Here’s why Boeing won’t do a “757 MAX”

Feb. 12, 2015, c. 2015 Leeham News and Comment: Boeing appeared to put to bed once and for all any prospect of reviving the 757 to fill a product gap between the 737-9 and the 787-8.

Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing, refuted a published report that said Boeing was studying resurrecting the plane, last delivered in 2005, with new engines and winglets. Tinseth made the remarks Feb. 11 at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference in Lynnwood (WA).

While Boeing studied the prospect at one or more points, we didn’t view this as particularly significant; Boeing looks at virtually all options when studying product development.

Our economic analysis, performed after the published report, is one reason why we didn’t believe Boeing would proceed with a “757 MAX.” The economics simply fall short of the competing Airbus A321LR by double digits.

But we also believe practical issues and strategy works against a revival of the 757. The practical issues include:

  • Developing a 43,500 lb engine in a short period of time. Pratt & Whitney is likely the only OEM in a position to respond quickly (i.e., before 2020) with an engine, a derivative of the Geared Turbo Fan. CFM is immersed in development of its LEAP engine and Rolls-Royce won’t be in a position to offer a new engine until around 2025.
  • But PW’s ability to development a GTF derivative may be questionable. In December, the new CEO of parent United Technologies said there won’t be any “big engine” GTF, though it’s unclear if a 43,000 lb engine would fit this description.
  • More to the point, does PW have the engineering resources to develop another derivative on an early timeline? The company is developing GTFs for the Bombardier CSeries, the Mitsubishi MRJ, the Airbus A320neo family, the Irkut MC-21 and the Embraer E-Jet E2. Taking on another engine project may be out of the question even if PW was given the money to do a 43,500 lb engine.
  • Where would a 757 MAX be built? Not at its old home in Renton (WA)—this facility is entirely dedicated to the 737NG and 737 MAX. Boeing’s Everett plant would likely be unavailable for any early timeline. The only possible space would be that of the 747-8, and production isn’t likely to end before 2018-19, in a worse-case scenario.

Given these practical considerations, we turn to strategic issues.

  • If a 2019 timeline is out, requiring one closer to 2020 or 2021, this doesn’t fit with Market Intelligence that continues to indicate Boeing will possibly launch a new airplane program around 2018-19, once the 777X enters flight testing, to replace the 737 MAX and by extension the 757. EIS would be around 2025-2027.
  • Therefore a 757 MAX, with an EIS of 2020-21, makes no sense strategically.

15 Comments on “Here’s why Boeing won’t do a “757 MAX”

  1. A B757NEO is complete nonsense.
    Here are additional reasons:
    – the production line is gone for 10 years, and setting it up again would impose huge cost (and kill the business case of doing the “old” B757 with new engines)
    – when setting up a new production line, the temptation of doing things differently is huge; it will end up as new aircraft
    – the B757 has a wing not suitable for medium/long range flights in a high fuel price environment (which will come quite soon). It is not just the engine.
    – the capacity of the B757-200 is too small and does not stand far enough from the A321. The -300 is too large again.

    I think the whole discussion is just a diversion.

    • While I don’t disagree with the overall, the -200 is too small and the -300 is too large, sheese, then just cut a few frame out of the 300, wallay!, problem solved.

      Of course it can be done, should it? whole different story

  2. I think everybody is and been been discussing, studying a 757 category aircraft. The word “category” is overlooked by an enthusiasts reporter and here we go again, TATL, the old story..

    I agree development of an aircraft in this agree will always be looked at from a total market / portfolio perspective. Both Airbus and Boeing have to have a razor sharp 150-170 1500NM platform, thats were the bulk is.

    A shrink <230 passenger< 3500NM "one fits all" platform is going to be noncompetitive at 160 seats for 2 hours.

    1000NM ranges from DFW, FRA and PVG. Covering a good part of the world population.,+1000NM%40DFW,+1000NM%40PVG&MS=wls&MP=rect&MR=1800&MX=720×360&PM=*

  3. So the upshot is Boeing is unable to respond any time soon to the the A321-LR? Or am I incorrect that any new aircraft of similar capacity to the 757-200/300 will need a power-plant with similar thrust to the 43.5K/lb noted?

    As to space, they 787 surge line might be used initially for 777-X, but not on an ongoing basis, as the 777 lines transition to 777-X? And with 747 facing near certain termination in the 2018 time frame, there’s more space yet?

    It seems like Boeing is backed into a corner, unless it’s strategy is a new airplane covering all the ground between 737-900, and 757-300.

    But that leaves the Max-8 as a little only, an orphan. I wonder what Boeing will do then. Drop out of the 200 seat or less market altogether?

    It has best be good, better than merely good, because Airbus will have again beaten Boeing to market by several years.

    Either way, Boeing seems to be in a potentially very expensive fix

    • A lot of truism there.

      Airbus can also re-wing the A320 series. with the new engine and a more efficient wing a good economical aircraft in production would undercut things more so.

      Do keep in mind that unless Airbus ramps up A320 series production past 737, its still right at 50/50 market split real world.

      what happens in the long term is worth discussion, i.e. get a chart with a year by year aircraft production planned and then the sales and see if there is a cliff.

    • You have nailed it down friend. At some point Boeing HAS to either resurrect the Yellowstone project, start the process all over again to dream up a new project with technology that won’t be available for a long time, IF at all, or admit they can’t compete in the single aisle market and leave it in the hands of AirBus, the ultra shoddy Chinese “C” airframe people, the Boeing-ish Russian SuperJet, or the boys up north Bombardier. Just how long can you play with the 737 before your options run out? Had it been possible to have come up with something new in place of the 737-300 with all the squeezing, adapting that was required, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. As to space, does anyone really think Super-Jumbo aircraft have a future? You can use the fingers on one hand to add up all the 380 orders in 2014 and this far in 2015, by forming a big 0. It kills me that the 747 production will be a thing of the past, I am a 747 lover, but with only 119 on order, 51 PA, 68 Freight and not a lot of interest to increase that number, get your fork ready.

  4. Boeing is doing just fine. Aero-philes keep sounding the doom knell because Airbus is outselling the 739. The reality is that both makers lines are full into the next decade. The 738 is keeping pace with the 320 and if Airbus sells a thousand or so 321’s, it doesn’t make Boeing’s line any less full. Not having a 321 killer will not spell the end of Boeing or the 737 for at least another decade. What they will probably do is try to get a bunch more range out of the 738, so at least they can compete on range.

    • You are wrong in a couple particular.

      1. If Boeing has no competing product then airbus can get maximum value for the A321 that Boeing has no answer for. Sweet spot for Airbus to be in.

      2. If its a decision in a fleet that commonality makes a factor, then Airbus gets the nod. Airbus then can pick up those so called blue chip customers Boeing is so proud of (and I have seen Boeing suffer more calculations than airbus in the past so I don’t buy the blue chip thing)

      Its not the short term, its the long term dismantling of Boeing capability and wholesale disruption and shuffling by McNeanery that is the concern.

  5. Boeings 737 program is drifting at the right size of the 737-800. It’s capacity, costs and range are well balanced for this moment in time.

    And luckily Airbus has its own portfolio gap right there. The difference between the A320 and A321 is a whopping 7 meters/ 42 seats capacity jump / USD 20 million. Both the 737-8 and -9 fall inbetween the A320 and A321 capacity wise.

    On top of that, minimum crew rate requirements are 1:50. So you can fly a 168 seat A320 with the same crew headcount as a 180 seat 737-800. Convinced e.g. Ryanair.

    Of course Airbus could plug in a 200 seat variant with all the right specs, slightly larger, spacier and fuel efficient (per seat) then the 737-8 and offering superior performance vs the 737-9.

    Airlines asked for it (Easyjet, Air France, Jetblue). But Airbus didn’t do it sofar, for strategic reasons I assume. It would tackle the 737-8, lead to at least 1000 upgrades in the NEO backlog and tricker Boeing into pulling forward an NSA to ASAP, shortening the NEO product life cycle by at least 5 years/ 2500 frames.

    I think Airbus will keep a 200 seater under the table as a wild card, to show at the moment Boeing decides to go NSA.

    • A 6-7 frame stretched A320neo would be about the same size as that of the 737-9MAX. In all likelihood it’s in the cards for an EIS early in the next decade.

  6. It seems like they would have released that by now, but agree its an easy fix and a slam dunk technically .

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  8. I have been reading tons of comparative data the NEO vs the MAX and on the surface any “assumed” AirBus advantages follow a linear path. Greater ground clearance–>larger fan blade diameter–>more air passes through–>greater fuel economy –>better cost efficiency than the MAX could possibly reach.
    Ignored is the increase in drag a larger engine opening would render. I haven’t the mental horsepower or training to determine how you calculate drag vs air intake in determining fuel cost. Maybe AirBus doesn’t either or prefers to remain silent on the topic.
    Now this naturally flows into asking the question why didn’t Boeing use the 757 platform to build their new MAX single aisle aircraft, and dump the 737 “groundhugger” as they planned?
    I don’t have the references handy but anyone following Boeing is aware that had the NEO program not been lining up new buyers earlier than Boeing anticipated, once the 737 NG series was complete the 737 was to be dropped. I suppose the mini-787 program’s lack of interest had something to do with this also.
    The 757 is easily the most beautiful, eye-catching bird Boeing Commercial has ever produced and don’t get me started on which airframe Joe and Mary Frequent Flier prefer. I’m willing to bet that 90% of the flying public believes that the 757 interior width is much larger than the 737, not realizing they both have the same 6-across width. Perception is reality. So with the death of the mini-787′ Boeing does have a “gap” with no way to solve it. I would have preferred that the 737 program would have been killed rather than the 757 with all the versatility and PA preference it offers had not.

  9. Clarification–Dropping the 737
    Someone else may have the dates/names down, I don’t so please excuse any such errors if in fact the message gets communicated.
    In 2006 Boeing began planning the Y1 a complete, nose to tail design, dropping the Hamster Pouched 737. Once the 787 was on-board de-bugged and selling, the Y or Yellowstone project was to begin with a target production date of 2028-2030-ish.
    All it’s was aborted when AirBus announced and began logging orders for the NEO. Boeing took the only step they could take to maintain ANY single aisle sales, by adapting the 737 rather than taking more time and creating the Y-1, when they made their announcement to market a MAX version of the 737 with the LEAP engine. I may be off but I think it was in 2011 with an order from American that put this in cement. Let’s say Boeing allowed itself another option by extending the 757 program incorporating 787 technology and ceramics as the 747-800 has done, why couldn’t the LEAP-1A or even the PW1100G have been adapted to power this thing? I refuse to accept as many of you do, that a 757 MAX can only sit for years while RR, PW, GE straight or their CFM outfit just twiddle their thumbs on where to find the thrust to get this baby airborne. But I’m just a naive novice who has a hard time accepting the term, We Can’t

  10. the B757 successor’s designation is designated 797. The NMA/797 was intended to have an all composite wing, & hey presto, Russia’s new IRKUT MC-21 has an all composite wing, with range payload comparable to the 737 MAX. Gone are the days when Boeing could draw an idea on the back of a cigarette packet.

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