737 MAX vs A320neo: the debate continues

During yesterday’s tele-press conference by Boeing with a program update for the 737 MAX, 737 chief program engineer John Hamilton frequently said the MAX has a 7% operating cost advantage over the A320neo.

He also touted the advantages of the 737-900ER over the A321, with the obvious implications that the 737-9 MAX will have an advantage over the A321neo.

Here is a recap by the Puget Sound Business Journal (there are many others which may be found through Google News).

AirInsight, our affiliate, has written several pieces of the 737NG and 737 MAX vs the A320 family, both legacy and NEO.

See the following articles for additional color on this debate.

Airbus takes on MAX. This was the report from a briefing Airbus gave AirInsight at the ISTAT Barcelona conference in February in September. It focuses on why Airbus believes Boeing can get only 8% fuel burn improvement with a 68 inch CFM LEAP engine rather than the 10%-12% Boeing advertises.

How does MAX compare? Taking an independent view of either Airbus or Boeing, AirInsight’s Ernie Arvai does his own economic analysis of the two airplanes based on what was known about MAX (which, we will note, still has a lot of ambiguity around it–such as no weights are known).

The Compromise. This looks at the issues surrounding the engine for the MAX.

Comparing the 737-900ER and A321neo as 757 replacement. The A321neo is better than the 737-900ER as a replacement for the 757. (At the time, MAX had not been launched.)

AirInsight also published studies on the re-engining programs.

We also wrote several pieces on point in our column:

Boeing claims MAX is better than each NEO. John Hamilton’s theme yesterday continues the Boeing messaging that has been around since pre-Paris Air Show.

The X-Factor, this time at Boeing. Our report of the launch of the MAX in August. Note that Jim Albaugh said final design details were a few weeks away. Now Boeing says the final design details won’t be ready until 2013.

Odds now favor 737RE. We were the first outlet to report Boeing was likely to abandon the NSA in favor of a re-engined 737.

737RE study very much alive. We led the industry on this topic, too.

Boeing thinking still up in the air. One a short time before our “Odds” piece, Boeing still favored the NSA. This shows how quickly thinking shifted.

AeroTurboPower also had several postings. Also note two specific pages about the NEO and MAX.

737RE: early fuel burn analysis. Self-explantory.

COC and DOC. This is a particularly useful post and goes to the root of Boeing’s claims its airplanes are better than Airbus: total Cash Operating Costs vs Direct Operating Costs.

A320 v 737-800 fuel burn. Also self-explanatory.

29 Comments on “737 MAX vs A320neo: the debate continues

  1. I agree with Addison Schonland (latest blog entry over at airinsight), in that the “minimum” change MAX could risk loosing significant narrowbody market share for Boeing:

    But with three new technology competitors entering the market, and the Russians and Chinese relying on key US suppliers to provide reliability and support for western customers, we don’t expect MAX to be the winner in the market, and, based on our economic analyses, MAX could turn out to be the MIN.

    Partly based on the overwhelming market response to the neo and the relatively low risk re-engining effort, I would expect the neo to slightly build market share to around 55 percent of total market share (130 seats +). If let’s say, the CS300, C919 and the MS-21 together were to grap only 10-15 percent of total market share from the middle of this decade and onwards (until 2030, or later), then Boeing would have to contend with the awkward situation of having decreased their single-aisle market share from around 50 percent to barely one third, half a decade hence.

    • I think the basic market tension was clear for some time, as where Boeing limitations. Thats why they were on the NSA road for the last few years.
      http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/read.main/4907469/
      (Randy T posted a blog stating the contrary the next day 🙂 )

      The A320NEO was a question of when, not if or how. The basic enhancements, costs etc were very predictable as evidenced by this 5 yr old post.
      http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/read.main/2724857/

      Why Boeing missed out when all signs were on red and the writing was on the wall for years (basicly until AA grabbed them by the ear) remains a big question mark for me..

      • Somewhere I’ve seen your concept and drawings for an A322. Trading range for as little as two more rows could be a very tangible benefit to CASM. Also, a pocket in the market that would be untouched by competition for some time.
        I actually see the A320neo selling in dwindling numbers because it is overly capable for the increased range. Perhaps it will be the new niche aircraft that takes over for the 757 transAtlantic thin routes. A few extra tanks is all it needs.

  2. The marketing debate cost less than a real industrial projet like a new 737… For now, between fine promises to another fine promises, the Boeing culture is a salesman’one.. . But what a price ! Otherwise, Boeing don’t have the money for now, and tomorrow… That’s why MAX turn out to be the 737 MIN…

  3. The A-320-200 to B-737-800 comparison artical is somewhat in question. Aeroturbo used an out of date chart for the B-737, and they know it. Using the chart on page 96, I get 3050 nm for the B-738, on 46,063 lbs of fuel for a none winglet airplane, and only 150 pax aboard. LRC is long range cruise, which is 0.76M for the B-738, no assumption for a range of 0.76M to 0.78M. Also, I can find no official document at boeing.com or airbus.com that say the B-738 is some 1300 lbs HEAVIER than the A-320.

    In fact the opposite is true, the A-320-200 (no winglets, CFM-56-5A engines) has an operating empty weight of 94,000 lbs, or 42,600 kg (configuered for 150 typical airline seats), it has a MZFW of 138,000 lbs, or 62,727 kg, MTOW is 170,000 lbs or 78,000 kg (78 tonnes). It has a claimed max range of 3050 nm, yet cannot fly a TRANSCON mission from BOS-SFO (BOS-LAX is shorter) in the wintertime, westbound.

    The B-737-800 (no winglets, CFM-56-7B engines, has an operating empty weight of 91,108 lbs or 41,413 kg (configuered for 167 typical airline seats), MZFW of 138,300 lbs or 62,864 kg, and a MTOW of 174,200 lbs, or 79,010 kg (79 tonnes). It has a claimed max range of 3060 nm, and is used fequently to fly TRANSCON missions from BOS-SFO year round, westbound.

    Both aircraft can fly that mission eastbound year round. The B-737-800W has been used to fly westbound SFO or LAX-HNL, the A-320E cannot fly from California to Hawaii with the required FAA or ICAO fuel reserves over an island destination until the NEO comes out.

    • For A320-200, all variants taken from Airbus_AC_A320_20110501_Apr11.pdf :
      Estimated Operational Empty Weight (OEW):
      CFM Engines 41 244 kg (90 927 lb)
      IAE Engines 41 345 kg (91 150 lb)

      Airbus definition: Operational Empty Weight (OEW):
      Weight of structure, powerplant, furnishings, systems, and other items of equipment that are an integral part of a particular aircraft configuration plus the operator’s items. The operator’s items are the flight and cabin crew and their baggage, unusable fuel, engine oil, emergency equipment, toilet chemical and fluids, galley structure, catering equipment, passenger seats and life vests, documents, etc.

  4. Boeings Hamilton:

    “As we size up to 68 (inches), the equivalent engine on the Airbus will have to size up to 78 inches to provide the same efficiency,”.

    -> It seems not only physics is up for new insights, also time is bended!

    The choice of a 68-in. diameter fan is “the sweet spot” for optimum bypass ratio and performance against increased drag, and is “the right decision for us” says Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Jim Albaugh.

    -> Boeing is lucky! The sweet spot” for optimum bypass ratio and performance against increased drag is coincidentally also exactly the diameter that just fits under a 737 wing with only nose gear stretched!

    I’m learning here see..

  5. This discussion (not on this page, but in general) is becoming increasingly pointless. The cited advantages are always for non-typical layouts … basically no-one flies A320 with 150 seats any more.
    A 2 or 4% advantage on cost basis (which includes a truckload of assumptions, from fuel price, over stage length, to pilot training expenses and yearly leave for flight attendants) would be totally lost in normal airline business.

    Nice to know would be the back-on-back fuel burn comparison per trip for a given gross weight (or a number of gross weights). Today the A320 is slightly better, but with the 150 seat reference layout versus the 164 you lose on the per seat basis.

    Actually, when you look at the odd seat numbers, and the B737MAX only achieving a 4% advantage A320NEO on “cost per seat” (beside the undisputed maintenance advantage of the Boeing aircraft … no discussion here, compared to Boeing’s aircrafts Airbus still produces hangar queens), the fuel burn disadvantage of the B737MAX probably is substantial … otherwise you wouldn’t gain only 4%.

    But let’s not overread the few and sketchy numbers given. If Boeing was so much better than Airbus, they would have had their act together by now. But apparently they need to twist each detail to get the desired performance.

  6. And yes: it’s the engine, stupid!
    Basically it is a shoot-out between General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.

  7. Time will tell if the ultra large fan lives up to promise. The CSeries and A319neo have an unprecedented fan area to thrust ratio. Almost like a pod racer.

    If it doesn’t quite pan out, the A320neo and MAX 8 both need about a 27K thrust engine. Maybe the optimal size ends up somewhere between 68″ and 78″, then the efficiency of the the two engines will wind up about equal. The MAX 8 will still have an 8% seat advantage.

    Yes, the A321neo is slightly heavier per seat than the MAX 9. If the seating to weight were proportional to the MAX 9. the A321 should have one more row. But, for the higher thrusts required for both, the A321neo engine should easily be more efficient, make up that difference and come out ahead.

    • “Maybe the optimal size ends up somewhere between 68″ and 78″, then the efficiency of the the two engines will wind up about equal. The MAX 8 will still have an 8% seat advantage.”

      If the optimum was lower the 78″, Airbus would have used it, within any additional costs, contrary. If the theoretical optimum would be 69inch, Boeing would put on 68″ and say its the optimum. For them the investment/ time to market of a bigger fan proved prohibitive.

      The GTF fan moves slower then the LEAP fan. Maybe the cowling can therefor be flatter & the fan bigger then the LEAP, but they still have the same cowling outer dimensions and ground clearance. Pratt says they can go to BPR of 15-17 with the PW1000 series. But that would pose an issue for the A320 too.

      I believe the A319, -20 and -21 NEO will be more fuel efficient then the MAX 7, 8 and 9 by 3-5%. Because of the Sharklets, more optimized engines and yet to be announced enhancements (can’t go into those but I got signals they are in the OEW area and look pretty straight forward).

      The percentages Boeing is spreading don’t add up and seem pure hope & fantasy. “Typical cost” per seat as propagated proved full off laughable assumptions. Still some stick if you repeat them often to a willing audience.

    • I’m not sure I believe that a 78″ engine can be the optimum size across a thrust range of 18K to 35K, so pick a number. Say Airbus split the difference between the 320 and 321 and optimized at 30K of thrust which led to CFM78″ and PW81″. If so, the CSeries PW73″ would be optimal at 24K, maybe Bombardier was thinking ahead. Unfortunately for Boeing, a CFM68″ would be otimal at 23K. They have to reconfigure to move that optimal number up, which will entail some sort of compromises. Second, hope that the optimal fan size was overestimated. Looking at the lumpenthink on CFRP fuselages from several years ago, I’d say that is quite possible.

  8. The impact of weight on cruise performance – especially for short rangers – is often overrated by non-expert analysts.

  9. Hamilton had previously said going to fly by wire would add weight over current manual systems because of the required computers. On Thursday, he said fly-by-wire spoilers require less redundancy than primary systems and will actually save weight, while improving production flow in the factory any boosting stopping performance.

    Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/boeing/article/Boeing-737-MAX-commitments-top-600-2250349.php#ixzz1cwa26cxU

    Confusing. I wonder what changed during the last year on FBW.

  10. Keesje, This is another attempt spinning non-sense… (Quote)

    “The 737 MAX will have new struts that hold the engines forward of where they are on current 737s, strengthening of the wing and possibly some parts of the fuselage to handle the heavier engines, a reshaped tail cone that improves air flow, fly-by-wire spoilers (rather than current manual systems) and possibly raked wingtips, Hamilton said. The size of the fuselage and seat counts won’t change, he said.
    Hamilton had previously said going to fly by wire would add weight over current manual systems because of the required computers. On Thursday, he said fly-by-wire spoilers require less redundancy than primary systems and will actually save weight, while improving production flow in the factory any boosting stopping performance.”

    You are attempting to manipulate previous statements with current ones… Hamilton was speaking of replacing the entire FBW system vs. just the Spoilers in this article.

    Hey, you read the Aspire Aviation article… Since you have commented on it in other posts…

    “Aspire Aviation believes this puts the 737 MAX at least on par with the A320neo aircraft family while the 737 MAX 9 could potentially become more competitive by utilising the 737 MAX’s partial fly-by-wire system to redistribute wing loads inwards and thereby increasing the aircraft’s maximum take-off weight (MTOW) in order to become a closer 757 replacement.”

    So there a reason to add FBW spoilers… Relatively low risk? Possible Increased MTOW, more range… and, one thing not mentioned in article? If an issue like the 747-8 wing flatter comes up as a result of adding larger engines? It gives them some options???

    But hey, feel free to make SHAT up 😉

    • Observer: “Keesje, This is another attempt spinning non-sense… (Quote)”

      In face of how Boeing over the past argued their case around any type of FBW or not for the 737 your retort is sophistry and doesn’t bring anything to the discussion.

      It is (and has been for quite some time. the step from “dedicated unconnected hardwired systems” to “sensors and actuator plus brains” is THE paradigm change in engineering in the last 40 years ) obvious that electronic control of aero surfaces brings a lot of advantages. Even if you only swap it in for a limited group of surfaces. Nothing else gives you that amount of easy mixing, adaptability and extendability ( flightphase, type, time, upgrade ). When you can shed redundancy requirements the case for the introduction becomes even more attractive.

      In the past Boeing has been very vocal about the 737 not needing any kind of FBW ever
      and being superior on those grounds.

      The turnabout imho came from being able to get the 748 certtified on a grandfathered ticket even though an active component (flutter alleviation) was added late to the initial setup ( publicly for faking 744 behaviour ).

      This bodes well for getting the FAA nod on introducing similar changes to the 737MAX without loosing the grandgrandgrandfathering from the original city jet.
      Without that grandfathering the 737 would for one need engine thrust at least on par with the A320 family and gain weight from adding in requirements like crashproofing the fuselage to higher loads. No idea what else would “pop off”.

      In the end all Boeings innovativeness goes into bypassing the added with reason certification requirements of the last 50 years.

  11. Surely, for Boeing the 737 MAX is WAY better than the A320neo 😉
    The real question is, whether the market will see it the same way.
    Especially whether the market still will see it the same way after
    a number of customers have been gathering some experience
    with both of the aircraft.
    Woe to Boeing, if the market doesn’t share their view afterwards !

  12. Off topic, but nonetheless important:

    Boeing may lose the sale of 10 additional 747-8F with a list value of $3.3 billion as lessor Dubai Aerospace Enterprise Ltd. seeks to shift the order to the smaller 777 aircraft.
    Boeing already lost an order for 5 units 747-8F earlier this year from the same lessor, which
    was also converted to 777 aircraft.
    The new cancellation would shrink the 747-8 backlog to 93 (with 3 units already delivered).
    In effect, Boeing would have sold only one single 747-8 aircraft during 2011.

    several sources, among them:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-04/dubai-aerospace-said-to-seek-3-3-billion-boeing-order-shift-from-747-8s.html

  13. The B737’s flight control system is unique for its simplicity and limited redundancy requirements. I guess you wouldn’t get that certified nowadays. Beside: you cannot have manual backup and fly-by-wire. As the spoilers aren’t directly connected to the control yoke (the yoke is connected to the spoiler control system, a piece of hardware with lots of valves and stuff), FBW spoilers would be easier. And as this “Spoiler Control Thing” would be eliminated by something electronic, the overall weight would probably decrease … by 10 or 20kg at best.
    Maneuver Load Allevation [MLA] (this lift distribution thing) would theoretically be possible. In order to get additional range, the limiting factor needs to be the static strength of the wing. I doubt that, both A321 and B737-900 are fuel volume limited. Other problem is take-off performance. So, just adding MLA will probably yield nothing. Airbus had an MLA system mature for the A320, and apparently never saw a need to integrate it. The A321 has 93t MTOW in its heaviest weight variant.

    • Afaics Boeing would get to something similar to the A310 ( introduced in 1983 )
      setup for wing aerosurfaces. ( Inner aileron stayed mechanic the rest “electric” )

  14. We’re going to throw up a caution flag here. We see some of the recent back-and-forth as trending toward getting personal toward Commenters. Dial it back and stick only to the issues.

  15. On the Fly by Wire spoilers and redundancy issue, Flightglobal make this intriguing statement:

    Conceptually, the 737 Max’s hydraulic system redundancy will be based on a scaled-down version of the larger 757, which can be simplified by only applying fly-by-wire to the spoilers, he said.

    Sounds like a major overhaul of control systems?

  16. Will the MAX and neo be listed separately on the O and D sheets? For American all I see ordered are the current versions at 100 737-800s and 130 A321s.

    How many A319neo and MAX 7 need to be sold(with normal profits) to breakeven on the incremental cost to have them in production? Total -700 sales this year, five. Not sure what the A319 is.

    • It would seem that Airbus isn’t delineating the difference between an A320 and a neo order. I think Boeing will be, since they have given the MAX new minor model dash numbers.

      I guess we’ll have to wait to see when Boeing actually books the orders.

  17. The linked article sounds they are really digging deep to get the performance right. Hopefully Boeing doesn’t mess up like on the B747-8. But it seems they learned a lesson.

  18. Pingback: Boeing MAX v Airbus NEO; Fan size and optimizing the LEAP for MAX, Part 2 « Leeham News and Comment

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