Pontifications: Derivatives at Boeing

Hamilton KING5_2

By Scott Hamilton

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.



232 Comments on “Pontifications: Derivatives at Boeing

  1. I think Airbus has no problem finding customers for those early NEOs if these aren’t good enough for Qatar Airways. The engine issue needs to be resolved, probably the airlines did not fully understand that the NEO is despite its obvious similarity a very much changed aircraft.
    Externally, the difference is quite small. I had D-AINA (first LH A320 NEO) fly over/past me twice this weekend, but actually needed to check FlightRadar24 to be sure it actually was a NEO. And I am pretty good at identifying aircraft from distances and strange angles.

    • No, its not a much changed aircraft. Its a simple NEO as it can get, any changes are cabin cosmetic.

      I do wonder if the engine bowing is that big an operatio0nal problem (assuming its completely avoided by procedure)

      Last time I checked, jets took over 1 hour to de-board and then board.

      A few minutes cool down when nothing else can happen seems pretty odd.

      Happy to get it cleared up but I don’t see the issue as an impact, annoyance, not right but a real impact?

      • It’s an absolute disgrace that those PW engines got certificates by the FAA and EASA. When they’re finished wiping the deserved egg off their respective faces, they may want t reevaluate their approval procedures!

        • The trick was pulled not by FAR/Easa being inattentive, but more likely by P&W being sly : these people know their business in and out, so they fit FTV series development engines and their own certification engines with titanium alloy machine-tool cut super-stiff shafts, costing fortunes, making sure there’s no micro-bending in the process up to completing engine/aircraft certification. Then comes the switch to customer deliveries, where series production softer steel alloy shafts are being fitted, optimisation of production costs oblige. NB : the foregoing is a hypothetical scenario imagined to explain the course of events, but it could well be close to the truth ?

          • @FT
            What you are saying is simply not true. If a shaft is changed re-certification needs to be made if the change is significant. And material change is quuiiiite significant.

          • The Young modulus (elasticity) does not change with the hardness of a material. Simple steel used for construction has the same Young modulus as the most expensive alloys. So only for that fact your theory does not work.
            I rather wonder if such a warm-up and cool-down period is forbidden in the certification process. Maybe PW is pulling a VW Diesel here, which means it is a design flaw they were trying to cover up, or if it is a problem that has to do with serial production respectively of precisely this one engine (A320).
            We will most probably never know.

        • IMU that is not covered by certification.

          Certification checks on safety and operative reliability.
          If you have to do a “raindance” in front of the engine for every
          flight that is OK if you write it into the manual.

          Only if forex the raindance does only work in 80 of 100 startups are you in trouble 🙂

          • Apparently other airlines are finding CEO 737 available so U turn Al could be good to go.

  2. AFAIK the PW GTF has been in development for a veeery long time. To be still getting teething problems of this sort at this stage does seem a bit lackadaisical, especially when the problems are not associated with the clever bit of the GTF engine, namely the gearbox. It’s not like it is a new type of problem never before seen on a jet engine. It’s an old type of problem.

    Have P&W, as is typical of companies these days, sacked too many old timers leaving much less experienced staff to repeat the mistakes of old? Bob Leduc’s protestations that lots of engines have had similar problems is simply an admission that P&W (and, if his protestations are accurate, everyone else involved in the apparently similarly afflicted engines) has been making a mess of it.

    Now, how does that kind of carelessness sit with customers putting lots of money into these programmes? Not well. One can sympathize with their irritation. When one is spending billions one wants to be reassured that it’s being spent wisely, not careless, by your suppliers.

    Asymmetric heating / cooling was also a problem that had to countered on steam turbines in naval ships (and similar); they had to trickle steam through the turbines to warm them up before they ever dared apply significant power. On the old HMS Ark Royal IV that took about 4 days… On today’s nuclear powered subs and ships it’s less of a problem – the steam temperature is a lot lower than the super heated steam produced by a big oil fired Admiralty boiler. Turbine designs on nukes are actually pretty primitive by steam turbine standards.

    • Yep, same problem on the F35 engine, ooops, that’s a P&W as well, but it is true its on lots of them!

      I admire P&W for what they did with GTF, but something stink when you have this many problems on one engine that should have been found in testing.

      • Ramping up production output is its own special hell, compared to hand built test versions.

        • Whole different process.

          Seemingly minor improvement like a shaft coating change (GE) can lead to a mess.

          Industrializing a process is always a fascinating challenge.

          Downfall can be the failure to be able to do so (it has to remain economical as well)

          Boeing and its 737RS ran into that.

  3. Careful now, the ultimate turkey was the A318, and the 319 is not much better.

    If done right, the -10S can be a 757 replacement, which neither the -9X nor the A321 does.

    • Truth. The A321, no matter how much Airbus proclaims, is not a 757 replacement.

      I don’t think the -10S can replace it , either. I don’t think there truly will be one for a while.

      • For the 737-9X, or the A321neo, to match the 757 a new wing, new engines, body stretch, etc, are needed. The 757 is a remarkable airplane regarding take-off, landing and range performance.

        • True, but they both have cut off at the bottom of the market to where there really is not a 1000 aircraft market now either.

      • A321neo and 757-200:
        – Near identical size (cabin length x cabin width)
        – Same range (compared to A321 LR)

        A321neo have:
        – a more modern cockpit and flight controls
        – a more modern and flexible cabin
        – containerized cargo handling
        – short range weight options
        – high density cabin option (pax 240 for the neo from 2018)
        – about 25-30 % lower fuel consumption
        – commodity with, and is a part of a larger family of aircraft

        The A321neo, even before EIS, have sold more sold frames then the 757 did over 20 years period.

        You are right. The A321 is no 757 replacement. It is fare much more… 🙂

        • No version of the A321 has the same payload-range capability as the 757-200 or the same excellent take-off and landing performance. 240 seats, or 40 rows, can probably be squeezed into the A321 at extremely low galley and lav ratios and a killer seat pitch, provided that the authorities approve the increased exit limit. That will be an unmatched cattle class, alright.

          Regarding lower MTOW and thrust rating for shorter range operation and to reduce airplane price, weight related operating costs and engine maintenance costs is nothing to brag about. Any airplane can do that with flight manual and other simple changes, even to below the manufacturer’s “Basic MTOW”. You say better cockpit and FCS? Glad to hear that. The current A320 family cockpit and control systems have lots of room for improvement.

          • Andy, your newsletter. I want to subscribe to it.

            Let’s see an A320NEOLR climb at max weight like a 757. Or let’s check out that cattle-class 240 pax seating (I’d rather not…I don’t think I can endure eating my kneecaps sitting in that pitch configuration).

            Meg, the A321NEO sells because it is the only airplane out there that comes near (but not at or exceed) the 757’s capabilities. If the A321NEOLR did outclass the 757, we wouldn’t be hearing this:


          • Mr. Hazy is correct. He knows the market requirements better than most. When Airbus tried to sell the A330/A340 replacement, the A350, Hazy told them that nobody would be interested in it, and he was right. Airbus went back to the drawing board to come up with the so-called A350XWB, which is technologically years behind the 787.

          • Well that’s interesting, Mr Hazy now says a less updated A330NEO will sell over 1000!

            Me thinks there is some issues with which size of his mouth Mr. Hazy talks out of (or where he is in the buying Q at any given moment let alone what firm he is in charge of)

          • I don’t want to rewrite history, but if Hazy had never said anything we would never have had the A350XWB; and if we never had the A350XWB we would never have had a 777X; and if we never had a 777X we would have a NSA instead; and if we had a NSA we would not be having this discussion about a 737X.

          • A warmed-up, slightly obsolete A330 at a bargain basement price is a different animal than the highly touted A350 which did not go anywhere because the value was much lower than the asking price.

          • Airbus finally did the A350, they just renamed it the A330neo. It Hasn’t flown yet but so far it has garnered 184 firm orders, while the A350 XWB, the aircraft that replaced it, has 777 (pun unintended).

          • Character assassination. That is what killed the original A350.
            ( Not the shimmering PR view the Dreamliner presented backed by Interested parties that had heavily invested in that type riding the hype.)

            Same was tried with the NEO but due to massive loss of credibility of the Kasandrites the A320 NEO continued in its ascension.

          • The warmed-up, bargain basement price A330 did not exist when Airbus was touting the A350, which was eliminated by the 787 the same way the faster and much more fuel efficient 777 wiped out the four engine A340.

          • May I add that the A321 can do all this and still stay within the boundaries of a C gate. That’s impressive.

          • Andy:

            If the A330 is a warmed up slightly obsolete aircraft , where does that leave the 737?

  4. “For example, launched 767-400ER in 2000”
    That’s incorrect. The 764ER was launched in January 1997.
    EIS was in 2000.

    “Careful now, the ultimate turkey was the A318, and the 319 is not much better.”
    True regarding the A318 (not helped by the PW6000 issues), but the A319 actually did pretty well, with just under 1,500 sold so far.
    But as with the 737-7, the A319neo won’t be doing quite as well.

    • Correct. While fewer than 1500 A319s have been sold, Boeing has sold more than 2500 airplanes of the similar size 737-300/-700 family.

      • Well, ~1,500 (A319) vs 80 (A318) is a pretty big difference, so I think your original statement “the ultimate turkey was the A318, and the 319 is not much better” was a slight exaggeration, to say the least.

        Also, if you want to compare like for like you can only really consider 737-300/-700 sales after 1993, which was when the A319 was launched.
        Things look almost exactly even then, with ~1,200 737-700 and ~200 737-300 ordered between January 1993 and April 2016.

  5. Yeah it makes little sense to really try a triple stretch with the 10. Yeah it hurts to lose hundreds of sales in that category to the 321neo but it’s worth noting that the 321neo has less than 25% of that class’ share. The 9 still has over 400 orders so it’s no disaster and really is it worth spending billions more just for a few extra hundred orders of share?
    Far better (and easier) to make a better aircraft out of the 7 which is in a practically non existent niche.

    • Geo, I think the Boeing team has to get honest on the 737-9. The Lionair order of 200 (launching customer) seems to have been quietly moving into 737-8’s. With Lionair ordering a pile of A321’s simultaneously. Sofar for keeping up appearances.

      The other big 737-9 order (UA for 100) is still there. United being quiet when Boeing is questioning its own 737-9 specification makes me wonder how solid that one is.

      The thing is for the 2.7 meters extra cabin/ 18 seats of the -9 vs the -8, you have to take 5000 kg of metal and inferior airfield performance. Airlines pass on that.

      All not very surprising and un expected. Deep down I hoped all the rhetoric’s for McNerney, Randy, Wojick were just that, fuctional rhetorics. Lately I get the impression they actually believed it and convinced the company..

      • I think you have to be careful in what the -900ER/9 can do and a need for an A321.

        There is no question that the A312 is in a single aisle sub class all of its own and the 900ER/9 are only the closest (my Passat is the closest to a NASCAR but I am not going to go race those folks!)

        But does the 900/ER/-9 meet a need that is bigger than the -8 but smaller than the A321?

        For an all 737 fleet its the best you can do and it may well work. AK has been happy with them and they seem to fit in well with shifting them around as capacity is needed.

        So it may well be a viable offering, not the most sales ever but a simple low cost stretch that works.

        The real crux is what to do about the A321 and it seems anything short of a new wingbox and wing is a non starter, it will be interesting to see if Boeing has any rabbits in the hat left.

  6. LNC: The original double-stretch of the 737-700, the 737-900… The 737-7X, a straight-forward shrink of the 737-8… The idea of a 737-10—a triple stretch of the base model 737-7…

    If the 737-7 is the base model how can a 737-7X be a shrink of the 737-8? This is rather confusing, for it sounds like if the 737X is the shrink of a stretch. Instead of being a shrink of the 8 is not the 7X rather a shorter stretch of the 7? That is if the 737-7 is indeed the base model and the 737-8 only an extension of it, but perhaps it is not. I hope someone can clarify this for me.

    • FWIW, the 737-7 is based on the 737-700, which again was based on the 737-300 (i.e. same fuselage length of 32.18 m). The latter was the CFM-56 re-engined base model, and slightly longer than the 737-200 (i.e. fuselage length of 29.54 m), while the 737-400 was the stretch model and the 737-500 was the shrink model.


      • Huh?

        My question is the same.

        Lets use the 800/8 fuselage as the base.

        Is that fuselage wing or anything else any different than the 700/7 other than the 700/7 fuselage is shorter. ?

        If so then the 700/7 is a shrink, the 7X would be a shrink and the 900/ER/9 is a stretch.

        Lets keep it simple. Max Nix (grin) otherwise in bad German (horrible actually )

        The 9S/N/X (this is getting complicated!) would be a stretch.

        • IMU todays 800/MAX8 airframe was beefed up to support its MTOW.
          The 700+/MAX7+ is supposed to be a strait shrink from that type.

          Doing a MAX7 as MAX8 shrink increases commonality. One less (slightly) different center section to produce.
          Then you also get extended range/payload from more MTOW in a shorter airframe.

  7. Boeing has two cash-lenient alternative paths to an improved-upon smaller sister to 738 : (a) shortening the 738 or (2) tweaking the 737-700. But the ground to be covered to measure up to CS300 in comfort, CASK and/or technology is’nt negligeable. The primary handicap is the difference in OEW vs CS300. My take of the challenge is that a no-compromise structural lipo-suction of the 737-700 when MAX’ed has better chances to be satisfactory result-wise than shortening the 738. Boeing cannot expect to seriously measure up to CS300 unless the contender’s OWE is reduced significantly. Therefore factually there is only one avenue available to Boeing : redesigning piece-by-piece the 737-700 to make a 737-700 “Light Weight” tweaked option, concommittantly with MAX’ing this aircraft. This goes for the A319 as well. The implication is that the shorter versions of both base-types 738 and A320 are constructed much too strongly. Four or more metric tonnes of excessive strength need to be shaved off, thinning the fuselage skin, stringers, struts, etc piece-by-piece, then redo the fatigue testing to recertify the new Light Weight varieties ?! It’s not going to be cheap, but if you decide to DO SOMETHING about your own aircraft to compete in the market, be sure to do the right thing, or you’re spending money and failing, which is useless !?

    • A shortened 737-8 will have fantastic take-off performance and range. It will be cheap to produce and maintain. It will be able to challenge the A321LR on the Atlantic! And open up new medium haul opportunities in Asia and EMEA!


      ..or a top heavy 4000NM 150 seater no-one asked for.

      • I think Boeing is giving up the bottom and going for the A320 match, keeps the -8 a tad above it and will see on the A321 response.

        • “I think Boeing is giving up the bottom and going for the A320 match.”

          This is quite ironic, given that the 737-8 won many sales over the A320 because it had twelve more seats. And many people, including myself, were saying that Airbus should do an A320.5 to better compete with the 737-8. With all what’s going on at Boeing around the venerable 737 I can only see two possibilities: either the whole thing is a diversion until the NSA is announced, or Boeing is losing its way completely. Like it is mentioned in this editorial Boeing has had a “propensity for ill-conceived derivatives that are rejected by the marketplace”, but the latest proposals are nothing but a shameful absurdity. Boeing has all the symptoms of a sick company. First they were swimming in cash; now they are drowning in cash, and if they continue like this they will just sink.

          • Troubles yes, quasi serious, maybe, completely sink? no

            Airbus has had its ups and downs, a lot more agile these days it looks like.

            Once Boeing gets beat up enough they will change their approach and or managments, for now, agreed its rough.

            If the A320 is the good seller that it is, then the 7X should undercut it (or be competair) for somoen wanting that size and the -8 still beats it heads up (123 seats)

            So maybe Airbus needs both?

            Far be it for me to try to fine tune an airlines ops, someone in a rubber room has to do that for an particular airline and its operation and try to achieve the best average use.

            Per AK Airlines, are they making do with the 900ER/9 or would the A321 prove to be a valuable addition.

            We will find out on that one in a few years! (not to mention which engine they like the best!!!)

          • “Troubles yes, quasi serious, maybe, completely sink? no.”

            Of course not, but what I was trying to convey is that all this cash is creating the dangerous illusion that it’s going to last for ever. For now they are perfectly okay, and they will probably continue to thrive for a number of years. But in aviation we have to go through very long cycles and it takes commensurably long periods of time to change course, just like for a big ship. In fact it was the Titanic that gave us the most spectacular demonstration of Newton’s First Law. And it was reputedly unsinkable. Yet, it sank!

          • Fully agreed Boeing is running a pyramid scheme, except in this case its rob from the developmental end to pay the shareholders. No free lunch and it won’t (and maybe now isn’t) going to last forever.

            They have to suck it up, shareholders take a hit until they get their product line act straightened out, then they have another 20 years of good times (or at least their Single Aisle, wide body they are good in overall, Airbus has a edge here, Boeing there and maybe in todays costly development that’s the best you can do.

  8. Southwest could switch to an all MAX 8 fleet, but they can’t fill the seats and turn time is a problem. Better to build the MAX 7.5, 365 days, 5 seats, $600 is a million per year. If the price premium over the MAX 7 is a few million, only a few short years to pay the return on investment.

    On the stretch how much can they do to the landing gear or wing plugs under the existing 737 certificate? I would assume a stretch would cost as much or more as the entire MAX program, so a more challenging economic case.

    • Twisting linked expanding landing gear?

      Can they make a silk purse out of a sows ear?

      Airbus has that funny nose gear on the A320 series.

      I don’t think Boeing has a rabbit to pull out of that hat but stay tuned.

    • And if the R&D cost to do so (recovered on a very limited production run unique to the 737-7.5) renders it very vulnerable to the CS300….

      Do BCA sell the essentially bespoke developed 737-7.5 to Southwest for a total loss to keep BBD out of the market?

      When does it make sense to forget about losing money selling a 50 year old derivative and lose that same money* on developing a clean sheet?

      *plus more obviously, but then they’re also looking at a 737-10.

      • A CS500 for Southwest at 135′ would be nice. Could be timed as the 737-700s are retired. Wide seats, free bags…

        • I have thought the same, SW would have to change all one type, but I think its more than viable.

    • A 737-7.5 with the new MAX wing might give a bumpy ride without FBW especially on short flights with min fuel load. So add a FBW system pulled from the 787-9. The 737-10 (The Mad MAX) can get a wider Li-Al fuselage like 3″ wider than the A320, a streteched MAX wing with 25% more fuel, a revised wingbox with MLG doors and space for a 757 type landing gear and a center wing tank. Stretch the fuselage mainly fwd of the wing to limit the Required length of the MLG. A new NLG, they can allow it to lean fwd a bit like the A330 to limit the length of the new NLG, the fwd stretch helps. The LEAP-2B Engine with 2″ wider fan than the LEAP-1A and an additional LPT stage. The Spirit aluminium body still fits on the train from Witchita to Renton. With FBW some systems can be cleaned up a bit and boxes be pulled from the 787. A new APU for 240 pax is needed. Just send the top engineers and max one accountant with some retired top guns and Prof Jameson to a hotel room in Dallas making presentations for Southwest/AA until they agree to pay 100MUSD/ea for the MAD MAX. Then they can fly home and present what challenges lie ahead for flight test 2020 and cut stock dividents in half until certification.
      Of cause a 2030 certified all Composite super duper designed $50bn Project single aile 787 type MoM Aircraft beats this but does Boeing have the time and free cash to do it?

      • is everyone saying CFM can’t get 35000 lb thrust out of a 68″ LEAP? Because if they can, the only question is rotation.

  9. TransWorld,

    I think many all 737 fleets ordered the A321, that’s what worrying Chicago. The biggest “competitor” for the 737-9 is the 737-8. It’s for only a few rows shorter but offers superior cost and performance. And rest value.

    UA share / stake holders no doubt started asking the board a while ago what it is that UA knows about the 737-9 but AA, DL, Spirit, HA and Virgin don’t understand..

    We are now in a situation that United has a cord in its hands and can pull the plug on the 737-9 at any moment. If Boeing is opting a 737-10x, UA is whispering in their ears.

  10. As a total outsider (I’m a software engineer), after following this site for some years, I always wonder if it’s realistic for Boeing to design a MoM and NSA in tandem like Airbus did with A330/A340 development:
    – Slightly wider than A320
    – MoM: quad, NSA: twin engines
    – MoM has extended wing with wing root extension
    – Because of four engines sits further aft than twin, the forward fuselage can be longer, this should improves rotation.
    – This also solves the missing engine class problem, as it uses four smaller that available now. The engine might exist already, for example GTF for MRJ?
    I know Boeing does not have either money or time for this, but assuming that it does, what’s the drawbacks of this approach?

    • Four engines wouldn’t make sense from a thrust/weight or maintenance sense.

      P&W are talking about big improvements to the GTF over the next 5 years. Start a clean sheet now, and you’d likely have your engines by the time you start flight testing.

      But I do strongly agree with you. Any NSA and MoM solutions from Boeing must be very common. That would likely extend to a common fuselage, empennage, systems, landing gear concept, engine family. The major differences being either TE extensions to the wing – maybe even a root plug as you suggest (with common torque box between NSA/MoM) or just different wings.

    • Not long ago in this site there was an analysis with conclusion that small quad does make sense. If small quads make sense, then Boeing B330/340 lite should also make sense, too (if we can ignore the problem of having to ramp down for 737 and up for NSA, while also competing with A320neo at the same time). And when the better engine come, the B340 lite can fade away just like A340 had.

      • Bjorn did an assessment and the results are that it is fully competitive with the right engines and its an interesting possibility.

        It would take a good sales job, but if you lay the ground work and prove it, that would be a good one.

        • Sorry, a quad makes zero sense. If that was the case then most airplanes would have 4 engines today. Total nonsense when all drawbacks are evaluated.

          Airbus desperately tried with the A340-200/-300/-500/-600 and the whole program became one of the great fiascoes in commercial aviation history. The next disaster is the A380.

          • Andy: You need to read Bjorns analysis of the A340 situation and then optimized quads. It can work.

            Me, I will take Bjrorn all day long, the man knows his stuff.

            So in near term using GTF available quad setup it might be viable. Down the road better yet as the GTF gets better.

          • You can believe whoever you want. Knowing how much analysis goes into airplane development I don’t pay any attention to amateurs running their “proprietary” spread sheets, no matter who they are. If quads were such a fantastic idea 4-engine airplanes were not a small minority of the worldwide operating fleets. Things that kill 4 engines include, but are not limited to: reliability, spares costs and logistics,
            engine and systems maintenance costs, aerodynamic drag and fuel burn.

          • Agreed that y0u have to go with someone you trust.

            Bjorn is at the top of the list, Andy, not so much

        • ” are that it is fully competitive with the right engines and its an interesting possibility.”

          And that is where the comparison ends, and why there are no more quads (for now) on the table or actually desirable (that are available, beyond a few exceptions) for airlines or manufacturers. The engine companies can make a great engine, but all that great tech can be used in a 2 engine jet, rendering the 4 engine one redundant.

          Which is why the manufacturers are moving away from 4 engine jets; if they are so good, we’d see more of them out there. Fact is, the twin is more than enough for the missions they have to meet that it makes no economic sense to throw a 4-engine jet out there. Which is why the A340 got its clock cleaned by the 777 and the A330. (and why the A340 is dead, no matter how many press releases or studies Airbus promulgates that show the “benefits” of the A340).

          • I think there is a new technology that cannot be easily scaled: the gear box. Currently it cannot reach the level for a long range A321 without restriction. So before GTF, quad make no sense. With GTF, it make more sense.
            Another issue is the size of the market. Market for MoM is small, so the development cost for engine can only be spread over a limited sales. That’s one reason why there is no engine in that bracket. If MoM can use the same engine with other smaller aircraft, the engine price *can* be lower.

          • Q – “I think there is a new technology that cannot be easily scaled: the gear box.”

            R – On the contrary. The GTF is not only scalable but it might actually be more efficient on a larger engine. And P&W is already looking at 4:1 ratios for larger engines instead of the 3:1 ratios we have on the current GTF family. The only problem is that P&W has reduced its R&D expenses to please its shareholders, à la Boeing

          • My key word is “easily”. If PW can but do not want to scale it, then they will be dead in ten years, as a competitor will do that for them. But I doubt they are that stupid. They are certainly trying to do so.
            I think they are focusing their resource on the ramp up of the production of contracted engine now, and that’s the right thing to do. And to scale it to the level of 757 engine, I guess it will take another 10-15 years, and RR seems to target that bracket with Ultrafan. I think gear can be scaled to A330 engine level but it will take 30 more years.

  11. Another topic: some Tupolev airliners have landing gear folded back into a wing pod instead of into the body. Now there is no new airliner uses this configuration, so it must have some drawbacks. Can you aerodynamics expert tell me what are the drawbacks of that design? Excessive drag?

    If the penalty is not too big, can Boeing uses this design on 737 to be able to match A321 without having to re-certify everything?

    • Those pods will probably interfere with/compromise wing mounted engine installation and the high lift system. The Tupolevs have aft mounted engines and the high lift system is rather useless. The landing and take-off speeds are high compared to similar size Western transports.

    • Tuan:

      That’s the out of the box thinking that might work. Maybe not, but a lot can be overcome with good design and its all a compromise so you get some here and loose some there but if you get the goal of getting it all to work and be competitive then you have done a good job.

  12. Emergency meeting in Chicago after Delta’s announcement that they were going to acquire 75 C Series aircraft:

    Staff – In response to Delta’s RFP we offered to develop the 737-7.5 MAX. From Delta’s Atlanta Hub the 7.5 MAX should be able to fly anywhere in North America, but it won’t be ready before 2020.

    CEO – Ok, let’s just pull a United again. Offer Delta 75% discount and 2017 delivery on 737NGs.

    Staff – We just did sir, but Delta…

    Staff – Delta announced a firm order for 75 C Series today. They bought some A321 neos as well.


    CEO – Anyone not working for Sales or Marketing please leave the room now.

    CEO – Why wasn’t I informed about this before the official announcement? You should be shot if you can’t give away 737s to cheap ass Delta Airlines! Delta is so cheap they even bought worthless 717s destined for the scrapyard. You lost a 737 order to the C Series, a paper aircraft sold by some bailed out manufacturer?

    Staff – The C Series has the widest seat and the larger windows for passenger comfort.

    CEO – Who gives a crap about passenger comfort?! I want the C Series dead! Give away the the 737s if you have to.

    Staff – Accounting won’t let us give away 737s. They need the money to cover the 787 losses.

    CEO – We are still losing money on the 787? If the 787 is not profitable there will not be any bonuses for us this year! I was told the C Series will be crushed if we upgrade the 737NG with new engines. So I put new engines on our perfectly good 737NG. We even gave it a new name: 737 MAX. Today we lost a major order to some Canadian snowmobile maker whose name no one can prononce, and you want me to launch yet another MAX variant, the 737-7.5? What are you guys to do if those Frenchies in Montréal launch the CS500 in response to our 7.5 MAX? I don’t understand this!! My entire career airlines told us to design aircraft like sardine cans without any regard for luggage space or comfort. Airlines think it’s a joke when we ask them to put kitchens in their aircraft. It took us years to design the best sardine can flying today. They are so good even the passengers stopped complaining about them. Now all of a sudden airlines want passenger comfort! They are even willing to pay for it.

    Noise in the hallway.

    CEO: We need to sell more 737NGs to keep our bonuses this year. I need cash to offer the 737NG at fire-sale prices, cash we do not have. Any ideas?

    S – Let’s get some cash by firing more engineers and outsource their work to the lowest bidder.

    H – We need airlines that are still flying junks from the McDonnell-Douglas days, airlines who want the cheapest product and do not give a crap about passenger comfort. Let’s get Allegiant on the phone!

    • Bjorn’s CS500 with its 6 frame stretch beyond the -300 had 168 passengers in single class in 30″ pitch with slim line seats — and 2550 nm range at 160,000 # TOGW. It could be in service in 2022; may already be designed. Wouldn’t a 737-7.5 have about the same 168 single class seats? In service in 2020-21.

      I expect that the CS500 would have more than 10% lower fuel burned and carbon generated in short haul missions

  13. Stretch the 900 ER again, and it can’t be built in Renton, at least not with a complete fuselage coming from Spirit. I remember reports that the 900 was only just able to make many curves and underpasses on the rail lines between Renton and Wichita, due to it’s length and the track radius.

    And according to the IAM and Boeing, they seem to have a new problem:

    Productivity of IAM represented workers in WA declined 9.24 percent in Q-1 by numbers released to employees as part of a bonus program. That’s pretty dramatic.

    And unsustainable.

    • You have it all wrong, cowering employees are fully sustainable!

      Or to put it another way, John Adams once commented on watching something like 6 or 8 slave laborers do a job, 2 New Englanders could have done it easily.

      Free people with decent wages have vastly superior productivity than slaves. Soviet Union being the most recent example of that (the old one, not the new productive one of course)

      • “Soviet Union being the most recent example of that (the old one, not the new productive one of course).”

        There is certainly an old Soviet Union but there is no new one, for it has been dismantled on December 26, 1991. It has since been replaced by a number of smaller and more profitable business units… 😉

  14. This whole subject is ridiculous. Obviously, some don’t realize that Boeing is, by far, the leading aerospace company on this planet. Everybody who is badmouthing the 737-7 series airplane and the competitive threat from small airplane manufacturers, should realize that if the -7 series has a problem then the same size, but much heavier and less reliable A319 has an even bigger problem.

    • Andy: Its kind of so what if they are the leading aerospace company on the planet, do they make the most money per business dollar?

      It seems their ROI is 7%? Many companies do far better than that.

      Part of the issue is that Boeing has been eating its seed corn and giving that to shareholders rather than keep aircraft in the developmental pipeline.

      Airbus has a place to escape to as they don’t live and die in the 700 area. Boeing is the most imperiled by a successful C series as it has the 300 nipping at its heels.

      Airbus can up the A320 and match or exceed the 737-800/8s, Boeing has no where to go than the they have right now.

      And this is from a guy who loves the 737 (pesky issues like the rudder issue aside). I grew up with the early version, great aircraft.

      When they came out with the 300/400/500 should have been the last of it though. The Airframe had no future growth without convolutions.

      If they had done what they should and replaced in in the 90s, they could have done so at far lower cost, exceeded Airbus with more current structure and wing and been set until the 2030s.

      Airbus is working up to 50% of their production will be A321. They have an aircraft Boeing can’t match and they can get better money for it.

      Altamaha is going to make nothing but A321s.

      Denial on Boeings part is doing nothing but hurting the long term success of the company in the most lucrative market there is.

      787 was a total management train wreck and the 737 replacement is another one.

      So yes its a legitimate question and issue. Denying it makes it worse and a formal fine American company is being badly damaged by it.

      IF you don’t change that then the whole company can become a train wreck, admit you have a problem and correct, bit the bullet and you can go on being successful.

      When was the last Boeing company designed aircraft (rotor or fixed wing) successful in a military bid? Chinook? V-22 (split).

      Living on F-15 (MD) F18 (MD) Apache (MD) C17 (MD) – so it extends into the other side of the business as well.

      • The A319 is practically dead, the A320 will never catch the 737-8 series airplanes, and there are many other financial measures tan a simple ROI. Boeing’s annual revenues are about 20 billion $$$ greater than Airbus’. What is your point with MD? Airbus has done the same and not too long ago they also laid off people. Moving airplane assembly outside of the EU must really motivate the slaves working for Airbus, don’t you think? They never know when their jobs are exported.

        • “… the slaves working for Airbus.”

          Did you ever eat at the Airbus employee’s cafeteria in Toulouse? It could qualify to be on the Michelin guide if they wanted. And it’s all free! Well, almost. Unfortunately they only have access to it less than eleven months a year, for the rest of the year they are on vacation.

          “Airbus has done the same and not too long ago they also laid off people.”

          Airbus very rarely lays off people because the French laws discourage it. That means the jobs of all those Airbus slaves are more or less protected. What is routine in Seattle is practically non existant in Toulouse.

          • Didn’t Airbus lay off almost 6000 back in 2013? They have factories in UK, Germany, France and Spain, as well as outside of the EU. I’m aware of the French and other Yuropean labor laws, but despite those laws layoffs occur. The other option would be bankruptcy, which would be much more serious due to lack of US type Chapter 11 laws.

          • Andy: if its so ridiculous how com you are even commenting?

          • Well to be fair Trans ridiculous comments are hardly unusual here!

          • Ok, point taken, but I think we can call it as well?

          • Andy: MD

            Point is that Boeing has not done anything new, its all going on past MD products.

            So is Boeing so great or is MD (at least on the military side) what has driven Boeing ever since the merger?

            It one thing to maximize and existing designs, its another not to have new products winning contract.

            You can’t buy other companies forever to get new product’s, though Bombardiers would have been a good on to try for.

        • “The A319 is practically dead, the A320 will never catch the 737-8 series.”

          It is true that the A319 is practically dead. For like the 737-7 it cannot compete with the new kid on the block: the C Series. As for the A320 it is well supported by the highly lucrative A321, the other thriving member of the family. Unfortunately for Boeing the 737-8 series is now more or less an orphan, for no other 737 model sell well enough to qualify as successful. This new reality is bound to seriously compromise the 737 business case in the near future because commonality is important for most airlines. We may see a new landscape developing in the coming years with an increasing number of airlines ordering the CS100 and CS300 at the lower end along with the A320 and A321 at the upper end. And they may soon have an additional model to chose from that would fit somewhere in between: the CS500. Who needs an orphan when one can have an entire stepfamily?

          • I thought it was the other way around, the 737-8 will never catch the A320 NEO, let alone the A321 it never caught and then there is the A320NEO.

            Pick your statistics, Airbus might catch Boeing on overall let alone specific models.

            Airbus has a model that can be upgraded with a new wing and is viable to the 2030 area.

            Boeing does not, has holes in the current 737NG and can’t match the A321 period (which means if an airline needs that size and range it has to buy an A321 or compromise.

            Some compromise is workable (AK Airlines) but too much and it huts the bottom line and you have to at least add A321.

            At that point if you decide to get back to all one, the A320 series is the obvious way to go.

            737 had a long and honorable production till the NG, and as B. Montgomery found out, there is such a thing as “A Bridge Too Far”.

          • Careful now. Why can Airbus change wings on the A320 and Boeing can not on the 737? FYI, every main model series of the 737 has substantial airframe upgrades. For example, the wing on the 737-6/-7/-8/-9 is totally different from the wing on the 737-3/-4/-5. The wing is different, wing profile is different, wing area is different, high lift devices are different. If anyone knows how to improve and adapt airframes it is Boeing.

          • Boeing has changed the wings on the 737, its as good as it gets.

            Airbus has never changed the wings on the A320, there is still more upside there.

            Great aircraft but like the model T, you can only get so much flight out of that frame.

          • Hard to call the MAX ‘A bridge too far” when they have racked up over 3,000 orders.

          • Obviously the 737 MAX has been a remarkable bestseller. But this blinding success creates an illusion. Just look at the present trend and extrapolate this to the earliest date Boeing could EIS the NSA. Do you see a gap there? Of course we all see the gap between the 777 and the 777X, but who cares about the the gap between the 737 MAX and the NSA? Manifestly there is no reason to worry because like the Compte de St-Germain the 737 appears to be immortal. But as far as I am concerned it has had too many lives already.

          • Geo:

            Read the history of the Model T, huge numbers sold, the fall off was remarkable.

            Boeing has optimized the 737 as much as it reasonably can. Next step is unreasonable cost for ROI (it does matter). A company can do 15 billion in business, and have no ROI (and in Boeing case the money is there, its going down a rat hole right now)

            A new wing for the 737 now gets you a very small gain.

            A new wing for an A320 gets you a significant gain (and could be composite with more gain)

            The job of management is to keep a future open, not kill it.

            As much as I love the 737, its time was one generation ago, now its on its last legs with no future. Sad

        • “Moving airplane assembly outside of the EU must really motivate the slaves working for Airbus, don’t you think? They never know when their jobs are exported.”

          You only know about redistributive winning, right?

          Every FAL job abroad creates a bunch of preparatory jobs at home ( wonder who builds the LEGO parts that are assembled on any FAL line? ) and expands on Supplier demand ( even more jobs everywhere.)

          Win Win seems to be unimaginable for some.

          • Moving jobs abroad like Airbus did results in fewer jobs back home. That is simple math. If things were as you say then moving all jobs abroad would generate even more jobs back home. We would like to see that.

          • Someplace in all this there is a balance.

            As I recall, something like 30% of Airbus aircraft are US made parts.

            You don’t want to give jobs away, but you also want the best suppliers.

            US and Europe I think work.

            China is another issue, that was a case of shoveling jobs there and not fighting for them here.

      • “When they came out with the 300/400/500 should have been the last of it though. The Airframe had no future growth without convolutions.”

        The Airbus fanboys would all agree with your first sentence in regards to the 300/400/500. But I don’t, because I think that when the 737NG came out in the late 90’s it was still at the time a formidable aircraft that could easily hold its own against the newer A320 family. But the MAX was one revamp too many that may turn out to be a devastating success for Boeing, in the true sense of the word. But I would tend to agree with your last sentence about the airframe, and I would just add that like for any convoluted growth Boeing’s schemes with the old 737 airframe are indeed hard to follow.

        • The 737s don’t have the same airframe or wing between the different model series. For example, the 737-6/-7/-8/-9 have completely new and different wing design from earlier versions and there are many other changes as well.

          Since the A319 is dead, and the A320 on life-support, the basic question for both manufacturers is what they should do to meet the competition at the bottom end and how to close the gap to their twin-aisle models.

          • A320 on life support? You have to be kidding.

            Very good as is, add a few frames if you want and it can grow into the 737-8 space and even in between to the -9 if they want.

            Boeing has no such current options. Phew.

          • To say that the A320 is on life support indicates to me that you are seriously misinformed. Or perhaps worst.

          • The reason for the major wing re-design of the 737 between versions, was the original was designed in the transition from slide-rules to computers, but which still mimicked the original ‘paper’ methods.

            Using modern techniques and computer design tools, plus improved alloys , you could do a wing re-design and lose plenty of weight while improving aerodynamics. This is what Boeing did but they kept the traditional construction techniques

            You wouldn’t do this sort of redesign now without considering the big change in materials and construction techniques.

          • Not true. Boeing’s production is much more efficient than Airbus’. This would have been impossible unless the design of the airplane supported efficiency. With multicountry ownersship, Airbus can never be as efficient as Boeing due to many reasons.

          • Waste of time to do a re-wing again. Sort of like putting a 450 hp V8 in a Model

            Its a waste of time to re-wing the 737.

            Huge bucks and the air frame is still obsolete.

            Iffy at best for the 10S, (short term stop gap and not sure it even is that) not worth it for the rest of the line.

          • What’s obsolete about it? The 737 has new wing designs for each generation based on latest aero research. The A320 still has the old original wing with fuel burn improvements coming from engine technology and copying the first version of the 737 WL.

          • “A320 on life support” — a bit of hyperbole, is it not? Or do you also mean that the 737-8 is about to get its plug pulled, since it has even fewer orders (2654 vs 3312 for the two models, based on data from pdxlight).

          • Those who say that the small airplane manufacturers threathen the 737-800/-8 don’t seem to realize that the A320 is a smaller airplane and that it would be the nesxt target for elimination. Thus, a forward looking view says “life-support”.

          • “For example, the 737-6/-7/-8/-9 have completely new and different wing design from earlier versions and there are many other changes as well. ”

            Not a new wing. The NG got a beefed up wing structure building on the existing structure and reprofiled into mostly supercritical aerodynamics. ( similar to what was done to the 748. you can’t rip the 60ties heart from either.)
            I’d think the A320 has the cleaner more efficient wing.

          • What matters is the end result. The 737-700 has lower fuel burn than the similar size A319. Airbus is not exactly known for fuel efficient designs. They could not even come up with a decent winglet but had to copy the first version of the 737 WL.

          • @Andy

            As Uwe pointed out, the wing design on the 737NG was indeed legacy constrained, derived from a ’60s wing planform and re-shaped into a supercritical aerofoil – or similar to how it was done with the revised wing on the 747-8. The movement of the flight control actuator on the 737NG is still via ancient cables and pulleys technology.

            Also, if the 737NG was “all new”, why is the fuselage centre-line to engine centre-line of 4.83m exactly the same on the 737 classic and 737NG? Just a coincidence?

          • So what? Nothing wrong with it. The most stupid reason for change is no reason.

          • So why did we ever deviate away from bone clubs and picking lice from companion skins ;-?

          • “and the A320 on life-support”

            That is the comment of a wind-up merchant (WUM for short) or an [edited].

            Since I’ve a hard time believing anyone could be that [edited], I believe Andy is just throwing bait in the water and seeing who will bite.

            So far he’s had quite a few bites… Indeed, Chief Brody has probably been shouting out for a bigger boat for some time now.

          • We’ve explained this before: the 737NG is an all new wing. End. Of. Story.

            “Much of the efficiency revolved around the redesigned wing. With 25% more total surface area and potentially 30% more fuel capacity, the new wing has much to offer. Boasting a higher span than the Classic, the new wing is a more swept with a constant angle of sweep and double-slotted continuous span flaps. Gone is the double swept leading edge and characteristic ‘kink’ of the earlier wing. Similarly, there have been changes to the leading and trailing edge flaps that have resulted in weight saving as well as aerodynamic efficiency. For all of the improvements to the aerofoil and lift augmentation devices, the most visible change to the wing and the aircraft generally, is the emergence of blended winglets on the 737

            So what if it is located on the same spot on the fuselage; it is a new wing with different, well, EVERYTHING.

            Uwe, please stop with the “it’s still a 1960’s wing…it’s the same except everywhere where it is different!” We’ve posted about this subject before.

        • I agree, the 737NG were a great upgrade, no doubt, and denying their commercial success would be stupid.

          The Max series is the one too far. They went asleep at the wheel. as the NG should have triggered the beginning of the new replacement plane(s).

          • “They went asleep at the wheel as the NG should have triggered the beginning of the new replacement plane(s).”

            I agree, but please allow me to rephrase it and put it like this:

            They went into a deep sleep after the successful commercialisation of the NG, and the neo should have woken them up, just like the CSeries had woken up Airbus. For the future belongs to those who wake up early… 😉

          • “They went into a deep sleep after the successful commercialisation of the NG, …”

            They never imho were asleep.
            But at every decission waypoint they selected for short term competitive advantage or just plain “apparent prospects for shareholders” without building potential for the future.

      • “It seems their ROI is 7%? Many companies do far better than that. ”

        By far not even that. ( go over the available “NonGAAP, ignore” unit accounting stuff )
        With project accounting their ROI numbers are synthetic and not observed. ( project accounting works via booking hard set profit margins ( and spending those forex for share buy backs ) and moving the significant difference to Real World Accounting into a bow wave of “deferred cost” )

  15. Gotta love Uturn Al. If those neos don’t meet their every contractural term, Al should short term lease every available 73, 75, and ’76 he came find, and send the bills to Airbus!

    • Reminds me a bit of Hazy and his U Turn on the A330!

      I won’t mention any political figures here of course.

  16. As near as I can figure out the 737s are all the same Wing, only some thrust differences in the engines.

      • That’s true. But different 737 generations have different wings based on the latest developments in aero research. It’s very sad that the A320 family still has the same old original wing, with the only improvement coming from copying the first version of the 737 winglet.

        • Or Airbus they did such a good job of it that only a CFRP now would be better?

          I believe you can only attribute tweaks to the 737 wing until the NG, Max is another tweak.

  17. I really dislike this A v.B scenario or “fanboys” if you will.
    Lets try and get some objectivity into the arguments.
    The 737-100/220 had the PW JT engine looking like it was borrowed fro the V1 flying bomb.
    The next step was the 300/400 series where they had to do some very clever packaging with an elliptical cowling to give the required clearance between engine and runway.
    At that stage they became blind or just plain oblivious to engine development and they re-engineered the 737 to the NG configuration totally ignoring the “bleedin” obvious that future growth would demand the ability to accommodate a larger diameter.
    At that point in my view Boeing made a fatal error by not biting the bullet and designing a new wing/wing box or maybe even modifying the 757 wing box to fit the 737.
    One could be forgiven for assuming that the Boeing design team felt that the engine manufacturers would defer to natural evolution in by-pass ratios and other innovations and take a step backwards because Boeing had conveniently ignored natural progression, and of course they were Boeing so they were obviously right.

  18. As I read the situation, Boeing is in a major strategic dilemma with the 737. I would even go so far and call it an emergency. Whatever trick they try now, they will loose the 737-7 market to Bombardier and the 737-9 market to Airbus, which will then compromise the market position of the 737-8 seriously.
    If the management would not be afraid to loose face they would admit a serious strategic blunder now and abandon the development of both the -7 and the -9 and put the money and engineering effort into a new line of narrow bodies. Better today than tomorrow.
    Just get the 787-8 on its way and meanwhile start at the top end, applying the best currently available technologies.

    • Don’t believe everything you read on LNC. They constantly badmouth Boeing, no matter what Boeing does, and compliment Airbus, even on turkeys like the A340 and A380. Wonder why that is.

      • You forgot turkeys like the 767-400, the 747-800 and KC-46, and not to forget the popular albatross, the 787. Maybe thats a result of being based in Seattle where theres a lot of dissing going on. Microsoft gets dissed a lot too you know, and now Amazon. Must be something in the water there

        • Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon are all world leaders in their fields, so it is understandable that lesser “me-too” company supporters are jealous and do everything in their power to produce biased opinions. What a waste of energy that is because it will not help the “me-too” companies, such as Airbus.

          • Lets see, MS is a monopoly, check.

            Amazons (never made money has it?)

            Boeing: Great company at one time, eating seed corn now.

            Airbus is doing some very good work.

            Comment on LNC is in very poor grace at best, they are as balanced as you can get.

            I assume you believe that an alcoholic in denial is the way to cure the problem.

            This is not Boeing bashing. I grew up with them, admired them, was part of that world early on (still a big part of it)

            That does not mean constructive criticism is a bash.

            The emperor can go around without any cloths and the obvious worst is public shock, the bigger problem is the kingdom can fall if he continues to believe in a fantasy world, it spills over into other issues and decisions.

            I never had a problem that went away by denying it existed.

          • I’d join Boeing, Microsoft, Facebook.

            All rose from borrowed fruit by way of acting very successful on the PR and commercial front.
            Their products never quite met their carefully crafted oversized image on objective grounds.
            ( Facebook is not far enough in this cycle to have produced some poultry or other. Microsoft. living in a faster cycle, leads the way afaics.)

        • KC-46 hasn’t lost a boom yet, and is going to be cleared for basically any NATO allied aircraft for refueling right out of the box. MRTT didn’t achieve that feat until YEARS after service entry.

          And to call the 787 a turkey is not worth commenting on, becaue that is lunacy (program management is a different matter). The 747-8 and 767-400ER didn’t sell well, for sure, but neither did the A340, A380, A350-800 (each murdered by (respectively 777 and A330, market, A330)

      • Andy, I am an entrepreneur for 32 years now, been in management of large corporations and have consulted business around the world in strategy and product development. I have held meetings with a full board and management team in which I have pulled some really badly rotten tooth which were looking all too nice as long as you did not put a direct light on them. Don’t worry, I am far beyond buying other peoples ideas too easily.
        I am a frequent long distant flyers for something like 30 years now and will never forget my visit to the 747 cockpit on my first flight to Japan, just like my first trips on the iconic beauty 727. I am still a big fan of Boeing, but have to admit that does not include their management for quite some years now.
        Initially I was no great fan of Airbus, but since the most comfortable long distance flights on some A340s or shorter ones on A321 for example I must admit that I actively look out for those over flights with 777s or 737s for my personal comfort.
        I don’t think we do Boeing a favor if we support their current (or recent) top management. I am absolutely sure there are much smarter and less selfish people in the company that would know much better what to do and how to bring Boeing back on track. But of course it is the shareholders to decide which course they want steered.
        Whenever I am consulting a company or try to improve the performance of my own little company I am seeking out the places where it hurts, ask the unhappy customers resp. those that don’t buy, talk to the unhappy employees, dig up the dirt in the worst performing markets,… you get my meaning. Not because I want to diminish the pride of a company, but because I want to bring it back up and improve it.
        You should not read critical comments on this board as “bashing”, though there might be some people into it, but rather written in the hope that some people at Boeing might actually read, understand and react.
        I personally feel like a bystander at a chess game between two giants, and recently one of them has made some really smart moves and the other maybe not so much. And we all here are discussing the moves made and think aloud about the possible outcome and what’s gonna happen next.

        • Thank you for your comments. I have more than 35 years in commercial aviation including flying, systems engineering, and economics, incl mgmt positions. I have several graduate degrees. I also have more than 200 long range international flights as a passenger under my belt. So I also know what to look for when going on a trip. Some airlines are my favorites because of excellent service in cabin/first/business class lounges, while others are on my black list. As you may know, airplane interiors depend more on the airline than on the manufacturer, so it is important to sort out what is caused by whom before blaming anybody.

          In my case it is the schedule, number of connects and total flight time that determines primarily which flights I pick. If I have a choice I prefer the 747/777 over the A330/A340 because the Boeing airplanes have higher cruise speeds which can shorten the flight time by more than an hour on long trips, and time has value to me. I also prefer to fly on Boeing airplanes because they are more reliable and experience fewer delays and cancellations.

          I would agree that Boeing could have done some things differently, but so could Airbus. There is nothing easier than to be “smart” in retrospect. Endless and hateful badmouthing of Boeing while blindly admiring Airbus serves no purpose, is not helpful to anyone, and one may wonder what the motivation is. Badmouthing is never helpful, while focused, well founded and fact based constructive criticism could be, except that there are nobody here who can do that because of lack of required information, experience and qualifications. Boeing knows their business better than any outsider.

          • Andy, how can someone with this kind of experience in commercial aviation display such an abysmal ignorance of anything Airbus, one of only two large commercial aircraft manufacturers in the world? For your awareness deficit is indeed spectacular!

          • No Andy, I do not work for Airbus, nor am I an Airbus fanboy. What is important to me is the truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth. But truth stems from intellectual honesty, and the latter is derived from knowledge, which itself requires an open mind. So on this basis I would like to invite you to study the history of Airbus because your knowledge of that company is clearly not on the same level as your knowledge of Boeing. Of course that is understandable if you are a partisan, but it also disqualifies you as a legitimate contributor to this blog unless you are willing to learn in order to compensate for your lack of awareness.

          • Where do you get the info saying that I’m wrong? Maybe you should read up on the subject.

          • Maybe not. There is only one review and it is written by someone with the same name as you.

            Besides I’m somewhat familiar with Airbus history and we are not debating history here.

          • Allow me to tell you that you appear to live in a different timeline. The one were the US is always the greatest 🙂

          • Thanks for that. The thing to remember is that there are far more readers of these sort of blogs than those commenting, so it doesnt matter if a few are hyper partisan with ‘their planes’ such as Bombardier or Airbus.

          • Normand: Well said on the intellectual honesty!

            We all have biases, if we are looking at this area we do our best to not let it creep in.

            I am biased toward Boeing, that does not mean that management (mismanagement ) should be allowed to ruin the company.

            I once had a guy tell me that I went home at night patting myself on the back for the great things I had done.

            No, I go home at night, I look at what I have done wrong and what I need to do to correct it. I don’t ignore the things done right, those need to continue.

            Boeing is making mistakes and needs to correct them.

            They can’t continue the way they are and they can’t live off MD platforms.

            I would be badly shaken if I looked at their track record and how severely dependent they are on what other management did in the past. All their new military aircraft proposals have lost. The only current one is 767 that had it made in that it met the specs without going over (and we have seen the problems on that project as well).

            One new aircraft in recent history and they have 30 some billion in charges to it. Great aircraft, amazing tech, and management has just hung a rock around its neck, they have tied Denali ( known as Mt McKinley by some)

            Its an awful record, management continues to get bonuses.

          • “I am biased toward Boeing, that does not mean that management (mismanagement ) should be allowed to ruin the company.”

            We are all biased towards one company or another and it often depends on where we are born or where we live. But in your case I have noticed a high level of down-to-earth objectivity. Like you, I have respect and admiration for all aircraft manufacturers because I know it is a difficult business to be in. For example, as a Bombardier supporter I still have plenty of respect and admiration for Embraer and what they have accomplished. Same goes for Boeing and Airbus. And if for the other aircraft manufacturers out there I have less admiration they still have my respect for what they do or try to accomplish. I have been commenting on LNC for almost five years now and I have noticed a remarkable evolution. It seems the Boeing fans have gained a better knowledge and understanding of Airbus, and we don’t see as many stupid comments said about Airbus nowadays. There will always be some ignorants trying to flex their muscles on the public place trying to intimidate others, but they soon realize that they are fighting for a lost cause. I like to kick Boeing’s ass and it deserves it, but I still think its a formidable company that will continue to thrive for a long period of time. But I think it will evolve into a very different company than what we see today. One scenario I see for the future is a greater emphasis on the military sector. But that would only have to happen if Boeing falters on the 777X, which is possible but unlikely. What is less inevitable is that Boeing will continue to procrastinate over the direction it wants to take in the narrowbody sector, including MOM, and this could seriously compromise its competitiveness.

      • Actually @Andy, there have been a number of posts by LNC supportive of Boeing, but Boeing and many readers choose to ignore these or forget about them, preferring to focus on the “bad” stuff, for which there is so much fodder in recent years.

      • A failure on your side over
        “Know your Specimen, How to do proper taxonomy”


  19. Boeing is listening to the customers on the NG and MAX by providing a similar plattform for crews to save on training. As long as the airlines pay the development cost, it is the right decision. Also, why the 7.5 will be produced, because it is cheaper than retraining 737 crews on the CS or something else.

    That does not preclude Boeing from developing a new single aisle now, because the MAX was a small investment. Which goes back to CFRP fuselage? CFRP wings, can they produce 60 sets per month?

    • “Boeing is listening to the customers…”

      No Ted, Boeing is not listening to the customers, it is listening to the shareholders.

      • Normand: Short term its listening to customers, it has some good products (and wide body longer term looks good)

        Shareholders are holding the single aisle hostage (with management enabling it)

        • You have to survive in the jungle that you are born in, for Boeing its a wide open share register and the mores and methods of Wall St. Airbus has its significant shareholders and multi European base who do things differently.

          • You have to live but you have to balance as well.

            Sooner or later the piper gets paid, its the job of management to lay it out, bite the bullet, take the short term pay for the long term benefit.

            If you don’t, then its nothing to do about Boeing and all to do with you cashing in. That’s not management, Ferdinand Marcos is the poster child for how that works.

            I was out to the Philippines in the mid 80s. You could see the remnants of a wonderful city run into the ground.

    • Exactly. That’s something Airbus supporters don’t understand. They can’t either understand how Boeing can achieve record manufacturing rates on the 737 without adding facilities, unlike Airbus which is moving A320 production out of EU.

      • Andy: We have to question that when the numbers of Boeing people to mfg and aircraft are higher than Airbus. We need a line card to tell if its too much management, to many workers that are not as efficient or apples and oranges but the number are so far apart there is some reality to it and Airbus looks to be more efficient.

        Airbus has chosen to move to China to sell aircraft. I don’t like it, but it was not because they could not expand in country.

        Alabama is a diversification move. Good for the US.

        Boeing is making eyes at China now as well. How far that goes stay tuned.

      • @Andy

        Clearly, you [are not fully informed–edited to this new language]. Final assembly of an Airbus aircraft accounts for only about 6-7 percent of the product value chain. For the A320-series being assembled in Mobile and Tianjin, the cockpit/nose-section/forward-fuselage are still manufactured in Saint-Nazaire, France. The centre wingbox in Nantes, France. The centre and aft fuselage, and tailcone in Hamburg, Germany. The vertical stabiliser in Stade, Germany. The horizontal stabiliser in Getafe, Spain. The wings for all A320-series assembled in Hamburg, Toulouse and Mobile are manufactured in Broughton, UK. Not mentioned, of course, is the large number of Tier-1 and Tier-2 suppliers from all over the world

        Now, China’s Xian Aircraft Industry is the sole supplier of wings to the 320-series being assembled in Tianjin. As for China, Chinese expectations for Airbus and Boeing is to build in China in order to provide jobs in China, and that they will be treated less equitably otherwise.

        It may look, therefore, as if Airbus’ production facilities in Tianjin is helping Airbus achieving more than a 50 percent long-term market share in China. If Boeing wants a larger piece of the cake, they’ll probably have to build more in China than just a completion centre for the 737. However, due to the way Boeing assembles the 737 – entire fuselage manufactured in Wichita, final assembly at Renton – it’s much more difficult for Boeing to set up a 737 manufacturing facility elsewhere, than it is for Airbus with the A320, where the FAL is just the last piece of the “puzzle”.

        • I think you misunderstood. My comment was about tremendous efficiency gains on the 737 FAL which Airbus has not achieved. Every penny counts.

          • No, I didn’t.

            You said; “they can’t either understand how Boeing can achieve record manufacturing rates on the 737 without adding facilities, unlike Airbus which is moving A320 production out of EU.”

            I’d be curious to know where you’re getting your “facts” from. Airbus isn’t “moving production” out of the EU. In fact, they’re increasing production in the EU as they increase the production output.

            In contrast to 737 production at Renton, an Airbus A320 FAL is just the tip of the iceberg.
            Airbus has established final assembly lines (FAL) in China and the US that accounts for around 6-7 percent of the A320 value chain. The manufacturing productivity gains obtained by Airbus on the A320 since the EIS in 1988, has occurred at all of their manufacturing facilities, including the FALs.

            Being able so easily to open up A320 FALs in China and the US, is IMJ a tremendous competitive advantage for Airbus.

          • Addendum



            “Our industry still requires customization and flexibility. We’re not going to have armies of robots everywhere,” he said. “We need intelligent automation.”

            Williams cited two examples: The A320 wing panel assembly process in Broughton, Wales, which sounded very similar to what Boeing is doing on the 737 line in Renton; and the planned use of robots to drill and bolt fuselages in Hamburg by 2018, which sounds just like what Boeing is preparing to implement on the 777 in Everett.

            Charles Champion, executive vice president of engineering at Airbus, said the motive for moving toward automation is not cost savings. At the high production rates ahead, he said, there’s no other way to ensure the same quality every time a plane is built.

        • @OV-099
          That the 737 fuselage is made in Wichita does not make any difference. If Airbus can establish a FAL in Alabama, and haul parts in from EU. Boeing can easily do that by hauling parts from Wichita and Seattle to any FAL on the planet if needed. Regarding Airbus I just hope that the much lower labor cost in Alabama (compared to EU) makes up for all transportation costs and plant investment of some $600M, or it will be a money losing operation. The production rate is very low.

          • @Andy

            That the empty shell 737 fuselage is made in Wichita makes for a huge difference. A320 fuselage sections arrive at the FALs fully stuffed. In contrast, the 737 fuselage is stuffed in Renton, not in Wichita. If Boeing were to open up a FAL in China, they’d essentially have to make a copy of the Renton plant (i.e. minus wing assembly).

            With the 787, Boeing set out to copy the Airbus method of manufacturing, where complete wing and fuselage sections are delivered to the FAL. However, the 787 requires four unique 747-derived Dreamlifters to transport 787 sections around – and they’re only used for transporting 787 sections. In constrast, the five A300-600ST Belugas in-service with Airbus, are used for transportation of sections of all Airbus aircraft, except for A380 sections.

            Now, the cheapest shipment cost of large aircraft sections is shipping by sea. In fact, shipping A320 fuselage and wing sections to Mobile from Hamburg or Nantes, is very likely cheaper than transporting them by air intra Europe. Hence, trying to imply that the “transportation cost” will significantly increase the production costs at the A320 FALs in Tianjin and Mobile, seems to me to not based on a real insight on what actually transpires in state-of-the-art LCA manufacturing.

            Finally, the Airbus FAL in Mobile is designed to produce upwards of 100 A320/A321s per year. In contrast, the total output of the MD-95/Boeing-717 never reached more than a grand total of 155 units at the former Boeing/McDonnell-Douglas production facilities at Long Beach.

          • Who says that the 737 fueslages can not be stuffed in Wichita if needed. Just ship the interiors to Wichita instead of Seattle and revise the build process. The 747s can be used to ship other airplane parts than just the 787, as appropriate.

          • You just told us previously that Boeing has the most efficient
            build process ever.

            Prestuffing fuselage sections like Airbus does can’t be worth a penny going by your words.

          • Looks like you misunderstood. Now, if Boeing needs to increase 737 output beyond what can be produced in Renton by running the moving line on three shifts, there are many options to consider since expansion of the Renton factory could be out of question for several reasons. These options would have to consider revisions to the manufacturing/assembly/FAL process, as well as location, labor costs, union issues, headcount, job classifications, retraining requirements, transportation costs, cost of new facilities, facility and tooling changes, an overall assessment of production capability and flexibility requirements, overall profitability, etc, etc. For the 777X, for example, Boeing decided that a factory addition for composite wing manufacturing in Everett was the best way to go.

          • @Andy

            We’re not just talking interiors. Again, 737 fuselages arrive in Renton as empty shells.

            The cabin interior (i.e. seats, lavatories, luggage bins, ceiling panels, carpets etc.) are only installed at the end of the assembly process, something, BTW, Boeing is intending to do in China for 737s going to Chinese customers.

            Setting up a duplicate 737 plant in Wichita, designed for outfitting of the empty shell 737 fuselages that are manufactured by Spirit Aero Systems, would rather deteriorate the — implied by you — “star-sparangled awesome” 😉 level of efficiency gains having been achieved in Renton.

            There are over 10,000 Boeing employees working at the Renton plant, In comparison, there will be about 1,000 Airbus employees working at the FAL in Mobile when, or if the assembly rate goes to 8 per month. I’d guess that an expensive, purpose-built facility in Wichita designed to handle the installation of wiring harnesses and connectors , pneumatic and air-conditioning ducting and insulation etc., would at least require 1,000 employees — depending, of course, on the number of 737s that would be assembled overseas. At a low rate, a “stuffing” plant in Wichita would be extremely inefficient.

            When the fuselage arrives at Renton, it is fitted with wiring looms, pneumatic and air-conditioning ducting and insulation before being lifted onto the moving assembly line. Next, the tailfin is lifted into place by an overhead crane and attached. Floor panels and galleys are then installed and functional testing begins. In a test called the “high blow”, the aircraft is pressurised to create a cabin differential pressure equivalent to an altitude of 93,000 feet. This ensures that there are no air leaks and that the structure is sound. In another test, the aircraft is jacked up so that the landing gear retraction & extension systems can be tested. As the aircraft moves closer to the end of the line, the cabin interior is completed – seats, lavatories, luggage bins, ceiling panels, carpets etc. The final stage is to mount the engines. There are approximately 367,000 parts on a 737 NG.


          • You are assuming that things will be unchanged in Wichita and Renton in case Boieng decides to relocate some 737 FAL elsewhere. That is a bad assumption. Also the Renton plant has much more than just the 737 FAL and the 10,000 you quote don’t work on the FAL, which is the most efficient FAL in commercial airplane production. I assume you know it is a moving line running 3 shifts.

          • Has it ever occurred to you that the reason for Airbus’ spreading out main component manufacturing jobs to several EU countries is the result of 4 country ownership and nothing else? Certainly not economic considerations. More labor unions to deal with, different labor laws, more management structure, transportation costs, etc. This kind of set-up does not normally exist because it makes little economic sense.

          • Correction: “Star-spangled awesome” instead of “star-sparangled awesome”. 🙂

          • @Andy

            No, what I’m saying is that the combined 737 manufacturing and final assembly plant at Renton is an altogether different beast than a lean A320 FAL in Mobile, Toulouse and Tianjin, where fully stuffed sections arrive from elsewhere (i.e. At Hamburg Finkenwerder, the manufacturing of the centre and aft fuselages for all A320-series occur at a plant next door to the FALs (i.e. 3 lines in Hamburg).

            As I’ve now, repeatedly pointed out, the stuffing of all fuselage sections for Airbus aircraft is undertaken at existing plants in France and Germany. With the FAL in Tianjin, and now Mobile, no fuselage manufacturing jobs are “lost” neither in Germany nor France. Hence, it’s a win-win for both the unions and the additional workers that are required in Mobile and Tianjin.

            With the 737 — on the other hand — the FAL, wing manufacturing and fuselage stuffing is so tightly integrated whithin the same manufacturing system set-up, meaning that
            737MAX Aircraft being produced at a new FAL in China would require, at the minimum, a new manufacturing orchestration and execution, significantly different to what’s in place today. In short, a large number of jobs at Renton would be lost to either Wichita – where new, expensive manufacturing facilities would be required – or to China. At the same time Boeing desperately needs to control manufacturing costs. IMJ, putting a 737 FAL in China is a lose-lose situation for both Boeing and their 737 employees/unions, and is therefore not a very realistic undertaking.

            Now, just by regurgitating the Boeing talking points that the 737 assemply plant in Renton is the most “efficient FAL/manufacturing facility in commercial airplane production”, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. Of course, it just fits your narrative that Boeing is, by far, the most star-spangled awesome aerospace company on this planet.

            Finally. Airbus has, in fact, moved away from static assembly to a semi-automated pulse-line (i.e. moving production lines) on both fuselage manufacturing in Germany and wing manufacturing in the UK. Arguably, Toyota-style moving assembly lines can work as well, or even better for the manufacturing of large aircraft components than a moving line at final assembly. You’ve got to look at the whole picture. That Airbus only require 500 hundred people, or so, in Mobile and Tianjin in order to assemble 4 aircraft per month, just goes to show how much of the value chain is elsewhere. Hence, the level of productivity at Airbus is mostly measured elsewhere than at their final assembly lines.

          • I’d suggest we end this discussion. The reason for Airbus having major component manufacturing in 4 countries is because of politics of those countries and nothing else. 4 airplanes/month in Alabama for a 600 miljon dollar investment in factory? The Renton 737 line produces 4 airplanes in 2 days.

          • “I’d suggest we end this discussion.”

            You really should have stopped there. 😉

          • @Andy

            Quote: “Has it ever occurred to you that the reason for Airbus’ spreading out main component manufacturing jobs to several EU countries is the result of 4 country ownership and nothing else?”

            Yes, of course. However, the concept has been so successful that every other manufacturer seems to want to copy what has turned out to be a highly efficient manufacturing system: Bombardier with the C-series, China Aircraft with the C919, Embraer with the E190/195 series, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation With the MC-21 — and Boeing, of course, with the 787.

            Now, the Airbus distributed manufacturing concept has evolved since the early days:

            Primary changes to the production organisation focussed on the empowerment of Airbus’ production sites – co-locating key contributing functions like engineering, procurement and quality, and putting them under the operational leadership of a plant head. This ensures a further integration into operations to secure deliveries.

            The production activities previously performed by Airbus’ Centres of Excellence are now under responsibility and management of the individual plants, which interact directly with the Central Programme Organisations. The larger Airbus production organisation has accountability for final assembly line commitments.

            Also, a new Operational Excellence Centre of Competence was created to define and deploy Airbus’ industrial strategy and ensure “best-in-class” industrial standards for Airbus and the extended enterprise. This evolution supports Airbus’ long term “Vision 2020,” particularly in regard to integration efforts.


            Here’s a good link to how and why the founders of Airbus set up a production system altogether very different from that of the American OEMs:

            Kracht, who died last year,was instrumental in establishing the technique of assembling large components, fabricated in different countries, at a single location. One of the most expensive mistakes on Concorde had been the use of two final-assembly lines in Britain and France doing exactly the same thing—with an enormous duplication in tooling and overhead.

            “No way,” recalls Beteille. “One line was a prerequisite.” That line would be in Toulouse — and not for French gloire, Beteille maintains. “It’s the only place in Europe with enough airspace to do flight tests,” he says. But he adds that if they’d done everything on an assembly line, hundreds of workers would have had to be transplanted from Hamburg and Manchester to Toulouse. Kracht and Beteille thought the workers would be more productive at home.

            The solution was called “light assembly”: The body and wing sections would be completed in Germany and Britain, with wiring, fluid lines, air ducts, and insulation in place, so fewer people would be needed in Toulouse for final assembly. And that is how every Airbus is built today. Management was organized according to the same principle: Look at Concorde and do the opposite.


            Yes, Airbus spread

            Certainly not economic considerations. More labor unions to deal with, different labor laws, more management structure, transportation costs, etc. This kind of set-up does not normally exist because it makes little economic sense.

          • For sure, we can end the discussion. We can resume it — if you want to — when you’re better informed on how the Airbus manufacturing set-up is functioning.

            As for Airbus employment levels; they employ around 12,500 people in Hamburg. At Hamburg Finkenwerder, Airbus is manufacturing and outfitting of the centre and aft fuselage for the A320-series — in addition to 3 A320 final assembly lines; the forward and aft fuselage for the A330 and A380; outfitting the forward and aft fuselage for the A350; and conducting cabin completion for the A380.

          • I know well what Airbus manuf processes are and why. Headcount comparisons are meaningless unless you know what they do and what is outsourced. I have said it before and I say it again, Airbus’ organization is a result of political considerations between countries and not of economic efficiency.

            I see no need to continue this discussion.

          • OV99: I believe you are wrong that Alabama will produce A320, it can but its been changed to ALL A321 (we can guess why!)

            Andy has a point that the broken up European supply was due to political requirements when Airbus was formed.

            On the other hand it also has lent itself to a modular production system.

            Boeing eggs are all in one basket (787 aside), certainly its vulnerable to a Quake or Tsunami.

            I don’t disagree that Boeing has done a phenomenal job of making Renton crank out 737s at an unbelievable rate.

            How that translates into efficiency is another story.

            Airbus has been lucky but of recent years they have managed their product line very well.

          • @ Andy

            Ok, so you previously wanted to end the discussion. Yet, you continue to engage….

            You can say, over and over again, that “Airbus’ organisation is a result of political considerations between countries” – which is true, but that doesn’t tell the story of how the Airbus’ distributed production set-up turned out to be so successful, that every other OEM copied the concept. I haven’t seen one iota of evidence presented by you that supports your argument that the Airbus distributed production system supposedly lacks that of Boeing’s in economic efficiency, something that you’re obviously trying to imply.

            know well what Airbus manuf processes are and why. Headcount comparisons are meaningless Airbus’ organization is a result of political considerations between countriesunless you know what they do and what is outsourced. I have said it before and I say it again, and not of economic efficiency.

            I see no need to continue this discussion.

          • Addendum

            Those two last paragraphs are not mine. 😉

    • You may know that the A330 pilots just need a type rating to move I with the A350?

      Did not happen between 767 and 787.

      In the long run no airline will buy an obsolete aircraft. The manufacturer has to offer a better aircraft.

      • @MHalblaub

        If a pilot is appropriately type rated the FAA will allow him to fly two different types, such as DC-10 and 747, for example. So what you are saying about the 767 and 787 is hard to believe. To go from the A330 to A350 requires 11 days of conversion training, BTW.
        To go from 757 to 767 is no training –same type rating.

        • The A330 and the A350 are the same type of aircraft for pilots.

          Therefore I expect more training time for a pilot to move from a 767 to a 787 than from A330 to A350.

          I doubt that it is allowed to fly a 767 without any further training just because the pilot is licensed for the 757.

  20. “me-too” companies, such as Airbus.”
    A300, A310, A320, A330/40, A380? A400M A350?

    Andy, Boeing being bumped to the second place doesn’t sit well with some of our US friends. I think the 747-8, 777X, 737MAX just weren’t the mother of all strategies. The 787-8/-9 arguably was, but execution, accounting and quality issues damaged the program. Shooting the messenger (LNC in this case) only heals temporary.

  21. I just want to remind everyone, and raise a small yellow flag in the process, to be careful how you frame the back-and-forth that’s going on between Andy and some of the rest of you. There has been a little personalized commentary that I’ve edited as a violation of Reader Comment rules to be respectful.

    Generally the interaction has been within bounds but some of it is borderline. So just as a cautionary note to all, please give additional thought to how you respond to each other.

    • Roger: I am feeling good we seem to have kept it mostly on the good side of the line.

  22. 3000+ backlog notwithstanding, perhaps is time to declare the 737 MAX an error in judgement, and that James Albaugh was correct in seeking a clean sheet airplane. The 7 and the 9, just don’t work. A stretch 9 with a new wing pretty much obviates the notion of the cost efficiency of the MAX concept. A shrunken 8? Pretty much the same.

    Boeing is going down a deep dark hole with it’s model mix, and is going to put itself in an increasingly uncompetitive position with it’s current derivative strategy. Not only by continually launching derivatives, but launching them in belated response to new Airbus offerings, and getting beaten to market significantly.

  23. I wonder if the MAX 7.5 is all about Boeing wanting to cut costs, and that it actually has little to nothing to do with improving the MAX series or responding to customer requirements.

    The 737-700 is structurally different to the 737-800. The 737-700 is heavily weight optimized. By doing a simple shortening of the 737-8 max (the 7.5), instead of developing the 737-7 max, Boeing is actually cutting down complexity, cutting down on the differences between the 737 versions, and thereby saving costs. The 7.5 MAX is not necessarily better than the 7 MAX, but would cost Boeing less to develop and less to produce because of standardization and production volumes. Therefore it might be more competitive since it can be offered for a lower price while keeping better margins.

    Maybe Boeing is now in the process of pushing the airliners that already order the 7 MAX to except the shortened 737-8, with little to none compensation.

    I think this is a smart move by Boeing. When it comes to the largest 737 versions (9 and 10), I think Boeing would be better off saving their pennies. I think it is time to develop a clean cut new single aisle. Not necessarily to replace the 737 MAX, but to offer a complementary product line, just like they have more then one widebody family. The 737-8 MAX has a huge backlog and many more orders to come.

    It is time for Boeing once again to have two narrow-body families. 🙂

    • How much is the 737-700 is structurally different to the 737-800? It would make so much sense to abandon a poorly selling variant and achieve development and production cost savings by making it as a derivative of the -800 then.

    • Q – “By doing a simple shortening of the 737-8 max (the 7.5), instead of developing the 737-7 max, Boeing is actually cutting down complexity, cutting down on the differences between the 737 versions, and thereby saving costs.”

      R – Your reasoning is flawless but totally irrelevant. Like Wolfgang Pauli would have put it “it’s not even wrong”. In my opinion the 737-700 should be removed entirely from Boeing’s portfolio, including its past, present and future derivatives. I apologize for being so blunt but Boeing drives me mad. The 737 is a dinosaur on its way to the museum. We all know this except Boeing and its fan club members.

      • Back to I believe the -7 is just a short -8,

        7X would then be just a slightly less short -8

        7 does have a different model engine.

    • “I wonder if the MAX 7.5 is all about Boeing wanting to cut costs, and that it actually has little to nothing to do with improving the MAX series or responding to customer requirements. ”

      This is Boeings regular MoO. cloak things done for one reason in reverse argued advantages for customers ( owners and passengers )

      787-9/-10 wing is big enough, no need.
      ( there was neither time nor money available to fix the high wingloading from unplanned weight increases )

      Super duper blue lighted new interiors are all the PR fad but bought for lighter weight.

      Sailing the narrow line between large overstatement and plain lie.

  24. I though the 737-7 was just a short 737-8

    The 737-7X then would be a slightly less short 737-8

    Few more seats, match A320, better economics.

  25. And this one has a high count for contributions as well.

    Cool, nice to get away from the A380 for a while!

  26. Following the comments on the C series carbon wing in the last post but one, l have been researching it a bit. I strongly suspect that it is cheaper to build than an alloy one, at least intrinsically, as well as being lighter and better in most respects.
    I would be interested to read if anyone has any numbers. Incidentally, there seems to be a scaling problem below c series size. A smaller wing needs the same sized inspection and maintenance hatches, and they end up accounting for too high a percentage of the wing. I think that this is a problem because it ruins the fibre orientation advantages of composites.
    Boeing and Airbus must be very nervous about getting stuck with the wrong technology in this rapidly evolving field, with a huge amount of inferstructure to pay for.
    Like most people I don’t think that the 10s is a good idea, it must be a stalking horse for a new product

    • For anyone interested there is a good article about the C series wing at composites world which then links to an interesting little film on YouTube

    • You have an interesting comment about the cut-off point for the wing size limit. This may explain in part why Mitsubishi backed off, considering that the MRJ is a much smaller aircraft. But the most important aspect to consider about the carbon fibre technology used on the C Series is that it allows for a very sophisticated wing profile which improves the aerodynamic performances of the aircraft tremendously. That, in combination with light weight, is what gives the C Series its spectacular performances.

    • “A smaller wing needs the same sized inspection and maintenance hatches, ..”

      You need to get away from human accessible inspection.

      Could we get around that by using a ROV?
      Technology is moving fast in that domain.

  27. @Andy, @Norman, let’s move on, back to the issues or just drop this line of comment. I’ve got the ultimate weapon: I can close comments. None of this current line is at all useful.

  28. I find all of this doom and gloom about the 737 MAX to be quite bizarre. Boeing has never had this many orders for any plane it has built, ever!

    If there were even the slightest hint of a slowdown in demand, I might be a bit worried. (But not very worried.) Yet Boeing landed 588 net orders for the 737 last year (book-to-bill of nearly 1.2) and that’s the one program for which management sounds confident about current demand. By year-end, Boeing will likely have 4400-4500 737s on firm order. That’s 7 years of production, even with the scheduled rate increases to 57/month. (9 years of production at today’s rate.)

    People seem to get really worked up about the fact that Airbus is outselling Boeing in the single-aisle segment. As a Boeing shareholder, I don’t really care. All I care about is whether Boeing can sell an average of 400 737 MAXs a year for the next 15 years. (That’s a book-to-bill ratio of about 0.6 on the proposed 57/month production rate.) If it can, that will allow it to build 57/month from 2020-2025, then gradually ramp back down to 42/month over the next several years before replacing the MAX with an all-new plane in the early 2030s. The current order rate doesn’t need to be sustainable for a ~50 aircraft per month build rate to be sustainable for the lifetime of the 737 MAX.

    I agree with the premise of the posters who pointed to Boeing’s subpar ROI in recent years, but not the conclusion. In this case, low ROI is a symptom of investing too much money, not too little. Boeing needs to squeeze all the water out of the 737 MAX stone that it can. If some small, cheap derivatives help sell a lot more planes, so be it… if not, the recent sales trend suggests that Boeing should be able to muddle through with what it already has.

    A decade from now, Boeing can do a clean-sheet design and try to regain whatever ground it may have lost to Airbus in the single-aisle market. That’s when it makes sense to make a big investment.

    • Adam I think you assume Boeing can profitably sell 400 737MAX a year for the next 15 years.

      I think you have to get used to the fact few people outside Boeing and the usual stock boosters at Motleyfool support this idea.

      • Given that Boeing has sold at least that many 737s (quite profitably, I might add) in 10 of the last 11 years, I’d say the data is on my side. The average number of net annual orders for the 737 over that period is 704. 700/year is not a sustainable order rate, in my view, but it doesn’t need to be.

        • You can’t use the past as a guide for the future, you can use the current as an idea of what may come.

          Airbus simply has put far less money into the A320 that Boeing has had to put into the 737. Each one of those changes is costly and the transient has been brutal in one case.

          All Airbus had to do was NEO the A320 and its updated.

          Boeing had to make significant changes in the 737 to do the same thing, they succeeded, but its like a runner pulling up with the leader and then running out of gas.

          While Airbus cannot produce more, it has a backlog that looks to extend into the 2030 area.

          IT also has the A321 that is working up to 50% of the production.

          Not only can Boeing not match it, Airbus can make more money on it as there is no completion.

          At some point it snaps over and like the Model T, one year you sell a million and the nest year 10,000 .

          In the meantime Airbus is making more profits than Boeing on each aircraft and they could do an all new wing on the A320s (or two wings) and probably come close to matching an all new air4craft with current tech.

          I would rather be in Airbus position than Boeing.

        • In two out of three days a good weather forecast is the weather will stay as it is.

          Today we have better methods to predict the weather.

    • Adam, yes of course, as long as demand for single isle planes exceeds production all is well for the 737. But in case of an economical downturn there is the grave danger that Boeing will loose many more sales than Airbus or Bombardier. In difficult times only the best products will survive. A nice example for this is are the DC-10 and L-1011 going under against the A300
      when oil prices went up in the early 80s.
      For many airlines the combination of CS100, CS300, A320, A321 and A321LR would be the perfect range to cover their entire demand for single isle planes, excluding the 737 entirely.

      • The beauty of a 4,400 plane backlog is that you have a huge cushion in the event of an industry downturn. And I don’t think your analogy makes sense — you’re comparing the performance of a twin-engine vs. 3-engine planes in the event of an oil spike. The A320neo series isn’t going to have a fuel efficiency advantage over the 737 MAX. Its only major advantage is the larger size and MTOW of the A321neo and the potential range of the A321LR.

        Given the likely size of the market, Boeing would be better off accepting a 40%-45% share than investing billions and billions of dollars trying to precisely match the A320 family lineup. The MAX 8 is as good or better than the A320neo, and I think it will be enough to tide Boeing over until at least 2030. In any case, the recent order rate shows no cause for alarm.

        Do you have any specific airlines in mind that are current 737 operators that you think are at risk of dropping it in favor of an all-Airbus/Bombardier lineup?

        • Well, the CS300 will have a very significant efficiency advantage over the 737-7 and the A321 and A321LR are also unique and a must have for many airlines. That leaves the 737-8 which has no container capability and offers less comfort to the passengers than the competitors. Plus it is only one model against each two at both ends.
          It also remains to be seen how the A320 and 737-8 will actually perform, especially their engines.
          Again, if all goes well, which we all hope, the 737 will possibly do fine for a decade. In case of tough times a good part of the backlog might simply fold.
          Which airlines? Well, every one that owns a pocket calculator or some similar device.

        • Adam, it seems to me your opinion as a stock holder is based on a ton of assumptions shared by mainly Boeing and other stake/stock holders.

          “The beauty of a 4,400 plane backlog is that you have a huge cushion”
          – History proves backlogs can be mandated easily and by big airlines without consequence. Specially if they are far out. Or sold to cheap too begin with (787).

          “The A320neo series isn’t going to have a fuel efficiency advantage over the 737 MAX.”
          – Yes it will, there are two engine options that will both be more fuel efficient than the MAX’s Leap B. Because the NEO has room for more efficient fans producing less noise.

          “Its only major advantage is the larger size and MTOW of the A321neo”
          – No. The A320 has container/ pallet options, a spacier quieter cabin, engine choice, a better LeapA version, A330 cockpit commonality and Euro/China assembly locations the 737 doesn’t have.

          “Given the likely size of the market, Boeing would be better off accepting a 40%-45% share than investing billions and billions of dollars trying to precisely match the A320 family lineup.”

          – Reality is they have had to be very creative (hundreds of undislosed orders, that are easy to cancel by the unknown customers) & kill margin to sustain that 40%. Last year they fell through and now they are forced to change the plan after all. (UA asking why nobody else buys 737-9’s, SW asking if they can do better pls).

          “The MAX 8 is as good or better than the A320neo, and I think it will be enough to tide Boeing over until at least 2030. ”

          – Everybody has his opinion. Than we have numbers.. The A320NEo is outselling the MAX-8. And Airbus have feasible options they can put on the table when needed. Which is not now.

          • From my standpoint when someone can get a 737 from Boeing at the drop of a pin and they are dropping off yearly production then the backlog is far more iffy than they would like you to believe.

            If you are counting on the fact you have positions available and Airbus does not, that’s not a warm fuzzy metric.

    • Q – “A decade from now, Boeing can do a clean-sheet design and try to regain whatever ground it may have lost to Airbus in the single-aisle market.”

      R – It will be too late in 2026. Boeing’s number one cash cow will have long been sent to the slaughterhouse by then. The writing is on the wall (and on this blogue as well). Can’t you see what’s going on? The problem with success is that it can stop overnight. When the sales will start to decline it will not happen progressively, for I expect the transition period to be short and brutal. Like falling off a cliff if you will. That will not give Boeing enough time to come out with a replacement. This means there might be an extensive period of time when the 737 will no longer generate appreciable revenues when during the same period developing the NSA will be engaging large expenditures. And before the NSA becomes cashflow-positive it could take too long for Boeing to survive as a viable narrowbody competitor. I don’t know how this is going to affect Boeing as a whole, because it will still be a very powerful company, but its relevance as a commercial aircraft manufacturer may then only start at the MOM level because the narrowbody market will have already been split between Airbus and Bombardier. And Boeing will then be incapable to penetrate it again because the NSA will be way too expensive to acquire while being only marginally superior.

      Q – “I find all of this doom and gloom about the 737 MAX to be quite bizarre.”

      R – The only thing bizarre about it are the actions taken by Boeing. It’s either a diversion or the symptoms of a distraught person that is drowning in cash.

      Q – “People seem to get really worked up about the fact that Airbus is outselling Boeing in the single-aisle segment. As a Boeing shareholder, I don’t really care.”

      R – Like Boeing you are in denial.

      Q – “Low ROI is a symptom of investing too much money, not too little.”

      R – Boeing investing too much money? Really? Like I said before I think you are in denial. The only place where Boeing is investing too much money is in a ridiculous share buy-back campaign. And also to repair its dismal handling of the Dreamliner programme.

  29. “As a Boeing shareholder, I don’t really care. All I care about is whether Boeing can sell an average of 400 737 MAXs a year for the next 15 years.”

    Even Boeing themselves are complaining about having to sell these aircraft at rock bottom prices, As a shareholder I would be very concerned about the margin on what was their remaining cash cow. This gives them less to investe in the NSA, let alone having to do an extra level of investment with a 7.5 max etc

  30. If Boeing build the MAX 7.5, and along with the 8 and the 9, they cover the heart of the market from 150 to 180 seats. Sure Airbus has a monopoly with the 192 seat A321 for whatever percentage of the market that represents. The next step for Boeing is to leapfrog the A321 by several rows with a new aircraft, and move into the empty market space above that, not necessarily replace the MAX lineup which is not the issue.

    • I think most can agree that an optimzed 150 seat 737-7.5 is a better idea than a 737-7. Simply shrinking the 737-8 seems not good enough however, in this competitive segment and nobody is asking for the range.

  31. Oh wow! Has there ever been anotherLeeham article with 200+ comments here?

  32. I don’t have time to respond point by point to all of the above comments. But here are a few remarks.

    1) The 737 backlog is much more heavily weighted towards aircraft replacements than growth relative to the A320neo backlog. In the event of a serious aviation downturn, Airbus is likely to lose a lot more orders than Boeing. (IndiGo and AirAsia, I’m looking at you.) And a lot of long-term Boeing 737 operators will need to take a lot of new aircraft in the next 15 years just to replace planes that are passing 25 years old. That represents a relatively stable pool of demand. The Boeing 737 backlog is far greater than anything seen in history — except for the A320 backlog. Airbus has done a great job selling the A320neo/A321neo, but that doesn’t mean Boeing is in trouble.

    2) I think all of the margin worries are overblown. The 65 United orders were a special situation — I think Boeing has its eye on converting United to an all-Boeing narrowbody fleet. United hasn’t taken a new A320-family plane since 2002, and A319/320 fleet average age is about 17 years. If United had added the CSeries to its fleet, Boeing would have lost the commonality argument for getting the rest of United’s narrowbody replacement business over the next decade (probably about 300 frames).

    Yes, Boeing has put emphasis on reducing costs. It has said that airlines have historically paid a premium for Boeing airplanes over Airbus planes, and that’s not happening to the same extent any more. Some of that has to do with low fuel prices, some of that has to do with greater attention to ROIC, and some of it has to do with Airbus doing a good job with the A320neo/A321neo. But at the end of the day, I think the “risk” is that maybe cash margins will decline from around 25% to 20%. Still a ton of profit to be had, and the margin decline will be offset by revenue growth.

    3) Once again, I would point out that all of the doom and gloom talk flies in the face of a) the huge backlog, b) recent order rates, c) rapid growth in air travel worldwide, and d) relatively predictable replacement demand coming during the mid-2020s.

    • Q – “Relatively predictable replacement demand coming during the mid-2020s.”

      R – The most predictable thing about the replacement demand is that the large majority will go to Airbus, and to a lesser extent Bombardier. Because we already see more airlines and operators leaving Boeing to go to Airbus than the other way around, and that trend is likely to accelerate. So much for your “relatively stable pool of demand”.

      Q – “…that doesn’t mean Boeing is in trouble.”

      R – Indeed, Boeing is not in trouble. And it won’t be in trouble until the beginning of the next decade when the 777 programme will have entered a sort of twilight zone where the 777 revenues will be at their lowest in years and the expenses at their highest. And not very long after that a very similar scenario is likely to start developing on the 737 programme. For the sales will then be in sharp decline at the very same time a replacement will be in progress. And from my perspective there is a strong possibility that the 777 Gap will impact Boeing less than the 737 Gap. That is because I have more confidence in the potential value of the 777X than the NSA. This may sound strange coming from someone like me who has been promoting the NSA ever since Airbus announced the neo, and even earlier. What has changed in my perception is that I increasingly believe that it might already be too late now. I even think that the only rabbit that could save the 737 Replacement is the one Boeing might be able to pull from the advanced technologies hat. But last time I checked there was nothing in the hat.

      Q – “I think all of the margin worries are overblown. …the “risk” is that maybe cash margins will decline from around 25% to 20%.”

      R – So all Boeing needs to do to stay in business is to lower its margins by 5%? That is pure fiction. The reality is that Boeing will need to take increasingly larger hits on its margins just to keep the assembly lines humming. It is already happening on the 777 and the 737 is next.

      • Normand, I don’t think what you are projecting is even plausible, let alone certain (as you frame it).

        On the replacement side, do you really think Southwest or Ryanair will change to Airbus? If so, why are they the top two 737 MAX customers? Between the two of them, they will probably need 500-750 planes beyond what they have already ordered over the next 15 years. Boeing has steadily been gaining narrowbody share at United (its No. 3 customer). American has already split its orders: 100 737 MAX and 100 A321neo. Delta has ordered more 737-900ERs in the last 5 years than any other plane. And it has been very blunt that it wants to buy from every available manufacturer to ensure constant competition. I think there’s a better than 50/50 chance that Alaska will dump Virgin America’s entire Airbus fleet and replace them with MAXs. And the Big 3 in China have historically split between Airbus and Boeing. Air China and China Eastern both have dozens of 737s on order.

        So yes, the 737 has lost a little bit of share among established airlines, but not very much. Airbus’ lead mostly comes from betting on small LCCs/ULCCs that want to grow dramatically.

        As for your other comments: The 777 is a more than two-decade old plane with a new variant around the corner. The 737 MAX is built on an old airframe, of course, but heavily modernized and with brand-new engines. Your comparison is not very apt. Will there be major margin pressure on the MAX in the late 2020s/early 2030s? Most definitely. Within the next decade? Not very likely at all.

        You’re essentially asserting that within 5 years of launch, the MAX won’t even come close to the margin performance of end-of-line 737 NGs. I just don’t see the logic. 737 margins are actually likely to improve somewhat over the next five years as Boeing moves to all-MAX production before starting to decline in the 2025-2030 period.

        • Q -“On the replacement side, do you really think Southwest or Ryanair will change to Airbus?”

          R – No, I think they will change to Bombardier. Especially for Southwest. As for Ryanair it is exactly the kind of customer Boeing will be stuck with: high volumes/low margins. In the future Boeing will have to keep lowering its prices to keep a reasonable B2B ratio. And that is the key point because this is not a sustainable business model over the long term. I think the 737 programme will implode within ten years from now. I have already explained in many other posts here why the 737 is no longer an attractive aircraft.

          Q – “As for your other comments: The 777 is a more than two-decade old plane with a new variant around the corner.”

          R – That is like saying “we are in the Spring and the trees are burgeoning.” We all know this. What you might ignore is that the 777 is currently being sold at very low prices and that will continue to deteriorate Boeing’s margins until the first 777X is delivered. It might not be catastrophic but it is a serious situation. This difficult period may not last too long though if everything goes well with the 777X.

          Q – “You’re essentially asserting that within 5 years of launch, the MAX won’t even come close to the margin performance of end-of-line 737 NGs. I just don’t see the logic.”

          R – Within five years of launch there will no longer be a business case for the MAX because a substantial portion of the customer base will have already started to migrate to Airbus and Bombardier. The narrowbody environment is changing and it will be increasingly difficult for a dinosaure like the 737 to survive in tis new environment, let alone to thrive. For it can no longer compete with the other animals like the well established A320neo clan and the new C Series tribe that is now emerging.

          Adam, you have a very optimistic view of Boeing while I have a rather negative one, and the truth probably lies in between.

          • Yes, I think we will just have to agree to disagree. We’ll see what happens over the next 10-plus years. Best, Adam.

          • The CS and such other airplanes will wipe out the A319 and the A320 before they wipe out the 737. Airbus has neglected any serious upgrades to the aging A320 which was designed 35 years ago. It is still heavy and thirsty. Much more is needed than just an engine upgrade. If I were Airbus I’d be really worried. Their convoluted FAL system is also vulnerable. Take the Alabama plant for example. The output is so low that at the next recession that plant will be shut down, since it is easier to fire people in Alabama than in UK, Sp, Ge or Fr. But so what, the money spent on that plant was only $600M.

  33. Remember when the A330’s days were numbered and the 787 would beat it even on shorter transAtlantic? Yet on it sells and is produced, just like the 737 will be, with no predictable end in sight.

    • The New Engines Options still fit beneath the wings of an A330. The latest engines with GTF MAXed out 737’s wing.

      The former A330 competitor 767 is also still produced.

  34. @Normand

    I think you brought this comment stream right back on topic.

    1. Boeing cannot afford a ‘new’ reboot of the 737 and of the 757 TOGETHER in the 2020s…even if Mitsubishi make the wings etc and they spread the risk.
    2. The cash cow was/is the 737 …..only 1000 odd 757s were ever made so guess which one is the priority.

    So I think the A321neo has won in the 200 seat ish market and that only a 737 revamp can challenge that dominance.

    The good new is that Airbus cannot afford a 757 reboot either as it would be a new plane, not after the €25bn that they will never get back on the A380 ( well they might get €5bn back at most) and that EU governments will no longer counternance launch supports (R&D grants) for Airbus.

    So the answer is clear, redesign the 737 with a modern airframe and give up the ‘new’ 757 distraction.

  35. The last part of the article was interesting? Are you serious when you say that the PW engine might be an issue for the NEO program? Do you mean that maybe an engine shift in an exsiting program might not be as cut and dry as all have made it out to be? Could this also happen on the A330NEO, where you have claimed all the risk lies in the engine manufacturer? Guess QR should be standing at the PW door and not at Airbus considering where the risk is placed. It is an Airbus issue and it will be in all cases. Thanks QR for making that clear with the NEO.

  36. Scott – another question, that I posed some time back about the PW GTF? Do you know the implication to the customer if there was a shift from the GTF to the cfm56A-LEAP? What is the wait time, are there any change costs associated with the change, and what would be the financial implication to PW if earlier purchasers moved to the GE? Assume there will also be an issue with the market value of GTF NEO on the resale and the leaseing markets?

    I know you and all on here will say it is WAY too soon to go there, but since your an analyst, there might be some value in you presenting a picture of the issue?

    • @Vincent: GTF-LEAP question. There is such a backlog of A320LEAP models that I doubt there is any possibility of of switching from GTF to LEAP for any near-in orders. Switching on mid-to-long-term orders, when the GTF problems would be fixed, probably would incur a penalty to the customer, not to PW. I have no idea what the contract penalties are for the current GTF situation.

      Re-lease and re-sale of GTF neos is so far out that I don’t think the current problems will be a factor. What may be a factor is today’s GTF vs the then-equivalent to Select One upgrades (as with the V2500 A5 vs the A1, or A5 Select One vs non-Select One) that could affect values and lease rates.

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