Boeing says it has chosen a 68-inch diameter fan for the engines of its revamped 737 MAX passenger jet as it seeks to boost fuel efficiency and stave off the challenge from the Airbus A320neo.
The US company says it has now received more than 600 order commitments from eight airlines for the 737 MAX, up from 496 orders from five airlines in August. The MAX is scheduled to begin delivery in 2017, two years after Airbus says it will begin delivering its A320neo.
Boeing hopes the new plane will help it capture half of what it estimates as a $2 trillion market for narrow-body jets over the next two decades.
Boeing claims the new jet’s LEAP-1B engines will burn 10-12 per cent less fuel than current 737s. It also claims the MAX will be 16 per cent more fuel efficient than the Airbus A320 and four per cent more efficient than the next-generation A320neo.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh has said that the choice of a 68-inch fan diameter likely wouldn’t necessitate the redesign of the 737’s front gear. Boeing had narrowed its options to 66-inch and 68-inch fan diameters earlier this year. The current 737 has a 61-inch fan. Larger fans generally translate into better fuel efficiency.
At a conference this week in Boston, Albaugh said Boeing has sought to keep changes to the 737 line to a minimum after abandoning plans to develop an all-new single aisle jet. He said other modifications to the 737 MAX will include changes to the wings and tail and “one control surface that we want to make fly-by-wire,” Bloomberg reported.
Albaugh said the company would put the resources it saved by streamlining the 737 redesign into upgrading the twin aisle 777 and developing stretched versions of the 787.
The design of the 737 MAX should be finalised by 2013, with first flight scheduled for 2016, Boeing says.