Boeing may not be designing new airplanes to replace the 737 NG or the 777 family, but the head of Airplane Development says Boeing employees will be busy just the same.
“We’re going to be in a constant state of development for the next 10 years,” says Scott Fancher, VP and GM. “We can very seamlessly move talent, move experience, move lessons learned from one development from one project to the next to maximize talent.”
The 787-9 entered assembly at the giant Everett plant last month. The 787-10 has been in design for the past several years; launch is expected Tuesday at the Paris Air Show.
Photo by Scott Hamilton
The 777X, in two models, is expected to be launched at the Dubai Air Show with a massive order from Emirates Airlines. The 737 MAX is moving forward, with assembly of the test airplanes to begin in 2015.
“The EIS for those airplanes extends early into the next decade,” Fancher said of the 777X.
The KC-46A, based on the 767 platform, is in pre-production design. The 737 NG, 747-8 and 777 continue to get Performance Improvement Packages (PIPs).
Airplane Development, a new department within Boeing Commercial Airplanes under Fancher, was created to put key talent under one roof, so-to-speak, as one way to avoid the problems of past programs.
“This becomes a one-stop shop,” Fancher told an international assembly of media during the briefings in advance of the Paris Air Show.
Part of this was detailed in our post about the 777X’s retention of an aluminum fuselage.
Fancher also said new airplane development needs to work with suppliers in a closely coordinated manner that provides for profitability for both. This seemed to fly in the face of recent statements by Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, who said suppliers need to cut costs.
We subsequently asked Fancher about the apparent inconsistency.
“Profitability and competitive pricing are not mutually exclusive,” Fancher said. “We want our suppliers to be healthy and profitable, which they can be while also cutting their costs to be more competitive.”
Fancher said that as a result of lessons learned from the 787 program, Boeing has and will bring more design work back in-house, but suppliers may build to the Boeing design. The 787 handed a great deal of design-and-build work to suppliers, which caused problems, delays and cost overruns.
Seamless? Yea, well… that remains to be seen.
I guess the statements made by Fancher were not intended to give any real new information. One thing I like to note about the often cited “Performance Improvement Packages” (PIP).
These PIPs are very often mentioned, and I think their impact is a bit overrated. They are of course used as example how devoted a company is to its product, and that the large number of PIPs makes a new development unnecessary. Scott has shown the PIPs of A320 and B737 in a recent post. It can easily be seen that most of them are more or less upgrades that have no real affect on the actual performance. It is like Microsoft selling you a bugfix as a PIP.
The few relevant PIPs are those related to engines. When a design is fixed (and neither A320 nor B737NG were designed in a hurry), there is very little you can do to improve aerodynamics or save meaningful empty weight. Especially the latter has very little effect on actual fuel burn.
Both A320 and B737 have plenty of opportunities left, and the NEO respectively MAX upgrade would provide the opportunity to introduce technology that is commonplace since years in the widebody. Just, they don’t do it. And I guess they have their reasons.
Boeing is always working on PIPs for its airplanes. PIPs usually end up with a 1%-2% improvement in fuel burn through weight savings and/or aerodynamic improvements. In 2010 Boeing began working on a PIP for the B-737NG that included redesigned anti-collision strobe light lenses, aerodynamic improvements and weight reduction that ended up with a 1.5% fuel burn improvement on blended winglet equipped B-737NGs. Then came the ‘sky interior’ which also reduced weight and increased passenger appeal.
Airbus has not been sitting on its hands for PIPs to the A-320. As long as Boeing introduces and certifies PIPs to the B-737NG, Airbus has to do something similar to the A-320. Their most recent one was the introduction of blended winglets. They are also working on PIPs for the A-330.
PIPs that improve performance by 1-2% are the exception. A 1% fuel burn reduction over the entire mission-envelope of the aircraft is something very difficult to achieve. And there is a defintive end of where you can bring an aircraft.
“Constant state of improvement over next 10 years”- translation- do not expect any new designs like NSA ; 787 and 777X and Max will all be incremental . Clearly a low risk approach for the next decade ,coming out of the 787 execution challenges.