May 9, 2016, © Leeham Co.: Last week proved to be significant when the CEO of The Boeing Co. and the head of the 737 MAX program each said the company is looking at revising its smallest member of the family, the MAX 7, and potentially enlarging the biggest member, the MAX 9.
Neither prospect was news. Jon Ostrower of The Wall Street Journal revealed the prospect of what he called the MAX 7.5, a slightly larger airplane than the current MAX 7. The idea of an airplane larger than the MAX 9, based on the MAX 9, was floated when Jim McNerney was still CEO.
What was news is that for the first time, the Boeing CEO and the head of the MAX program went on record essentially admitting the MAX line isn’t well positioned against Airbus after all. Or, on the lower end, to Bombardier.
Too many derivatives
With only 60 sales of the MAX 7, to two established customers and one start-up and none since December 2014, perhaps a case can be made for developing a MAX 7.5. This will be a straight-forward shrink of the MAX 8. Whether the 7.5 gives sales a boost remains to be seen. We assume Boeing will green light this program.
The MAX 10, whether in the form of a straight-forward stretch (which I’ll call the MAX 10S, for stretch) or a design with new wings, engines, landing gear, empennage and all the knock-on effects that come with it (what I’ll call the MAX 10N, for new) simply is a bad idea.
Boeing, as with all OEMs, pursues derivatives as a way to capitalize on research, development and technology. However, since the merger with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, it has pursued the MDC propensity of ill-conceived derivatives that are rejected by the marketplace. For example, launched 767-400ER in 2000 and launched its replacement, the 787, in 2004. Only 37 -400ERs were produced. The 757-300 also was rejected by the market: only 55 were produced. The original double-stretch of the 737-700, the 737-900, was a market failure; only 52 were produced. (The 737-900ER extended range fared better.)
The 737-7X, a straight-forward shrink of the 737-8, will have all the disadvantages of a shrink without the likelihood of significantly spurring sales. The idea of a 737-10—a triple stretch of the base model 737-7—whether a “simple stretch” or a basically all-new airplane with new wings, engines, landing gear and other components—is an idea better left on the drawing board.
Negotiating in the press
While Boeing is wrestling with its MAX line, Airbus and Pratt & Whitney are getting pummeled by an old nemesis, Akbar Al-Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways. Al-Baker is justifiably upset over delays with his A320neos powered by PW. As has been well documented, there is a heat-induced bowing issue in the GTF under certain conditions. Al-Baker refused to take delivery, which is his right (I presume) under the contract. Lufthansa Airlines has taken delivery of only two aircraft and Indigo has taken some, but like al-Baker, is complaining in the press.
PW says it has solutions for the “teething” troubles of the GTF, and these will be available in June. Al-Baker, meantime, says that if these aren’t available then, he may turn to Boeing to buy the 737NG, followed by the MAX.
There are no MAXes available in any quantity until after 2020. There aren’t many NGs available, either. Boeing said the NG line is overbooked as it is. The neos should be ready starting in June.
It’s pretty clear that al-Baker is using the press (again) to negotiate or send messages. But seriously? I don’t think so.
The same can be said for Indigo. It claims, according to press accounts, that GTF-induced delays on its new neos are causing dispatch reliability issues that threaten its business model.
Blogger Aeroturbopower makes short work of these claims.