Boeing has apparently backed down on its plans to replace the current 737NG with a New Small Airplane (NSA) from 2019, and instead will follow Airbus’s lead and build a re-engined 737’RE’ to fulfil part of American Airlines’ large narrow body requirement and looming orders from other US major carriers.
American announced overnight Australian time that it will replace its large fleet of MD-80s and regional jets with a mix of 260 standard and New Engine Option (neo) A319/A320 airliners, as well as 100 737NGs and 100 REs, assuming Boeing’s board approves the development of the RE in the coming weeks. Also included in the neo order is an unspecified number of A321s to begin replacing American’s 757 fleet.
Boeing says its RE will be powered exclusively by CFM’s Leap-X engine, although it has revealed little about the aircraft’s specifications, particularly what diameter fan the engine will need in order to fit under the 737’s wings without major modifications to its stubby landing gear – the CFM56 engine used on the 737 classic and NG models already has a flattened lower edge on its cowling to give additional ground clearance.
Compared to the rival P&W geared turbofan which will be offered on Airbus’s neo, the Leap-X – which is also offered on the neo – achieves its estimated 15 per cent improvement in efficiency over current engines largely by using a larger diameter fan and higher bypass ratio as well as other technological improvements. More information is expected at Boeing’s quarterly earnings calls next week.
US analysts have predicted that Boeing will shift its plan to build the NSA several years to the right from 2019 to around 2025 after the company’s commercial airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh told media that, while the company was confident the technology was ready for the NSA at the original schedule, Boeing’s wouldn’t be able to build a robust supplier base and produce the aircraft in the anticipated volumes required to meet demand in time.