be re-engined at one point in the future by a 757 sized engine (fan-diameter, not engine weight) having a much higher BPR than the engines that were available when the program was launched. Not so with the 737 which was born with a significantly lower ground clearance.

        Also, if CFM is of the opinion that putting a state-of-the art engine on a 2nd generation A32X as a compromise, It would be interesting to know what they, or at least the GE part of CFM, views the 747-8 and its “compromised” engine. The 747-8I is a long-haul aircraft, and since fuel efficiency gains in this class of aircraft tend to be larger than for short-haul aircraft, it is not surprising that long-haul aircraft are quicker to adopt fuel saving technologies, as the share of fuel in overall weight increases with (design) range. However, since the 747-8I is based on a 40 year old design, why did GE bother hanging the highly “compromised” GenX on the 747-8 and why didn’t they ask Boeing to develop an all new 747-sized airframe? 😉

      • If we consider the 737 to be a special case because it is sitting so low to the ground and requires a considerably smaller fan diameter then what would be considered optimal, what difference does it make wether the airframe is new or old?

        What about other existing aircraft were this restriction does not apply?

        How is it that an engine can be optimized for a new aircraft but not so for an old airframe? What is the difference in terms of efficiency? 3%, 5%, 10%?

        Is it a question of aerodynamic, weight balance, engine configuration?

        The question is for the engine experts out there.

  6. Observer, here’s a link to a 2005 analysis of 757 replacement options. It’s interesting to note that while the current A321 beats the 737-900ER on a 1000 nm trip cost /CASM basis, Boeing claims the 737-“MAX”-9, with a “mini-putt” engine, will better the A321NEO not only in trip costs by 6 percent on sector lengths of 500 nm, but in trip-cost/seat by 5 percent; the latter claim being especially noteworthy considering the fact that the 737-9 has fewer seats.

    http://www.aircraft-commerce.com/sample_articles/sample_articles/fleet_planning_2_sample.pdf

    (see table page 29 and below)

    Sector length: 1000nm
    Flight time: 152-160 minutes
    2005 fuel price set at $1.60 per USG

    Aircraft Type….757-200…….A321-200….A320……A319…..737-900ER….737-800…..737-700

    MTOW (lbs)———255,000——205,000—–169,800–166,450—187,700—–174,200—-154,500

    Seats——————-190————180———-150——–124——-177———–160———128

    Fuel burn-USG——2,805———-2,200——–1,915——1,791—–2,350——–2,100——-1,700

    Fuel cost-$———–4,488———3,520———3,064——2,866—–3,760——- 3,360——-2,720

    Fuel cost/ASM——-2.41———–1.90———-2.04——-2.31——-2.12———2.10———2.13

    Maint. cost $/FH—-1,140———-652———–637——–617——-662———–632———-602

    Maint. cost-$——–2,887———1,652———1,614—–1,573—–1,677———1,601——-1,534

    Annual flightcrew
    employm. cost-$—175,000——165,000—-165,000–165,000—-165,000—–165,000—–165,000

    Flight crew
    hours/year———–650————650———-650——650———650———-650———-650

    Flightcrew cost-$—-965———–910———-910——-910———910———-910———-910

    Flight attendants——-8————–7————-6———-4————7————-6————-4

    Flight attendant annual
    employm. cost-$—44,400——–44,400——44,400–44,400—–44,400——-44,400——-44,400

    Crews/aircraft—— 4.3————4.3———–4.3——-4.3———-4.3————4.3———-4.3

    Flight attendant
    cost-$—————-1,455———1,273——-1,091—-732———1,273———1,091——–732

    Landing &
    navigation cost-$—1,129———973———-856——852———-922———–868———-823

    Catering cost-$—–1,520——–1,440——–1,200—-992———1,416———1,280——-1,024

    Aircraft Type…757-200…….A321-200….A320……A319…..737-900ER….737-800…..737-700

    Total cash DOC-$–10,923——– 8,327——-7,534—-6,938——8,541——–7,829——–6,725

    Cash DOC/seat-$—- 57———— 46———–50——–56———-48————49————53

    Lease rate-$——-350,000——-390,000—-350,000–310,000—385,000——350,000—-320,000

    Trip lease cost-$—4,000———–4,457—–4,000—–3,539——-4,400———4,000——-3,654

    Total trip cost-$—-14,923———12,784—–11,534—10,477—–12,941——–11,829—–10,379

    Trip cost/seat-$——-79————-71———–77——-84———–73————-74———–81

    Unit cost-CASM—-7.85———–7.10———-7.69—–8.44——–7.31————7.39——–8.11

    • There are a number of glaring problems with this Air Commerce analysis:

      1. – Air Commerce only gives the A321 3 more seats than the 737-900ER. This parrots Boeing’s marketing numbers, but not reality. In the real world, the A321 typically seats 9 to 12 more passengers and everyone in the business acknowledges this advantage of the A320 (especially in an article discussing 757-200 replacement) except Boeing, and apparently Air Commerce. Why does AC short-change the A321?

      2. – Air commerce puts 4 more seats in the 737-700 than the A319. Not an advantage Boeing would claim, nor a disadvantage Airbus would concede, so where does this artificial advantage to the 737-700 come from?

      3. – Air Commerce quotes lower maintenance cost and lower block fuel for the A321 versus the 737-900ER, despite the A321’s 10,000 lb higher empty weight, smaller wing, and higher installed thrust on the same engine core. Not even Airbus claims that level of performance, because they know nobody would believe it. Why does AC short-change the 737-900ER?

      Simply believing the numbers because they were printed in a magazine is not a great idea. Most people are bad at assessing airplane performance, and I would put journalists at the top of the list. Here’s another great example for you. We could assume from the article above that AC has concluded the A320 family has enough of a maintenance cost advantage over the 737NG that it overcomes the weight, and installed thrust differences. Now check out this AC article: http://www.aircraft-commerce.com/sample_articles/sample_articles/maintenance_engineering_2_sample.pdf It comes to a polar opposite conclusion on 737NG maintenance burden (at least for scheduled maintenance) than the one you quoted, stating:

      “The three programmes collectively demonstrate that the 737NG has lower base maintenance requirements than the A320 family. The A320 utilises at least 10,000MH more
      and has higher associated material costs than the 737NG in its first base check. Moreover, the A320 has a shorter cycle interval.”

      Leaning too heavily on such conflicted and poorly thought trough analysis will not serve us well. Our best option is to think these things through for ourselves and realize there are very few unbiased and/or qualified opinions out there for us to put any stock in.

      Cheers!

      CM

  7. @observer Depends on what kind of routes you send your 757 on doesn’t it?

    @Aero Ninja Optimized fan size for the ground clearance of the 737? Just market speak.

    Great to see the battle heat up, the coming twelve months will be most interesting!

  8. “As it relates to the Bombardier CSeries, we believe that our airplane will be slightly more efficient.”
    I still believe the CSeries will have the edge. Based on the differences of: fly by wire, use of composites, optimally sized fan, and frontal area and drag, unless that is all marketing hype. A several year lead into service should help prove the numbers. The CSeries has the potential to disable the 319neo and MAX 7, just like the E190 shut down the case for the 717.

  9. I believe the B-737MAX will still have to maintain a ground clearence under the engines of 17″, which is the average height of the TWELs and RWELs. So, for Boeing to decide on a 66″ or 68″ fan size, they will have to design backwards from the engine nacelles. I think they will settle on the 68″ fan.

    • Hi KC, a few weeks ago i was on a 737/9 to stanstead and noticed paint missing on the winglet on the turbine and to my SHOCK horror when we landed the captain applyed the reverse thust the winglett scraped the leading edge flap so mcboeing might be in bother with a bigger fan & been closer to the wing to clear the ground as seen in boeing’s wind tunnel.

  10. 500nm is actually the mean range when you look at the current single aisle fleet.
    The A320 will have better values when the range is increased.

    However, I think the constant use of “per seat” values with a deliberately low seat count for the A320 doesn’t convince. True is, the B737-800 has on average more seats and can seat 9 more than the A320 in max density.

    With rising fuel cost the question will probably not only be the small difference in fuel consumption, but primarily the availability of aircraft (slot positions). Getting a sizable amount of aircraft before the decade is out is probably most important for operators. A complete fleet switch is unlikely given the small difference.

    • No one can predict what the fuel price will be on the long term. Even on the short term it is difficult to make accurate predictions. When an airline is making money on fuel hedging it is often because they were just plain lucky. Not because they outsmarted those they were betting against.

      But if ever the price of fuel was to suddenly go up and stay there permanently, the impact on the aerospace industry would be dramatic. The airlines would be scrambling for more fuel efficient aircraft.

      The present fuel prices are still quite low and we have been crying wolf so many times in the past that the main actors have decided to concentrate on their balance sheet and not worry too much about the distant future. A recent example is the Delta decision to not complete it’s aircraft fleet renewal.

      But it’s a dangerous game when you play your aircraft replacement strategy the same way you hedge for fuel. If you make the wrong decision about fuel prices it will affect your balance sheet for a year or two. But if you don’t replace your gaz guzzlers when the opportunity arises you might be stuck in first gear for a long time if the political or economical situation changes unfavourably.

  11. If 17″ is the average height of the TWELS and RWELS, doesn’t that imply that some are higher than 17” and some are lower.

    Doesn’t that mean that there has to be some acceptable clearance levels based on not average height but the exceptional heights that average 17″. Also, is there any bounce to wings that create a range of clearence?

    I just do not follow the logic that leads to the selection of 68″ fan.

    • If they have not made-up their mind yet between 66″ or 68″ we must presume there is a problem with the 68″. Possibly an economically or technically insurmountable problem.

    • Yes, at airports that traditionaly get a lot of snow, the TWELs can be up to 36″ tall, and the RWELs to 24″. These airports usually have waviers for aircraft operating that have low clearances, like the B-737 or some turboprop driven commuter aircraft. They accept the fact that there is a high possibility of an aircraft breaking one off at the frangable break point (the lights are still teathered by the wiring so it does not become FOD). But the point of the requirement is to reduce as much as possible, or eliminate any damage to the aircraft. The frangable fitting on the bottom of these lights is suppose to break off in as little as 7 lbs and no more than about 12 lbs of side force.

      Other airports have short TWELs and RWELs. At DFW we had 12″ and 14″ lights. You will see that alot at airports in the southern or southwestern US, and other countries that have very little to no snow fall.

      Next time you get on an airfield, look at one, the frangable fitting is usually made from plastic and the metal conduit the lamp sits on is held in the plastic piece by a set screw.

      But 99.999% of the time, the engines of the B-737MAX will never come near the TWELs or RWELs, as long as the pilot stays on the taxiway or runway CL.

      Airfield signs have different frangable requirements because they are more subject to wind and jet blast, they are usually on the outer edge of the safety area and unless the airplane leaves the taxiway or runway, no parts of the airplane should hit them.

      • How interesting. 99.99% of the time is pretty safe odds , it seems, especially if the breakaway is so sensitive. Have never heard any discussion of this except as a restraint on the size of the engine. Perhaps a .01% is too high for safety standards.

        I originally misread your piece and thought you made the assumption that a 68″ would satisfy all clearance issues. The real question is whether the costs of redesign are worth the investment in addition to the clearance issues you were introducing

    • TWELS and RWELS are 14″ high. It’s an ICAO standard (Annex 14, Vol. 1, para. 5.3.16), and it’s used everywhere in the world. Many light manufacturers will deliver custom heights for unique applications, but the standard lights are all 14″ high, and I would not expect there is very much variability, as the height is an industry standard. I can’t see 17″ engine clearance being an issue for the lights. I believe the real challenge with low inlets is the propensity for FOD ingestion; all engines create a small vorticity between the inlet and the ground. The shorter that distance, the greater the strength of the vorticity. If Boeing has found a way to achieve a 17″ height with a 66″ or 68″ fan, I think they’ve done well. The 737NG has 18″ with a 61″ fan.

  12. CJ Lindholm :
    @observer Depends on what kind of routes you send your 757 on doesn’t it?
    @Aero Ninja Optimized fan size for the ground clearance of the 737? Just market speak.
    Great to see the battle heat up, the coming twelve months will be most interesting!

    There’s no battle hitting up based on the numbers mentioned in public. Both sides can manipulate numbers to suit them as much as they want, but they can’t fool the Airlines.

    • Of course, its not that long ago Airbus managed to claim the A345 was the most efficient aeroplane in its class in a pr. The battle I’m reffering to is of course the order battle. Lets see if there is a clear winner in a year. My guess is that there will be no clear winner and that the duopoly will be preserved. But then again I thought Boeing should’ve waited for a bit more before taking the plunge. Airbus really took them for a spin this year!

      • CJ Lindholm :
        Of course, its not that long ago Airbus managed to claim the A345 was the most efficient aeroplane in its class in a pr. The battle I’m reffering to is of course the order battle. Lets see if there is a clear winner in a year. My guess is that there will be no clear winner and that the duopoly will be preserved. But then again I thought Boeing should’ve waited for a bit more before taking the plunge. Airbus really took them for a spin this year!

        It all depends on what you imply when you say an airplane is “efficient”.

        From my understanding, it’s the fluel burn, and only this that makes an airplane efficient.

        And also from what I understand, the A345/6 weren’t so bad in that matter. What really killed them is the maintenance costs of the 2 additionnal engines. Not necessarly the fuel burn.

  13. We’ll have to ask AA..

    Other airlines didn’t / won’t / can’t wait for prove either.

    They create different network scenarios and simulate them with different fleet compositions, including all know costs and estimate others.

      • “Panelized option attested early on”
        ( last paragraph )

        Very interesting indeed.

        OT: I always get a bad feeling when writers expound on “intelligent design”. brrr.

  14. CJ Lindholm :
    Of course, its not that long ago Airbus managed to claim the A345 was the most efficient aeroplane in its class in a pr. The battle I’m reffering to is of course the order battle. Lets see if there is a clear winner in a year. My guess is that there will be no clear winner and that the duopoly will be preserved. But then again I thought Boeing should’ve waited for a bit more before taking the plunge. Airbus really took them for a spin this year!

    Link? or Source? I’m not saying you’re making things up or anything, but I haven’t heard such claims since the 77W/77L launched and started outselling the A340. I’d like to see how they put the spin on numbers to arrive at that conclusion.

      • The A340-500 is the member of Airbus’ A330/A340 Family that flies furthest, and is the most modern aircraft in the 250-375-seater segment flying today. The A340-500, operates the world’s longest-range commercial air routes, the longest linking Singapore non-stop with New York, an 18-hour flight, and as such offers passengers the latest in comfort and in-flight services. With four engines, the A340 offers unrivalled operational economics and flexibility on ultra-long-haul non-stop routes over remote oceans and terrains such as mountain ranges and the Polar Regions.

        Already reads a bit differently, doesn’t it ;-?
        i.e. the qualification “With four engines” gives this quite a
        a different angle.

      • The date on that PR from Airbus was 1 Dec. 2008. Seems to me the 300 seat B-777-200LR was much more econmical, longer range, and more cargo at that time, compared to the A-340-500. So is this ‘false advertising’, or just several ‘clerical errors’ in one PR?

  15. Thansk for the answer Scott. You also pre-empted my follow on question about the LEAP-1B for the 737-Max.

    So Boeing will have a special variant of the LEAP developed for their purposes whereas Airbus is buying the same variant that COMAC is getting for the C-919.

    And the C-919 is slated for EIS in 2014.

    CAs far as the Boeing wish for a MAX EIS of 2014 goes, while GE may be willing to jump through hoops for Boeing, I wonder if the SNECMA portion of the partnership would be so willing to alienate its customer base in order to bring Boeing up in the priority list.

    Verrrry, verrrrry interesting.

  16. I can imagine that the study on the 68″ fan diameter is a critical one for Boeing. If they decide to go ahead with it and all of a sudden discover that they do indeed need to revise the landing gear, that would not be a good thing at all.

    I wonder how many surprises (or in newspeak, “unknown unknowns”) are out there for Boeing & Airbus, and for Comac and Bombardier for that matter.

  17. Splitting the NB is a Boeing goal & they’ll work hard to realize that goal.

    Looking at the current situation & the announced MAX, it seems an uphill battle for Boeing.

    Airbus is sold most available slots this decade, that will help.

  18. Putting all the figures together it looks like the 737 and A320 families have economics that are very similar for the bulk of missions flown , ie 500 to 1000 miles. Airlines won’t switch between NEO/MAX models to get better operating economics.

    At the 757 replacement end of things, however, the A321 has a significant fuel burn advantage: possibly as much as 10%. I think this might inspire airlines to buy a subfleet specifically for longer missions. That’s because the introduction of winglets (3.5%) and relatively larger fans (about 3%) will have a bigger effect on long trips than short ones and because the unre-engined A321 was more efficient on long journeys anyway (about 5%).

    Against that, of course, Airbus lacks an effective competitor to the 787-8 as a replacement for 757s, 767s and A330-200s. It’s in their interest to get airlines to trade down to single aisles for regional routes, leaving the 787-8 in its niche for thin long distance routes.

  19. FF, I think there is a gap developing anyway.

    Not only the 757, but also 767-200 & 300, A300 and A310 as well as Tu154 leave a segment open (200-300 seats 1-2 class high density, short/medium flights).

    The 787-8 and A330 (let alone A350) are way too big, heavy, capable and expensive to do those missions. As e.g. Boeing found out promoting the 787-3 & QF operating the A330 domestically.

    Airbus pushed back A321 EIS 2 yrs recently, IMO without a clear reason (EIS A320 NEO stayed the same). I suspect they are beefing up payload-range. Making the basic airframe capable of Atlantic flights and a further A322 stretch for shorter (~ transcon) flights (a longer, bigger wing somehow). To eat into the emerging gap from below.

    DL, US, China and leisure airlines are pushing Airbus.

    W’ll see.

  20. As written earlier, another stretch of the A321 would surely hit some hard stops.
    First, rotation – especially in engine failure – is too restricted.
    Most important: the wing is too small.

    When you go to design a new wing, then why not start from the scratch and make it a small twin that fits between the single aisles (220 Pax max, but more realistic ~200) and the twin aisles. The B787-3 reference layout has 296 seats (two class, 32inch in economy 8abreast). When using a more realistic 30-31inch all-economy, 9-abreast, you easily have 330-350 seats. Way too much.

    Airlines that need this capacity on short routes can “abuse” a long range aircraft.

    A capacity of 220-280 people (the latter all-economy 30-31inch) is probably the better window. Such design must beat the A321CL in fuel burn with 220 PAX.

  21. a380 :Hi KC, a few weeks ago i was on a 737/9 to stanstead and noticed paint missing on the winglet on the turbine and to my SHOCK horror when we landed the captain applyed the reverse thust the winglett scraped the leading edge flap so mcboeing might be in bother with a bigger fan & been closer to the wing to clear the ground as seen in boeing’s wind tunnel.

    Are you implying that individual B-737-900 was built with that defect? I doubt that very much. Every Boeing or Airbus airplane, when delivered, is in as perfect a condition as possible. That nacell fence and leading edge flap/slat would have been repaired. That airplane, most likely, should not have been flown, or at least have that thrust reverser locked out. The potential of loosing the leading edge flap/slat seems to be very high, and if the fence should snap off, a high FOD potential for that airplane, or the one behind it.

    That issue is not a manufactuering defect, but a maintenance problem, and someone needs to find out why the thrust reverser, or the flap/slat was out of aleinment. It seems to me something is bent, but I could not say what that is. This is clearly an issue that airline, not Boeing needed to address.

  22. Aero Ninja :
    Thansk for the answer Scott. You also pre-empted my follow on question about the LEAP-1B for the 737-Max.
    So Boeing will have a special variant of the LEAP developed for their purposes whereas Airbus is buying the same variant that COMAC is getting for the C-919.

    C-919 will have Leap X1C with 18 blades 75 inch fan, plus or minus an inch, according to CFM Leap program director Ron Klapproth

    A320neo will have Leap-X1A with 78 inch fan.

    So, Comac and Airbus could also claim to have optimized engines.

    • I think Scott is referring to optimization within the core, not the fan dia.

      We have a good example of this from history: The CFM56-5B and CFM56-7 have very similar cores – a core optimized for the A320, on which the CFM56-5B first appeared. The fans of the -5B and -7 engines are certainly optimized for their specific applications (The -7 fan is 6.3″ smaller in dia, but is a totally different design, with fewer blades and much wider cords). However, the core of the CFM56-7 is not particularly optimized for the 737NG application, as it is fundamentally the same as the -5B engine developed for the A320.

      What Boeing did with the CFM56 15 years ago is similar to what Airbus is doing with the LEAP engine today. Airbus is taking the LEAP-1A engine from CFMI with minimal changes in the core relative to the engines which will appear on the C919. The fan, however, will be optimized for the A320, resulting in a 78″ diameter and undoubtedly blade shapes tailored for the Airbus application. Airbus probably looses very little in terms of TSFC by taking the Leap core as-is and just optimizing the fan. In addition, they reduce NEO program risk by essentially taking an off-the-shelf core from CFMI.

      Why Scott calls the LEAP-1B optimized is based on rumors is that CFMI has agreed to optimize the LEAP core specifically for the 737 MAX application. The result will be an incrementally more efficient engine solution for Boeing (over putting the LEAP-1A on the MAX), but at greater program risk, as it will require a bigger engine development program and a bigger certification effort from CFMI before they can deliver an engine to Boeing.

  23. In the past CFMI said 47% of sfc improvement of the Leap over the CFM56 was because of the higher bypass ratio. Assuming the core is the same, sfc difference calculation should be pretty straightforward. No number magic here.

  24. Thx CM. 1. Do we know CFMI is doing a new core for the MAX, or is this just a rumor? It sounds like the MAX would get needed efficiency from both the new core and the reduced weight and drag from the fan which will be smaller than the one for the corresponding engine for the neo.

    2. Do you know how B and CFMI are sharing the increased risk of doing a new core?

    3. If A later got CFMI to modify the core for the neo, what advantage if any might that give the neo over he MAX during their 15 year production runs.

    Richard Aboulafia has an AW editorial saying B’s re-engining decision is correct for all the reasons that have been blogged about for months, particularly that the main efficiency driver into the next decade will be engines and the new teck in the NSA would not earn back the $6B higher cost. If CM is right about the LEAP X core for the MAX, then B seems finally to be accepting this.

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_generic.jsp?channel=comm&id=news/AWSTp58_082211.xmlhttp://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_generic.jsp?channel=comm&id=news/AWSTp58_082211.xml

    So, I wonder, why did B stick with the NSA for so long, even after what Aboulafia calls A’s hugely successful “shock and awe” neo sales campaign? Why did B keep making the non-case for the NSA right up to the precipice of A’s sweeping the AA order? Why did B put themselves in a position of having to make a panicked and embarrassing about-face, even to the point of moving so quickly that they did not even tell West Jet, one of their best 737 customers, in advance?. Perhaps it was because under Albaugh B engineers have more sway and they wanted to build a new plane so badly that they were impervious to Aboulafia’s point that new tech must pay for itself. Perhaps B’s strategy of using the the 737 PIP as a bridge to the NSA in 2019-20 was in fact a very good one for B so they ignored the rumblings that the mket felt otherwise. Maybe the people running the 737RE/NSA program wanted to prove that they do a well-managed, on time NSA project.

    No matter what the cause, B’s inability to recognize the obvious, that the NSA was not the right course, raises real doubts about the ability of top B management to make rational decisions in the future on such vital matters as how do they get the 787 to 10/mo and what do they do with the 777X?

    • “Why did B keep making the non-case for the NSA right up to the precipice of A’s sweeping the AA order? Why did B put themselves in a position of having to make a panicked and embarrassing about-face, even to the point of moving so quickly that they did not even tell West Jet, one of their best 737 customers, in advance?. Perhaps it was because under Albaugh B engineers have more sway and they wanted to build a new plane so badly that they were impervious to Aboulafia’s point that new tech must pay for itself.”

      Whey…. You must be the ultimate Boeing insider ever!!! Panicked decision? Are you kidding? Do you think that decisions involving billions of dollars and well up in the future will just be taken in a split second like that without some study? Boeing did not want to do a re-engine, that is clear to every one, but they also said (for a long time too) that they had done some studies and if it needed would offer the 737 with new engine, although, it wasn’t the way the wanted to go. But panic? Boy, that is funny!

    • I don’t have all the answers, so I’ll share opinions instead. Here is what I believe to be true regarding your questions:

      1. Everyone I have talked to, including sources within Boeing and CFMI have confirmed the LEAP-1B core will be optimized for the MAX. I have not seen this confirmed officially by CFMI or Boeing, but I believe it to be the case.

      2. I was told the leverage used by Boeing to get CFMI to invest further in the LEAP was the past, and continued exclusivity of CFM engines on the 737. I’m guessing that’s a very powerful incentive for CFMI, because I’ve also heard P&W wanted badly for Boeing to offer a PurePower engine selection on the MAX. You can bet CFMI was willing to do whatever it took to protect what has been a gold mine for them.

      3. Without knowing the details of the proposed optimization of the LEAP for the MAX, my guess is it will result in a small improvement in block fuel, but nothing earth shattering (perhaps 1%-2% over using the LEAP-1A on the MAX). The bigger advantages will likely be lower weight and noise. Since the 737NG typically requires around 2000lbs lower thrust per engine vs the A320, the optimized core will presumably be smaller than the LEAP-1A. In the case of the 737-900 ER and A321 (the sizing point for both aircraft’s engines), Boeing only offers up to 27K thrust, where the A321 offers 33K. That’s a big difference in the required core size. It also means a 66″ or 68″ fan on the MAX is much less of a compromise than Airbus would like us to believe.

      As for why Boeing stuck with the NSA as long as they did, it was because we wanted to buy the airplane, as did several other operators where I know Boeing shared details of the NSA. Not only would there have been a market for the NSA, but the performance we were shown would have killed the A320NEO faster than the A330 killed the 767; the performance delta was enormous. In the end, the production technology required for the NSA could not support the rate required to replace today’s 737 production plus a large share of A320 deliveries – the NSA was hamstrung and ultimately killed by production constraints. I believe the AA deal was a catalyst for a decision which Boeing was going to have to make anyway. It was just not the way the time or the place they wanted to make the decision.

      In the end, I think Boeing made the right decision, even if they could have made the NSA work. The workstatement for the MAX will be comparatively small for Boeing, as will the outlay of company treasure. This means the 787-10 and 777X (also critical programs for Boeing to pursue) will get more resources sooner than they ever could have with an NSA development program being launched.

      CM

  25. CM :
    I think Scott is referring to optimization within the core, not the fan dia.
    Airbus probably looses very little in terms of TSFC by taking the Leap core as-is and just optimizing the fan. In addition, they reduce NEO program risk by essentially taking an off-the-shelf core from CFMI.

    If I remember correctly, CFM increased fan on Leap-X1A from 76 to 78 inches to match PW numbers. Up to that point they were lagging few percent in TSFC. Not only that fan size and blades are optimized, but also the core. Some optimizing of the core will be specific to this application (X1A) and will be put to test on eCore2.

    • CM. Many thanks for the reply and the clarity. I don’t suppose you can share more details about the NSA specifications?

  26. CM Based on your explanation, I retract my criticisms of B’s process in getting to the MAX decision, and am feeling real sadness that B did not build the NSA, altho I agree that the MAX decision was right. From what you say, there must have been a lot more to the NSA than just newer engines to give it the delta you describe. So, if I may, who is right, Aboulafia, Leahy and others who say that the tech needed for a new plane will not be available until the end of the 2020s, or Boeing who must have had lots of new stuff to get that delta, and why? And, will the MAX see Boeing through until 2030 or will they have to do something like the NSA mid-decade?

  27. For those of us who are airplane nuts, we all prefer the new aircraft. We all like to see the envelope expanded and technology pushed. Unfortunately, business is a reality which has frequently stood in the way of what the airplane nuts would have done! Still, I think we’ll see the NSA before too long. The production constraints which Boeing needs to solve are not insurmountable, and I’m sure they will continue to push technology for a solution over the coming years. This is especially true since solving the production rate challenge would create a clear competitive advantage for Boeing in the single aisle market (assuming Airbus, Comac & others have not already found an answer).

    NSA would provide a 12%-15% DOC reduction over today’s airplanes, compared to the 5%-6% (my estimate) that the MAX & NEO will provide. 12%-15% means more value to operators, but it also means the OEM who achieves it will be able to charge a premium for that aircraft. If just one OEM has that kind of an advantage in the marketplace, the economic balance of power which exists today between Boeing and Airbus would rapidly become very lopsided. Boeing had this opportunity with the 787, but squandered it as they were bit by the very technologies which dangled the carrot. NSA with all its promise, could also have proven very difficulty to execute; that risk becomes a double-edged sword – everything hinges on which way the sword falls; in one direction it slays your opposition. if it falls the other direction, it just may neuter the guy wielding the sword!

    • The production constraints which Boeing needs to solve are not insurmountable

      Using 787 production methodologies is a non-starter for any game-changing type of NSA. 787 cfrp wound full barrel sections are too heavy, too cumbersome and expensive to make, takes too much time to cure etc.

      Also, making significantly lighter fuselage structures will require, among other things, doing away with some, if not all of the fuselage cut-outs of the current tube and wing configuration. Explaining why the current fuselage configurations are quite “heavy” is nicely done in this paper:

      http://www.dlr.de/fa/Portaldata/17/Resources/dokumente/institut/srw_08.pdf

      Essentialy, the only thing the 787 brings to the table vis a vie “the NSA”, is how not to do it. This is, in fact, quite similar to the Space Shuttle experience in which the most valuable lesson learned has been how you shouldn’t design and operate a next generation reusable space transportation system (i.e. no usage of SRBs; no usage of foam shedding external tanks; in fact, preferably no usage of external tanks at all; no thermal protection system with little, or no impact resistance; no usage of main engines operating at 104/109 percent of rated thrust etc, etc).

      Due to, among other things, the time and capital wasted on the 787, usage of dead-end technolgies on the 787 etc, Boeing was really in no position to launch a game-changing NSA at this time, despite what any fancy Boeing power point may, or may not have shown/claimed. Instead of the MAX, Boeing could have launched a NSA very similar to a C-series on steroids, and that’s about it. With that option, a DOC reduction of 12-15 percent would just have been wishful thinking. In all likelihood, the management at Boeing has known this all along, in addition to the very likely scenario that if Boeing had launched their C-series type of NSA now, they would have run blind strategically a decade, or decade and a half hence, when Airbus will be in a position to launch an all new narrowbody using, among other things, very long fuselage panels where all of the fuselage frames are co-cured and integrated without fasteners (i.e difficult, or outright impossible to do with ancient “barrel-technology”). Additionally, a C-series on steroids type of NSA would not displace the neo in the market place: Far from it.

  28. Jacobin777 :
    So you are saying its going to be a 9:1 ratio?

    Microsoft remaining domain is consumer pcs.
    Most everything else ( phones, appliances, .. is linux ( servers,
    routers, SOHO stuff, android ) or bsd based ( apple, iphone, ..)
    another market bifurcation actually.

  29. August 31, 2011 at 7:50 pm | #30 Reply |
    These comments were the last one on Aug. 31 and I am repeating
    them here, in the hope that some of you will read them and
    give me your comments, thankyou. Rudy

    Quote That is just about the best news I have seen coming from
    Boeing for a long long time!
    So, let’s stop the nitpicking about how much better aech
    737MAX is compared to it’s A320NEO equivalent model and
    celebrate the fact that the record-breaking 737 program
    is NOT coming to a premature end!
    On the contrary, the replacement market for these two
    mediam-range aircraft types is so huge, that both Boeing
    and Airbus are likely going to again secure an even share
    of that maket for many years to come, with a smaller
    share of the remaining market going to the new entries
    fom Bombadier, Embrair and other new and smaller aircraft.

    The irony of this whole excersize, is the fact that Boeing
    was caught sleaping at the helm, claiming that they had
    ample time until the end of the year, before deciding to
    offer an all new or re-engined 737.
    If it had not been for GE/SCECMA willing to reduce the
    fan-diameter of the LEAP-X engine at the very last minute,
    to keep our foot in the door at AA, the 737 program would
    have faced a certain death inthe foreseable future!
    Why Boeing and GE/SNECMA did not think about this symple
    and inexpensive solution much earlier, is a real mistery,
    because almost exactly 3- years ago, they did exactly the
    same with the original CFM56-5 engine and produced the
    smaller diameter -3 version of the engine so it would also
    fit underneath the 737-200 wing, without major and costly
    structural changes!
    Inexperience, a serious lack of l.r. planning, or both?

    Rudy Hillinga August 31, 2011 at 7:56 pm | #31 Reply |
    Quote Small correction.
    Sixth line from the bottom, should read:
    “because almost exactly 30 years ago,”

    • IMHO Boeing didn’t sleep on the job.
      Having tangible numbers in hand on short notice would underline that.

      What Boeing did not expect was their “microsoft gambit” coming down in flames
      around them. Boeing management was certain that all is in perception management.
      This worked perfectly for the Dreamliner.
      And like Microsoft it is not Boeing standing alone but an ecosphere of potential profiteers.
      i.e. the lenders and leasers ( notice that those (and the aerospace rating agencies) were much more vocal about reengining than any airline ). Airlines have to some part been forced
      a step down in the foodchain, so to speak. ( imho leasers have morphed from aiding purchase to choking the airlines. compare to role changes for banks )
      For various reasons Boeing does not see aceptable profit in reengining and has no near
      term path to a new tech NB plane ( silently complementing Airbus position of no gain in
      near future )
      What they gambled on was that they could stall airline purchase decissions with a
      regular diet of juicy bits of things to come in a distant but just around the corner future.
      (again compare to microsoft product cycles and holdoff strategies)

      Offering the MAX was a last ditch decission to retain some perspective in the market.
      And I am certain they hate having to do it.

  30. I think the LEAP was optimized for its launch customer Comac and Airbus around 75 inch. And later enhanced when the competing GTF started looking good..

    Boeing until march this year was really turning its back on CFMI/ GE / the Leap.

    Mc Nerney:
    “It’s our judgment that our customers will wait for us, rather than move to an airplane that will obsolete itself when they do a new airplane. I understand why they’re doing it, we haven’t seen the need for it yet. I feel pretty comfortable we can defend our customer base both because they’re not going ahead of us, they’re catching up to us and because we’re going to be doing a new airplane that will go beyond the capability of what the neo can do. I feel very good about our position there.”
    http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/flightblogger/2011/02/boeing-ceo-jim-mcnerney-were-g.html

    However you twist it 66 or 68 is a real compromise for this engine. Ge won’t shrink the core or apply enhancement they won’t d for the NEO. On the NEO there is serious competition for contracting airlines. Guess where the pressure is higher to be sharp. On the MAX were there’s no competition & Boeing turned their back on CFMI until very recently. Or on the NEO where they are fighting for every contract. What do you think?

    A small consideration to Piasecki, Albaugh and McNerney would to be to expand the conservatism they show on the 737 MAX planning, also into their communication. The seemingly unjustified arrogance has been real thick recently. Credibility and reliability is real important for the company. Saying your are reliable & under promising is just not good enough. This is not Japan where they’ll buy anyway.

    Even John Leahy seems moderate & compared to the claims & attacks coming from Chicago. They have to change, this is the old Boeing.

  31. Reply to Tom #47. Tom, it sure looked panicked – pushing and pushing AA, Southwest, West Jet (and others according to CM) to buy the NSA, and then flipping at the last minute when they did not even have board approval and pulling the rug out from under at least one of their best customers without notice? You may be right that most companies do not spend billions in a panic, but there is no such guarantee for Big B won’t do it. In any case it was billions no matter which way they jumped.

    To me, the question remains: Why did B persist with the NSA when it was on any rational balance of pros and cons clearly not in B’s best interests even if the plane would have been great? Why did they lead so many customers down the garden path and then push them under the bus when they must have known for months that they could not produce enough NSAs fast enough to meet their customers’ demands? Why did they persist with the NSA, a single aisle plane with razor thin margins, when doing so posed obviously unreasonable risks, EVEN UNDER THE BEST OF CIRCUMSTANCES, to their higher margin twin aisles, particularly their 777X cash cow, and their need to get the 787 and 748 under control ASAP? It is not enough to say, as B and CM do, that customers wanted the plane. Of course they did from the specs B was giving them. Who wouldn’t? But the fact that airlines wanted it doesn’t mean it was good for B to build it. (B is very good at telling demanding customers to shove it, like not shortening the 748 I for Tim Clark.)

    I think the answer is that B is stuck in a culture that simply will not rationally and frankly take real risks to program success into consideration when contemplating aircraft manufacturing decisions, coupled with the arrogance Keesje notes. I think this dysfunctional Wayne’s World started with the 737NG program under Phil Condit and continues to this day. B’s errors with the 737NG and 787 programs are almost identical: Each was a response to an A threat to an established B mkt. In each case. B got lots of orders up front for their response product by making fantastic promises. And in each case they could not come close to keeping their promises because they failed to set up a production system that could deliver the planes. Thus, in each case the system collapsed.

    It is clear B learned nothing from the 737 experience because they botched the 787 even worse. They rushed into production, predicting clearly unreachable delivery dates, and did not do ONE MATERIAL THING that was right and sensible in designing the plane or its production system (except hire Spirit to build a part of the fuselage); starting with adopting an untested system for producing the fuselage that is now so slow and expensive that it threatens B’s ability to ever deliver their vast backlog on any on-time basis without continuing drains of capital and resources which should not be happening at this stage of the program, to the spectacular site of 40 or so 787s parked all over the place, making B’s facility look like the Davis Monthan bone yard. According to Francher, it will take TWO, REPEAT TWO, years to get these planes in shape for delivery.

    The same dysfunction infected the NSA: Responding to the neo by pushing a great new plane when they knew for months, or had good reason to know, they could not produce enough of them for their customers’ needs even if the development process was flawless. And when AA called their bluff and the jig was up, they panicked and folded like tent full of hot air. Lord help the 789/10 and 777X.

    • I think CM explained the reason for the decision very well actually. Can’t say for sure if it is all true, but that is what many people think is the best course of action for the present. Now, about that AA order, Boeing could had that let go and do nothing on it. After all, I think that most of these “sales” are not actual sales of airplanes but a lease kind of deals for both OEMs. Delta bought many 737 when most every body thought that was a lost deal for Boeing. Suppose that Boeing did not offer its 737 with new engine to AA. Where would it be right now? As hard as it may try, Airbus can not produce all the narrow bodies airplane that need replacement until 2020, so Boeing would still be selling its 737 for a while, and with better pricing, will still sell well above 1000 of them till that time. Tell Bombardier that they would sell 1000 of their C300 and see how happy they would be

  32. I still don’t get some of the reasons why Boeing didn’t go with the NSA e.g. the reason that Boeing would have lost market share to Airbus before the NSA became fully matured. Surely, if you tell an Airline, we’ll give you a plane that’s about 10% better than our competition’s newest offering, but you might have to wait an extra 1-2 years for it, but to keep you happy while waiting, we’ll be offering about 1-2% improvement on our current product every year(like Boeing have been saying with the NG) till our new product comes along. Wouldn’t that be worth the wait for Airlines and keep them from ordering the NEO knowing they’ll be getting something way better in coming years?

    • That extra 1..2 years would have rubberbanded to ~10 years.
      And the 737 doesn’t gain 1..2% every year. More like every 3..4 years.

      Airbus was rather open about a new design not providing sufficient
      gains for some time to come ( I am certain they have enough good
      ideas to design a competitive product when the time has come for
      a bunch of new materials and production techniques.)

      Boeing tried to sell similar plans as achievable in a much shorter
      timeframe.

      They now have conceded that the same real world constraints are
      valid for Boeing too ( no surprise except the concession there, imho )

      Due to a decission and design path taken in the past a competiive
      reengine of the 737 family is less straightforward and effective than
      it is for Airbus.
      To obscure that a bit lots of “Factor X” ( Eric Frank Russel : Plus X )
      are introduced like a new tailcone, hybrid laminar flow on various parts, …
      to enable making rather fantastic projections on competitiveness.

    • To design the NSA not only would have taken time but it would also have taken money. Apparently they had been planning to replace the 737 with a clean sheet design when disaster struck. The 787 fiasco became a show stopper for Boeing. They now have to put their house in order before they can undertake anything major.

      If things had taken their normal course Boeing would probably have taken Airbus by surprise with an NSA proposal in response to the NEO. And today Airbus would be scrambling to avoid the worst, like they did with the A350 when the 787 was introduced to the market. Otherwise what we would have today would be some kind of A330NEO instead of the A350XWB.

      I will point out that Boeing did come out with the 787 after much tergiversation of it’s own. And we can observe a similar conundrum with the 737. Another recent example is the CSeries, which had been on the table for 10 years, in one form or another, before Bombardier was able to find the right combination.

      Sometime you have to wait for all the planets to align properly before you can make a move.

  33. Bryan, I think in other circumstances it might have worked out like you suggest. The market wants more fuel efficient planes now.Airbus offered a well defined product (the NEO) that would be available in quantity from 2015. Although in principle Boeing was offering its even more improved NSA from about 2019, the company would have had a sales drought lasting at least 7 years. Between 2016 and 2020 Boeing wouldn’t have sold many 737 NGs because no-one wants them: the A320 NEO is much better; From 2020 for a number of years going forward, Boeing wouldn’t sold many NSA’s. Customers would love to have them but Boeing wouldn’t be able to produce them fast enough. Those 7+ years correspond to the biggest sales boom in aircraft history (replacement of old aircraft plus big expansion of new aircraft in Asia). During that time airlines would commit strategically to Airbus for their fleets.

    It’s a question of time to market. Boeing couldn’t make its numbers add up for the NSA. I do believe Boeing was planning to go for the new aircraft up until they almost lost the American Airlines deal. I also think that Airbus was more worried about the NSA than they let on. The NEO was a smart tactical move by Airbus that forced Boeing’s hand. If Airbus had waited another year or had been less aggressive in marketing it, it’s likely Boeing would have stuck with the NSA.

  34. Using 787 production methodologies is a non-starter for any game-changing type of NSA.

    If Boeing could have achieved acceptable NSA production rate with 787 production system technologies, I’m sure the program would have been launched; It seems to me Boeing has been quite candid with the fact the needed production technologies either do not exist or are not ready.

    Also, making significantly lighter fuselage structures will require, among other things, doing away with some, if not all of the fuselage cut-outs of the current tube and wing configuration.

    Typical of academia; they have all the answers, yet never seem to produce a practical solution. There is no doubt in my mind both Airbus and Boeing are far further along in their understanding of how to optimize a fuselage than four doctorate students. Not the least of the issues with this design is the fact many operators make a great deal of money moving types of cargo which require heat and pressurization; this would not be possible with the proposed architecture.

    Essentialy, the only thing the 787 brings to the table vis a vie “the NSA”, is how not to do it.

    This is laughable. Both Airbus and Boeing in the A350 and 787 are developing technologies which will form the backbone of their aircraft for the next 50 years. Those technologies range from control laws and aerodynamic features, to perhaps the most critical one – the speed at which fiber can be laid down and cured. It sound like you want to believe the 787 was a grand waste of time and capital for Boeing. I’m afraid the coming decades are going to prove very disappointing for you.

    • Using 787 production methodologies is a non-starter for any game-changing type of NSA.

      If Boeing could have achieved acceptable NSA production rate with 787 production system technologies, I’m sure the program would have been launched; It seems to me Boeing has been quite candid with the fact the needed production technologies either do not exist or are not ready.

      CM, to achieve the 12-15 percent reduction in narrowbody DOC that you were talking about, it’s generally understood in the industry that to achieve this goal, the next generation single-aisle aircraft will have to have a 60 to 70 percent composite content for the airframe/wing structure alone. That’s not possible to achieve using the 787 production architecture. Since fuel efficiency gains from better engine sfc and lighter structure in long haul WB aircraft are substantially larger than for short-haul NB aircraft, as a percentage of DOC, it’s should be self evident that to achieve two figure plus DOC savings for short-haul narrowbodies, significantly more advanced technologies and fuselage architectures than what is currently employed on the 787, are required in order to achieve these gains.

      Even Boeing admits that the composite technology used on the 787 is 25 to 30 years old:

      http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=230406

      Automated tape laying (ATL) and filament winding has been in use since the late 1970s. It’s been used in both the aerospace industry to produce, among other things, sold rocket motor casings (barrels) and in the yachting industry (composite masts). In fact, the way in which the latter is manufactured is not that different to the way in which the 787 fuselage barrels are manufactured.

      As Boeing’s Andy Harber indicated (in the above link), integrated assemblies for primary structure is truly the Holy Grail in the industry. If you look at the massive amount of fasteners that are required on the 787 to attach the skin to the fuselage frames — yes, I know it’s substantially less than on metal frames where the stringers/stiffeners are mechanically attached as well — you should realise that the 787 composite production methodologies are a long way away from the holy grail.

      In an earlier comment you stated that:

      As for why Boeing stuck with the NSA as long as they did, it was because we wanted to buy the airplane, as did several other operators where I know Boeing shared details of the NSA. Not only would there have been a market for the NSA, but the performance we were shown would have killed the A320NEO faster than the A330 killed the 767; the performance delta was enormous.

      I’m really curious as to what kind of performance data you were shown, and based on what type of platform. If what you were shown was a downscaled 787, IMO Boeing’s claims would have been nothing but baloney. And you’re not talking about the conceptual NB replacement with a twin-aisle, and having an elliptical fuselage with a T-tail, are you?

      Typical of academia; they have all the answers, yet never seem to produce a practical solution. There is no doubt in my mind both Airbus and Boeing are far further along in their understanding of how to optimize a fuselage than four doctorate students. Not the least of the issues with this design is the fact many operators make a great deal of money moving types of cargo which require heat and pressurization; this would not be possible with the proposed architecture.

      Actually, DLR is not your typical academic institution: (from Wikipedia) the German Aerospace Center (DLR) (German: Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V.) is the national centre for aerospace, energy and transportation research of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has multiple locations throughout Germany. Its headquarters are located in Cologne. It is engaged in a wide range of research and development projects in national and international partnerships. In addition to conducting its own research projects, DLR also acts as the German space agency. As such, it is responsible for planning and implementing the German space programme on behalf of the German federal government. As project management agency, DLR also coordinates and answers for the technical and organizational implementation of projects funded by a number of German federal ministries.

      As for the design concept itself, one interesting aspect of it is to structurally separate the passenger cabin and the under floor freight compartments. One can easily imagine similar designs using differential cabin pressures in the passenger cabin and freight compartments. For example, the passenger cabin could be pressurized to the equivalent of 4000-5000 feet (NB: 6000 ft on the 787), while the lower freight compartment could be pressurized to the equivalent of 9000-10000 feet.

      Essentially, the only thing the 787 brings to the table vis a vie “the NSA”, is how not to do it.

      This is laughable. Both Airbus and Boeing in the A350 and 787 are developing technologies which will form the backbone of their aircraft for the next 50 years. Those technologies range from control laws and aerodynamic features, to perhaps the most critical one – the speed at which fiber can be laid down and cured. It sound like you want to believe the 787 was a grand waste of time and capital for Boeing. I’m afraid the coming decades are going to prove very disappointing for you.

      Hmm, “the speed at which fiber can be laid down” is more due to the advances made by companies such as Electroimpact (Mukilteo, Wash.) and Mtorres (Spain) specialising in automatic tape layers, automatic fiber placement machines, 5-axis gantry routing machines/flexible tooling, ultrasonic inspection systems, ultrasonic cutting systems, 5-axis gantry laser scribing machines/flexible tooling and assembly jigs.

      As for curing the composite structure, it may look as if Out-of-autoclave (OOA) processing using resin transfer molding (RTM), vacuum-assisted RTM (VARTM) and other liquid molding processes as well as the latest generation of compression molded thermoplastics will be the enablers to produce large composite structures with integrated stiffeners. Add microwave curing to the picture, and you can selectively cure parts of the structure, which could make integrating partially cured fuselage frames and then cocuring the final panel assembly possible in the future. For example, apart from the mechanical fastening together of such a few very large fuselage panels, very few other fasteners would be required. That’s the beauty of fully integrated assemblies for primary structure. Hence the 787 fuselage assembly methodology is a far cry from how future Airbus and Boeing composite airliners in all likelihood will be produced and assembled. Interestingly and over time, the A350’s large CFRP composite panels could conceivably be replaced by more advanced panels incorporating some of the manufacturing methods described above, as long as the outer mold line is retained.

      As for the A350, it’s basically using the flight control laws developed for the A380 (evolved from the A320 and A330/A340). Apart from the new trailing-edge high-lift system, the drooped-hinge flap design and the nose of the aircraft (forward mounted nose-gear bay) are derived from the A380 as well.

      Finally, on behalf of mankind, 😉 I’m quite optimistic about the future. True, I’m not that impressed with the 787’s “electric architecture”. I’m of the opinion though that a truly “electric” architecture will start to make more sense when zero-emission fuel cell powered electric propellers may be used on next-next generation large civilian aircraft. They would be used during the cruise phase while conventional internal combustion engines would be used for take-off and landing.

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  36. I see a emerging feeling in the industry carbon composites aren’t the holy grail of materials. Production is expensive, scale-ability expensive and maintenance pretty much an unknown. Progress has been made in metals.

    Maintenance is closely linked to cycles. A long haul aircraft generally makes 1.5 cycle per day. A narrowbody easily 4 times as much. Skin thickness get restrained by impact resistance iso strenght.

    Until recently asking questions about composites was a clear sign you just didn’t understand. These days a more rational approach is gaining terrain.

    • Overblowing the potential of new technologies roots in a funny interaction of the naivete of
      the great unwashed public and targeted communications from marketing departments.
      Be it black materials, nano tech, super weapons, the internet, what ever.

      All seem to initially provide absolutely “duhh obvious” massive step improvements over
      the majorly lagging competition/adversary.

      But there always were enough well founded professional voices showing this
      to be much more like small, limited steps in a not yet determined direction.
      Forward, sideways, backwards ?

      Only those were derided by the rush of lemming like uneducated fans let of the
      leash as an astro turfing movement. And those dogs are still barking that same tune.
      Probably takes another decade to reeducate them.

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