Boeing’s 737 MAX, still weeks away from design configuration freeze and still with lots of detailed design to come, may share improvements still to come on the current 737 NG.
The head of the MAX program, Keith Leverkuhn, vice president and general manager, wouldn’t confirm or deny a report by Aspire Aviation that the MAX family will have 6-9 more seats through interior changes, the use of slim line seats and door changes when asked during Boeing’s MAX briefing yesterday with an international crowd of journalists.
Citing unidentified Boeing sources, Aspire reported:
- Boeing to modify 737 MAX 8 doors to add around 9 seats;
- 737 MAX 8 to meet 13% fuel burn reduction per seat target after door modification;
- Door modification has negligible impact on MEW; and
- 737 MAX 7 & MAX 9 also likely to have around 9 more seats.
Leverkuhn told the media that Boeing was satisfied with the current configuration of the airframe of the NG and MAX shares this configuration. Although Leverkuhn said Boeing had no intentions of changing, it still would talk with customers–leading to the obvious conclusion that Boeing wasn’t saying a firm “no” to the possibility.
We talked with him a few minutes alone later in which he clarified his earlier comments. Leverkuhn told us that while there will be no changes to the doors on the MAX which would allow more seats, the NG program is considering interior configurations that could lead to more seats and the MAX and NG programs closely follow developments and determine what can be shared between NG improvements still to come and the final MAX design.
Airbus in January announced a space-flex program that includes two new doors, enabling high density capacity to grow to 236 from 220. Airbus previously began offering a revised aft galley/lav combination in the A320 to permit three more seats, to 153 in two-classes. Boeing has been studying similar changes, according to our market intelligence.
The changes would be important in the everlasting economics-per-seat fight between the Big Two OEMs.
It was clear from our one-0n-one with Leverkuhn that the possibility of growing the seat count through adjusting the galley/lav (and use of slim line seats) is a distinct possibility for the NG and for MAX.
Other sound bites from his briefing:
- Fuel burn improvement increased from 11% to 13% during development. There is pressure for even more as we learn more and more about the engine and more and more about the airplane from the wind tunnel.
- “Robust transcontinental range” get 400-500nm improvement over NG in each model class. 3,600nm for 8.
- MAX matches the low speed 737NG performance.
- Meet Chapter 14 noise requirement. (Supersedes Stage 5 name.)
- Claims MAX has a 19% economic advantage over A320 without sharklets.
- We have a mini-iron bird, integrating systems and know quite a bit already.
- CFM has finished the E4 core, so good progress on Leap 1B.
- The engine really became our focus when we worked on this airplane. They bring GEnx technology in. We took a good hard look at GTF engine. We’re very happy with the selection we made and the assurance from CFM that we will get what we need for the customers.
- Digital bleed system vs analog bleed.
- We spent a lot of time working with CFM, PW and RR prior to selecting with CFM. Given our familiarity with GEnx, we have a lot of confidence with CFM to precisely tune the engine to the airplane and the airplane to the engine.
- 69.4 inch fan diameter is tailored to the wing. Kept nacelle pretty close to current size, through sculpting of new titanium reverser.
- Went from composite for the thrust reverser inner wall (because of high maintenance) to titanium for inner wall, unique in the commercial industry (some use in military). By eliminating the composite and the associated insulation blankets, the weight trade makes titanium slightly lighter and less maintenance intensive and costly.
- Winglet reduces fuel burn more than an additional 1.5%- 1% at 500nm and over 1.5% over longer ranges, in a linear fashion. Provides natural laminar flow.
- Firm configuration in July.
- Would not directly confirm or deny Aspire Aviation report on adding 6-9 seats. Says no change anticipated for the MAX configurations vs the NG or changes in the doors, but “we will continue to talk to the customers for what they need.”