No plateau on 737NG: Boeing

“There is no plateau in interest on the 737NG,” says Boeing’s Beverly Wyse, VP and GM of the stalwart program.

“Even though there are a lot of challenges in the industry, the growth, particularly in the single aisle market in emerging markets and Low Cost Carriers, continues to give us a lot of confidence the demand is out there. Even with the struggles in Europe, there seems to be a little tension between replacement demand and growth demand. We don’t see any pullback in the demand on the 737 at our current production rates or a weakness in demand as we transition to the MAX.”

Wyse gave this assessment during a briefing to the media in advance of the Farnborough Air Show. The briefings were embargoed until July 5.

“Basically we are full all the way through to the middle of 2016. We do have some capacity left in 2016 and 2017 prior to the introduction of the MAX,” she said. “We do have some NGs out in 2018 but that capacity is filling up. We still have customers coming in for NG and MAX four or five or six years out.”

She predicted there will be a two-three year transition period of NG and MAX overlap, though she prefers two years. Wyse acknowledged that the 737-based BBJ and P-8A Poseidon could further extend production of the NG even if passenger models are discontinued.

Boeing is still about a year away from firm configuration on the MAX.

Boeing contends that the MAX will be more efficient than the Airbu A320neo, mimicking the advantage it claims for the NG over the A320 Current Engine Option (CEO).

Airbus, of course, disputes this analysis and the assumptions. Furthermore, the Boeing comparison above is against the NEO with the CFM LEAP-1A engine (the MAX will use the LEAP-1B). The A320neo is also equipped with the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan, which Airbus’ John Leahy says has a 1.5% better fuel burn than the LEAP-1A and purportedly a much larger advantage over the MAX and the LEAP-1B.

Note that Airbus uses 800nm vs Boeing’s 500nm and a reduced seat count for the 737 (157 vs 162) in the above and below slides. Note other differences between the Airbus and Boeing analyses. Boeing gives its LEAP-1B engine 14% fuel burn improvement (pre-installation), and the same for the LEAP-1A for the A320, despite the -1A having a larger fan. One the other hand, Airbus allows only 10.5% SFC improvement for the Boeing, largely on the basis of the differences in fan diameter and expectation that the -1B’s core won’t be as efficient.

Boeing also credits slightly less gain on the A320 sharklets than does Airbus.

Part of Boeing’s calculation revolves around maintenance costs. Boeing claims the A320 is 23%-27% more costly to maintain and that improvements to the MAX will widen this gap.

Airbus, in an interview we did following the ISTAT Barcelona meeting last September, called Boeing’s reliance on US DOT Form 41 data (top chart) an earthy substance. Form 41 data, Airbus says, can be manipulated by the airlines to mask true costs. (Our affiliate, AirInsight, largely declines to use DOT 41 data for that very reason.) The IATA data (bottom chart) is old.

Regardless of the veracity of the data, Boeing is taking steps to reduce the maintenance costs of the MAX (right-hand chart). And extending the Time Between Overhauls (TBO) or other maintenance schedules is something that will bring indisputable gains for the customers.

“We are in the process of taking a tremendous data base [on maintenance] over time and going through and reducing an airline’s required scheduled maintenance,” Wyse said. “On a periodic basis, an airline is required to take the airplane out of service for a series of checks on the structures, on the systems and on the interiors and undertake a certain amount of replacement depending on what they found. Because the aircraft has found itself statistically to perform so well that we are able to extend significantly so many of those maintenance checks, we are striving for an additional 7% improvement in scheduled maintenance that the airline will see. That also translates into reducing the out-of-service time that an aircraft will see for A check, C check and D check. We’re just in the process of completing that right now (for airframe, for systems, and the interiors, for all of them).

“We can make a statistical argument with the FAA that the checks don’t need to be performed as frequently.”

17 Comments on “No plateau on 737NG: Boeing

  1. Mr. Hamilton,
    Given that there is the usual hyperbole from both marketing departments, what is your opinion? A few thoughts and questions to ponder…
    It appears that there are more 500 nm flights in Europe and more 1000nm the US so the MAX is better for the European market and the 320 for the US market…but the differences are slight?
    I would guess there is not that much difference between the two offerings (theoretical)? Is there more improvement potential in the 320neo side with the PW GTF? If fan size matters so much than why not increase the size even further or I suppose there is a point of diminishing returns? What percentage of costs does maintenance make up? If the GTF is more maintenance costly then how much does that erode the advantages in fuel efficiency?

    • Based on our conversations in the marketplace–with customers, appraisers and financiers–we already see softness in the A320ceo and 737NG markets in the period beginning 2014 leading up to EIS of the neo and MAX. Airbus and Boeing are concerned with maintaining production leading into EIS. Hence, you are seeing a lot of deals (most of them, in fact) combining current generation and re-engined aircraft.

      We note that Boeing absolutely prefers to cite “European rules” for its economic comparisons, and we conclude as do you, Mike, that this advantage goes to Boeing. We know Airbus selects 800nm as advantaging the A320. AirInsight uses 600nm for its analyses.

      The GTF also is a greater advantage to the A320neo over the LEAP-1A because of fan size. Leahy gives the GTF 1.5% better fuel efficiency over the LEAP. But you are correct about diminishing returns. Boeing’s Mike Bair says there is a 3-4 inch area in a bucket where you can play to get the best combination of SFC fan/drag consideration.

      Maintenance is an issue. It is a matter of huge debate between CFM and PW over which engine will require less maintenance: the exotic materials of the CFM or the gearbox of the GTF. We sure don’t know–we’re not an engineer–but what we can tell you is that engineers and customers we talk to like the GTF technology but are more comforted by the CFM track record. Thus, you have doubters of both GTF and LEAP. It will be, as Steve Hazy said, 5-7 years after EIS before the industry knows for sure which engine is better.

  2. Boeing seems to have dropped last years silly talking point that the 737-800 beats the A320neo by 2 percent on CASM. That, at least, is something. If they want potential customers to believe that the Leap-X engines installed on the neo and the MAX will have equal TSFC savings, then good luck to them. 😉

    http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/paris-air-show/2011-06-19/paris-2011-boeing-promises-clarity-though-no-decision-737-replacement

    Piasecki also stressed that Boeing will not rush its decision, regardless of the existence and early success of the A320neo. Customers want Boeing to “get it right,” she said, and the substantial backlog already in place for the existing airplane certainly doesn’t promote a sense of urgency. Piasecki insisted the 737-800, as it exists today, already offers 2-percent better per-seat operating costs than the A320neo promises to deliver in 2015. Boeing’s calculations show that a re-engined 737-800 would cost 8 percent less to operate than the Neo. An all-new airplane would deliver “at least” double that benefit, she added.

  3. I’m sorry to say that, time after time, according to Boeing, the gap is getting narrower and narrower. A year ago (before the AA deal, so to say), the NEO was supposed to be 2 percent worse than the NG. Now, the NEO is 8 percent worse than the 737-8MAX, so the NEO should be at least 5% better than the 737-800. After one more year,July 2013, me thinks that perhaps the NEO should be 12% better than the 737-800, so we can conclude that both aircraft are almost at par right now!!!!

  4. The A320 has lower trip cost then the 737-800, the CFM56 on the A320 have a significant better sfc then those on the 737-800. The OEWs of both aircraft differ marginally if at all. Take that as a starting point.

    “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.” seems the new marketing strategy. Airbus says theirs are better, Boeing says theirs are better. Most conclude both must be about equal. Mission accomplished. Airlines make their own calculations though..

  5. On the first Boeing slide, it strikes me that both aircraft gain some weight and drag, but the Airbus 320 reads “+ 4% heavier, more drag”, and the B737 reads “+3% Lighter, less drag”.
    Maybe a B737 only produces “good drag” … while an Airbus produces “bad drag”.
    Or the weight at the Airbus counts twice, because it is measured in metric units.
    No-one knows.

  6. Funnily enough, if you take what each manufacturer says about themselves and ignore what they say about their competitor, you may get closer to the reality. On that basis, both planes get a big boost in efficiency but the delta for the 737 is a couple of percentage points less. This would chime with the easier gains available to the A320: fan size and winglets being the obvious ones.

    Of course that still leaves the question of which plane was more efficient in its original version.

  7. Scott,

    My I respectfully suggest that you stop posting graphs or other visual or other info from B and A, or reflecting the views of either, that it’s single aisle product is more fuel efficient or otherwise better than it’s competitor’s. Fact is, no one can say now with any credibility which will be better than the other, or if one will in fact be better than the other, because neither design is finalized and each is years away from wide spread service. By publishing info like the stuff in this piece, you merely bestir the neurotic conflicts resting in the cesspools of the psyches of the bloggers on this site to battle back and forth, without compromise or indeed even listening to the thoughts of others, in support of views that can have no basis in currently known fact. To me, this serves no useful purpose, except perhaps a kind aviation based, wild blue yonder, blog-located psycho therapy, that judged by the on-going comments, does not even serve that purpose well. If in your view such comments are appropriate, I suggest you post your fee schedule.

    • Aside from references in your response that cross the line in Comment decorum, we use illustrations from both companies to go with their messaging. We often use counter-messaging and illustrations to show the differences as well as sometimes adding our own reporting. The alternative is to not report what either company says.

      We will continue.

  8. I know many on this site wont agree but I think even if the NEO is a little better than the MAX it wont change much from the current CEO vs NG. Why is this then, the balance of supply and demand vs slot times. Airbus simply cant supply much more than 50/50 of the growing NB market.

    Its a bit premature to name winners and losers, its a bit immature as well.

    Lets just all hope that Boeing wakes up and realises thet they need the NSA more than Airbus needs to replace their A320 looking 10 years ahead. Seeing how the NB market is one of the most profitable sections of the market I think neither company will deny reality.

    Lets just wait and see the order numbers stabilize over time, I dont think it will look much dfferent to the current market actually. We may even see more orders for CEO and NGs as the backlog for the reengined models are long now, if Bombardier is smart they should try to get in on this action with a short backlog for frames in the 100-150 seat market. As they already have a better product for the A319/737-700 market.

    I hope to see more competition for the duopoly, it will keep them honest and trying hard to make their products even better.

    Fire away!

  9. CubJ3,
    Please do not blame the messenger.
    It is perhaps unfortunate that the utterances of B and to a lesse extent A have degenerated, but it is still entertaining to some.
    I do find it sad that B cannot even be bothered to get the engine type correct for the A320 CEO, and are expecting the Leap X 1B to equal the 1A in fuel burn, but as Scott points out, airlines do their homework without help from Chicago or Toulouse.
    please continue your great work Scott

  10. Please note :
    P&W is putting the parts together for the PW1100G, with static trials beginning before the end of 2012 !
    Airbus has no more mechanical work to perform, apart to make the pylon … and test the engine !
    This may be done in 2014, or slightly before !
    So we are not so far to have a fair idea of the real perf’s of the A320 NEO, with the P&W engine fitted !
    The CFM Leap1A, may come 1 or 2 years later !

    ——— From Aviation Week ———

    http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_07_05_2012_p0-473659.xml

    The change in ownership comes as Volvo Aero confirms delivery of the first components for Pratt’s PW1100G geared turbofan, which is destined to power the Airbus A320NEO. The company says the parts “will be installed in the first engine to be tested this autumn.”

    Volvo Aero is now moving on to assemble the next set of components for the first PW1100G that will undergo testing later this year. The company is responsible for the design and manufacture of the PW1100G turbine exhaust case and intermediate case under an agreement announced with Pratt a year ago.

  11. Note that other members of the PW1100G family have already been in testing for some time (e.g. the PW1524G for the C-series and the PW1217G for the MRJ) and have provided valuable test data and engine experience. To my knowledge the engines performed better than expected (which is not to say that they exceeded spec as these are early engines, bit this is always accounted for in the development process).

  12. Averaging the Boeing and Airbus data gives a 10.5% improvement on the 737 and a 13.5% improvement on the A320.
    Boeing claims the current 737 has a 7% edge. With a three point difference, that will drop the MAX8 to a 4% edge
    The -800 has a 18% lease rate advantage, which may drop three points as well, giving the MAX8 only a 15% lease rate advantage over the A320NEO.

  13. With due respect to all the commentators above about the A. or B. a/p being
    better, I have yet to see confirmation from B., that they have been able to
    satisfy themselves and the MAX “customers” to date, that the restricted 70
    inch fan diameter, due to engine ground-clearance limitationts, will provide
    the necessary operating costs improvements to compete with NEO in any
    meaningful or competitive way!
    Yes, the MAX is lighter, but Airbus has no limitations whatsoever on the
    A320s, to be able to offer both full-sized PW GTF AND the GFE engines!
    By having been forced to limit the fan-diameter of the LEAPX, to extend the
    NLG by 8 inches and mount the engines forward and up in front of the wing,
    and NOT being able to offer the PW1100G at all, the MAX is clearly NOT able
    to take full advantage of the LEAPX, or any of the other improvements which
    may become available, which could require additional weight on the a/p.

    Therefore, I do believe that the MAX will now be confirmed during the FAS,
    with hopefully a large number of orders, if for no other reason than the fact
    that the NEOs are sold out thru 2020!
    But taking all the above issues into account, I believe that if Boeing had to do
    it all over again, they would and should have stayed with an all new airplane,
    which would not only have stymied the avalange of NEO orders, but force
    Airbus to follow suit and also offer an all new a/p soon!

  14. Then explain why the 737 is NOT the worlds top airliner and why AA just purchased 270 a320/21s over the NG series? And why the 737 are less innovative than the 320 family? Or why lion and ryan airlines have changed to a320s or why southwest is threatening to switch to a320 BECAUSE THE 737 is not fuel efficient? Explain.

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