Boeing program update at Paris Air Show 2015.

By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

June 16, 2015, Paris Air Show, c. Leeham Co: On the second day of the Paris Air show we visited several Boeing briefings. The first was Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) update with BCA President and CEO Ray Conner. He elected to not do the usual slide show speech as all slides were available as handout. Instead the whole session was turned into a Q&A, which was good. All hot topics were discussed as questions from the audience. As many were also covered in Boeing’s next session, BCA development update, I will handle these there.

The topics that did not come up in the second briefing were Boeing’s Middle of the Market (MOM) studies for a new mid-range aircraft with 200-250 seats and Boeing’s view on the VLA market. Let’s take MOM first. Conner confirmed that Boeing now has identified that there is a market of around 1.000 aircraft over 10 years which is not served by a suitable aircraft. He dismissed this market being covered by Boeing’s 737 MAX 9 or the Airbus A321LR, both being too small and not having enough range. Range requirement from the many airlines they had visited over the last year was 4,500-5,000nm. The MAX 9 and A321LR have advertised ranges of 4,000nm or less.

Conner said the next step is now to study if Boeing can build an aircraft to serve this market at the price required by the market. “We are early in the studies and don’t expect any concrete decision soon.” He could also not answer if any MOM aircraft parts or technologies could be shared with an up-and-coming replacement for the 737 MAX.

Conner said the Very Large Aircraft (VLA) sector “is a small market. We don’t see that people really want to travel to a point for gathering, then go to the next hub together, only to start spreading out again. People want to go direct to their destination. We are happy with serving this market with our 747-8, especially as part of the small market is freighters.”

Boeing programs

In the second Boeing briefing, Senior Vice President BCA Airplane Development, Scott Fancher, gave an update on running development programs. He said “it will sound a bit boring when I go through the programs because the message will be the same. They are well in plan, development is going well, we are generally ahead of time plan if there is any difference and we will deliver the aircraft on time and on spec. This story will repeat itself for the programs we cover; 737 MAX, 787-10 and 777X”.

737 MAX

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The 737 MAX program is now in the final stages of detail designed with 90% of all drawings released. Fancher said engine development is on track despite any reports to the contrary and manufacturing of first wing for first flying test aircraft has started.

Fancher said that when finished, the program will have the following deliverables:

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I will not comment on these targets as any discussion of these objectives are best done in our questions and answer section on the blog.

787-10 program

The program has passed firm configuration and is now entering detailed design.

 

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The program’s big advantage is the high commonality with the successful 787-9 program. A 95% parts commonality will mean not only development and production advantages but also operations advantages as 95% spares will be the same between 787-10 and -9. 787-10 will pass the 90% release of drawings milestone before end of 2015.

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The claimed deliverables from the project is shown in the next slide.

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777X program

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The 777X program is now in the firm configuration phase. Fancher mentioned that this means that one settles on overall specification for the aircraft and that 777-9X is now transporting 413 passengers over 8,000nm. This is a change from previous 400 passengers over 8,200nm. The 13 extra passengers explain 50% of the range change but 100nm is unaccounted for. Typically increased weight depresses range.

We asked Fancher about any changes in the material system for the aircraft’s fuselage or changes in the engine specifications. He said that there are no real changes in the materials used for the 777X fuselage; there is, for instance, no use of Aluminium Lithium alloys in the fuselage skins.

The reason for our engine question was that the fan diameter of GE9X was increased from 133.5 to 134 inches in January this year. Our information is that this was the result of the project now demanding 110,000 lbf Take-Off thrust from the engines. Fancher’s answer was that to his knowledge there had been no change in engine specifications over the last year and that engine thrust was at 105.000lbf.

A gradual demand for thrust increase for an aircraft project in the phase where 777X is now is normal. Over the lifetime of an aircraft development project a weight increase of around 5% is almost norm in the industry. One change that certainly contribute to any weight and thrust increase in the program is last year’s decision to split the new composite wing in a composite-aluminium-composite design, where the wing centre section is kept aluminium to ease fuselage interface issues. I discussed this with Fancher and he said that in the total trade on where to put this interface, keeping of the centre of the wing aluminium was the better choice.

The claimed deliverables from the project are:

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Of note is the passenger experience, which in essence will be the same as for the 787. “We are not having exactly the same specifications for pressure in the cabin and we will have less humidity, but the overall experience for the passenger in a 777X will be the same as for the 787” said Fancher. 

Summary

Fancher said the centralised development organisation cut its ropes with 787-9 and 737 MAX and both projects have gone well. The advantages of the centralized approach “resource pooling, resource scheduling efficiency and the building a strong knowledge on how we do things, all of which help, he said.

That a stronger organisation still wrestles with the classical problems like weight and thrust creep shows that a stronger organisation cannot master everything, especially not the first law in aircraft development “things get gradually heavier.”

24 Comments on “Boeing program update at Paris Air Show 2015.

  1. With such advantages over the competition one wonders how Aibus ever sell a plane let alone have greater market share with the 320 neos. Too much marketing spin.

    • Not that complicated:

      1) earlier to market – Airbus correctly read the market. Boeing was caught flat footed. Most of the executives that misread the market are still in charge as there is no real accountability at the lazy b.

      2) compete on price

  2. 737max 8% more fuel efficient than an A320 neo?

    I wonder what numbers they used to cobble that together?

    Packed 737-9 vs. a sparsely seated A320 and used seat-mile costs?

    • Of course because there is NO WAY on God’s green earth that ANYTHING could possibly be more efficient than a neo!

      • Sorry, but you simply don’t know what you are talking about.

        If the 737-8 burned 8% less fuel per trip than the A320neo, then the backlog would be ~70/30 in Boeing’s favour.

        They both are at it, throwing together all sorts of wacky numbers to make the sun shine out the ar$€ of their product. This is just the latest to catch my eye.

        • Why do you suppose the lease rate for a 737-800 is higher than the A320? Because it burns less fuel, costs less to maintain and generates more revenue with more seats.

          If you don’t believe it call a leasing company and get a quote.

          Of course, Airbus can offset a lot of this by giving away the airplane which is why they don’t make any money.

          • “@tyler
            June 20, 2015
            Why do you suppose the lease rate for a 737-800 is higher than the A320? Because it burns less fuel, costs less to maintain and generates more revenue with more seats.”

            Infact both airframes are almost at parity and depends on the mission profile. Typically the shorter missions see the Boeing 737-8 is more efficient than A320 and vice versa on the longer missions A320 edges ahead in the efficiency scores.

            Other advantages to the A320 includes cabin/fuselage width. Providing more potential for a more comfortable cabin environment and also the ability to house LD3 containers for cargo – which results in easier cargo loading (only need two people) as opposed to 737 which is not wide enough to accommodate LD3 containers and bags/cargo is manually loaded.

      • Well, it’s interesting that Boeing only ever compares the MAX-8 with the A320neo and quietly ignores the MAX-9 to A321neo comparison. I wonder why?

        Boeing also ALWAYS neglects to mention on which missions the MAX-8 is more efficient. It has been shown on longer routes the A320ceo is more efficient than the 737-800. The extra few seats on the 737-800/MAX-8 over the A320ceo/neo also helps the fuel burn per seat headline figures.

        Boeing loudly trumpets that the 737-800/MAX-8 are at ‘the heart of the market’ while managing to miss the ever growing proportion of A321 sales that clearly indicate the heart is moving upwards.

        Look at the sales numbers.

  3. If the 777x has the same construction, newer engines and a slight increase in length – why do they need such a long time? For the fold-up wings?

    • @Layman: It’s development of the all-new GE9X that is the timing driver.

    • The changes the 777X has over the 777W/L are very extensive. The wing is nearly 100% new and consist of CRP, they build the largest-ever autoclaves for it. The fuselage will be strechet and widend internally (to make room for aceptable 10-abreast). The engines are all new, several systems are 100% new.

      In fact to go much further what Boeing did with teh 777X would mean a clean-sheet all new plane.

      • I read the warmed over 777 will have the same seat width as the 787 which is very narrow. It might be better than the dreadful 10-abreast used now on the 777 but it still is crap.

        • The 747-200 was first delivered with 9 abreast economy to some customers.
          It must be heartbreak to those airliners with all those empty extra seats then.

  4. How much range could be gained by adding folding wing tips to increase wing span (e.g. + 5 m) of an A321LR so it still can use aircraft category C sized gates?

    4,000 nm is about 8 hours of flight. When is a second cockpit crew or third pilot required?

  5. The 8% better than the A320EO demands explanations!
    Had noticed a recent trend by Boeing to claim performance of MAX being better that the 737NG.
    Do not recall Boeing ever claiming the NG was 8% better than the A320CEO?

    • It would be many things, but the simplest explanation is that the B737 is lighter for the same passenger capacity.
      This happened because the 700-800-900 series had a new lighter wing design

  6. “Of note is the passenger experience, which in essence will be the same as for the 787.”

    I guess Boeing is saying that we can expect the same terribly cramped seating experience on 10-abreast 777Xs that we see today on so many 9-abreast 787s. Sigh.

  7. So according to Boeing assertions, the 777X will be an aircraft :
    – with an all-new passenger experience although humidity will be actually higher than the 787
    – with the same reliability than the old 777W while having lots of changes in structure and systems (and a risky wing folding system)
    – with much better performance (fuel burn) than the A350 while having much less composite than her competitor
    The Boeing assertions about fuel burn of the MAX vs the NEO don’t even deserve any comment.
    Boeing’s marketing people are more and more pathetic. It’s definitively not worthy of the Boeing’s legacy.

    • So Airbus claims are taken verbatim but Boeing claims are “pathetic” eh? Butthurt much?

  8. I think that the Boeing team has abused of Champagne and other French wines.

    • You might be right, I spent the day up there : wine and champagne were flowing freely and the best french caterers have been hired for the big companies chalets. A great place to enjoy french food and drinks.

    • The Netherlands are also near by.

      I always thought it a bad idea to first learn to drive at 16 and than to get used to drugs like alcohol at 21… and PPP are so cool…

  9. What everybody can see but is seldom said; the A320NEO outsells the 737-8 too. So much for superiority. Maybe the 737-8 is a little too large? A320 trip costs are lower.

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