18 April 2011

Boeing's X737 Dilemma. Increment Or Radical?

If you go on eBay and type "Sonic Cruiser" you will find a number of models of the ill fated Boeing Sonic Cruiser. Probably one of the sexiest planes designed. A modern day XB70 which in my view was the most beautiful aircraft ever flown.

Boeing faces a significant dilemma on what it does next. Does it go a Sonic Cruiser approach or a conventional approach? As it tries to figure out what is most important and the relative priorities of the X737 replacement for the world's best selling jet transport.

Fuel economy, Noise, passenger comfort, safety, cost to build, cost to operate, the environment, competitive... the list is extensive.

But the most important factor of all is the one that bedevils Boeing's decision processes. That factor?


The excitement around Boeing announcing the X737 at the 2011 Paris Air Show is beginning to dim as more more "leaks" from Chicago and Renton come into the general consciousness.

Boeing looks like it will make the decision to go with a new aircraft. I think that is now fairly obvious especially with the probability of a production commitment date of 2014-1015. But its ability to deliver a new aircraft before 2020 in volume product seems remote. That is going to give A320NEO a 4 year lead. With the first year's NEO production rapidly filling up with commitments Boeing is caught in the time box.

So this is the Professor's prognostication.

1. Boeing will announce some enhancements to the current production models. this will result in about a 1% increase in overall efficiency. Look also for the almost "full" 787 cockpit to be placed onto the current product. I suspect that there will be some pricing adjustments to take advantage of the short term price advantage that the aircraft may have.

2. Repositioning and aggressive marketing of the current -900ER as a 757ER replacement for thin transoceanic routes. Many of the current 757 ERs are reaching end of life and few were original build ER aircraft. Look for some cabin amenities to be improved - particularly in the seating configurations. A stretch is unlikely and unnecessary at this point.

3. As the short body 787 is not making much headway - there is a possibility that a revised 767 maybe introduced now that Boeing has the 767 with a 787 cockpit (courtesy of the Tanker program - which Boeing needs to make money on) and a short body and will continue to be produced in Everett.

4. Boeing will announce a commitment to the new plane with a 2012 in service delivery date.

Let's see what happens. At this point a GTF product on the current 737NG is a non-starter.


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