Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh was clear: he wants changes to the 737 MAX to be kept to a minimum.
This will keep the R&D cost down–a figure Corporate CFO James Bell said on the 2Q earnings call would be 10%-15% that of an entirely new airplane ($10bn-$12bn, depending on who’s figuring; it is unclear how much of the R&D is paid by CFM).
But there is pressure to add range to the 737-MAX 9 (henceforth we’ll be referring to individual models of the MAX series as the -7, -8 and -9 and the family as a whole as just MAX). The 737-9 falls short of a true 757 replacement in range.
The 757-200W (winglet) version is a very versatile airplane with a range in excess of 4,000 miles. But this represents only about 10% of the mission requirements and neither Airbus nor Boeing generally like to spend the time, effort and money to squeeze out that extra 10% for very few operators.
Yet there are some who are asking for this.
Aspire Aviation has a long piece about the 737-9, touching on expanding mission requirements, some of the anticipated changes to the airframe and related issues.
In addition to these considerations, the more Boeing changes the MAX, the greater the likelihood a full recertification of the airplane will be required by the FAA, adding perhaps a year and $1bn to the development cost. Boeing already wants to bring forward the announced 2017 EIS to 2016, to close the gap with the Airbus A320neo family. Adding complexity won’t accomplish this.
These kinds of design decisions are supposed to be made this month. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the process.
Odds and Ends
- Aviation Week has this interesting tidbit about the decision to re-engine the Boeing 737-200A with the CFM56 to become the 737-300/400/500. A little bit of deja vu today.
- The Euro is in turmoil again and this is causing angst for EADS and Airbus. Flight Global has this story on the EADS side. For Airbus, every 10 cents the dollar
strengthens weakens against the Euro costs Airbus $1bn in profits. (Costs are predominately in Euros, sales in dollars.) Thus, this once again argues for Airbus to open an A320neo assembly line in the US. Update, Sept. 6: Readers are correct; we got this backwards, which makes the general point of this item off-kilter vis-a-vis the Flight Global story. But the Euro turmoil still is causing angst for EADS so the link is interesting nonetheless.
- This post by IAM 751 (Boeing-Puget Sound) explains in part why they are pressing the NLRB complaint against Boeing.
- On September 3, we passed 500,000 reader visits for 2011, the first time we have done so within one year. It took us 23 months to pass 500,000 visits for the first time and 13 months to pass it the second time. We should hit 1.5m visits by the end of this month, making it nine months to reach our third 500,000. (This blog first went public in late February 2008, hence the different timelines). Thanks to all of you.
- The Seattle Times has an interesting look at the labor situation vis-a-vis Boeing and the IAM–and how Spirit Aerosystems, once a Boeing plant, approached relations with IAM.
- Boeing will deliver the first two 747-8Fs to Cargolux Sept. 19 and 21. We had intended to be present (when the dates hadn’t been set) but we’ll be in Europe at an international conference. Rats.
- But we will be around for the first delivery of the 787 on Sept. 25-26.
- AeroTurboPower has an analysis of the 787 operations vs other aircraft with similar configurations, with the conclusion the 787 will have great economics.