By Bjorn Fehrm
July 13, 2016, ©. Leeham Co, Farnborough Air Show: Mike Delaney, Boeing’s Vice president and General manager for Aircraft development in the Commercial Airplane division, promises unchanged delivery times despite late changes to the company’s 737 MAX line-up.
Delaney went through the changes for the MAX program as part of a larger presentation, outlining the status for all ongoing aircraft developments within Boeing at the ongoing Farnborough Air Show.
“We have decided to increase the size of our 737 MAX 7 aircraft by 12 seats,” Delaney said. “This is consistent with our strategy to offer more seats than our competitor’s models with the same trip costs. In this case, our MAX 7 will have 138 seats in a standard two class configuration compared to Airbus’ 126 seats for their A319neo model. With trip costs being equal, the MAX 7 is a better proposition. Despite the changes we will deliver the MAX 7 as planned in 2019.
This exact relationship repeats itself at the heart of the single aisle market. The 162 seat MAX 8 has the same trip costs as the 150 seat Airbus A320neo. Our 12 extra seats then gives the operator a lower per seat cost for the MAX 8,” explains Delaney.
737 MAX range in flux
The smallest MAX model is not the only one under review. The largest MAX model, the 737-9 only increases the seat count over the MAX 8 by 16 seats, whereas the A321neo increases the seat count by 30 seats over the A320neo. This has lead to the A321neo clearly outselling the MAX 9 in the market. Consequently, Boeing is studying a model (dubbed the -10 by media) which would carry the same seat count as the Airbus A321neo.
“It’s doable,” says Delany. “We would need the larger engines of the A321neo range. To have two engine sizes for the MAX range would be no large negative. The A320neo engine is optimized for the largest A320neo member, the 321. As we keep our LEAP-1B, which is optimized for the MAX 8, we would have a product range which would have our main seller and the largest variant both having optimized engines. This is not the fact in the A320neo range, the A320neo engines are optimized for the A321neo.”
“We haven’t decided if we would do a -10 variant yet in addition to the ones we have,” Delaney says. “This is a market size decision and we are still studying the subject. From a technical point, it is rather straight forward. We would need an articulating main landing gear to provide for the engine nacelle clearance, but that is nothing new. I come from Grumman and already the Grumman Bearcat (a WW2 carrier fighter) had an articulating main gear, becoming longer as it was extended.”
Other programs on track
Delaney said the first flight of the 787-10 will be in 2017 with first deliveries 2018.
“The 787-10 is on track. It will have unbeatable seat mile costs in the segment. The 777X program is also progressing well,” continues Delaney. “We have just inaugurated our 777X wing production facility with the world’s largest autoclaves. This facility will produce our fourth generation Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) wing with a lot of new automation techniques to bring the unit costs down.
We have passed final system definition of the aircraft and the first engine is running on the test stands at GE. In all, things look good for a 2018 first flight and 2020 delivery for the 777-9. We also know we can make an even larger 777-10 model should we want to. We are right now trying to understand if this something the market wants.”
New Middle of the Market Airplane, NMA
Delaney finally shared the study status for the market segment between a 737-9/A321neo and the Boeing 787-8 or Airbus A330-800.
“We are talking to the customers what they want in this segment. Some want a straight replacement for a 757-200, others want an aircraft with more range and yet a third group want an aircraft more like our 767-300ER, an aircraft which can transport 230-250 passengers over distances of up to 5,000 to 6,000nm” he said. “We haven’t come to any conclusions yet. We will take our time before we are ready to engage in a project the size of an NMA. We see such an aircraft, should it be developed, as entering service in the middle of the next decade.”