Un point sur les améliorations apportées au 737
While Boeing officials continue to say the company is more likely to replace its 737 than outfit it with new, more efficient engines, the company last week built a 737 with a series of upgrades intended to boost fuel efficiency by 2 percent.
That would mean new 737s would be 7 percent more efficient than the first Next-Generation 737s, 737 chief project engineer John Hamilton said at the company's Renton, Wash., plant on Tuesday.
The upgrades include an improved CFM56-7BE engine, and redesigned wheel fairings, exhaust duct doors, wing surfaces and anti-collision lights that reduce drag.
"You're not going to get the big bang with any one of these changes," Hamilton said. "They're all going to add up."
And, while 2 percent may not sound like a lot, that adds up to a savings of about $120,000 per year for one airplane, with a net present value of $1 million over 20 years, he said.
Boeing completed a Continental Airlines 737-800 with the upgrades last week and plans to start ground testing next month, with flight testing from December to April. The company plans to phase the improvements into production from mid 2011 through early 2012.
And engineers are looking into other changes, such as changing the tail size, incorporating carbon fiber-reinforced plastics and using new materials to cut weight on the floorboards for what Boeing is calling a 737NG Plus, Hamilton said. "We think we can get something more out of this (plane). We haven't been able to really pin down a number yet."
These are just the kind of changes that customers want, rather than clamoring for whole new engines, which add cost and complication, he said. "You're not getting a strong response saying go re-engine. They like the incremental improvements."
Airbus executives have been hinting for much of the year that the company was likely to move ahead with a re-engined A320, called A320 New Engine Option, although recent reports indicate the company may be hesitating.
"We know we could get the same fuel burn as what the Airbus NEO could get," Hamilton said. "But when you look at the spares impact and you look at the operational impact, it doesn't always pay back."
Boeing hasn't set a timeline for incorporating more improvements into the 737, Hamilton said. "If Airbus decides to do their NEO, we're probably going to see how the market responds to that. We don't feel like we need to rush out with anything right away."
Asked about statements by executives at key 737 operators such as Ryanair that seem supportive of re-engining, Hamilton said: "If you listen to them carefully, what they're saying is they want fuel burn improvement."
Asked about Airbus' apparent cooling to re-engining, Hamilton said: "I think they're out talking to the same customers we are and they're getting a similar response, a lukewarm response."
A big reason Boeing and Airbus are looking at re-engining is that upstart planes such as the Canadian Bombardier CSeries and Chinese COMAC 919 are trying to eat into their single-aisle turf.
The CSeries may well not make its planned 2013 entry into service, Hamilton said. "Some of the lessons we've learned from the 787, they've still got in front of them, so their EIS is maybe a little questionable," he sad. "There are some customers out there that are listening to Bombardier, but they haven't really landed any big customer yet."
Republic Airways, which has ordered the CSeries, is "smart enoguh that they're probably going to have some caveats in those contracts," he said.
The COMAC 919 and Russian United Airplane Corp. MS-21 are unlikely to be strong competitors but will set their companies up to build competitive airplanes in the future, Hamilton said.
Jamie Jewell, director of strategic communications at CFM, said a survey the company conducted of customers last year confirmed airlines are concerned about much more then fuel efficiency.
In fact, fuel efficiency finished fifth on a list of priorities, while reliability was No. 1, she said. "That engine has got to be there, has got to be ready to go, or the business model doesn't work."
She noted that CFM's 737 engines have a 99.98 dispatch reliability.
Discussing eventual new narrow-bodies, Hamilton said Boeing continues to look at larger planes.
"Definately the sweet spot in the market is the (737)-800 today," he said. The 737-800 seats 162 in a typical two-class configuration.
Hamilton expressed some skepticism about open-rotor engines, saying: "I'm not sure I want to get on an airplane with a big fan spinning next to me."
He didn't dismiss the idea of a twin-aisle narrow-body, saying: "When you look at some timetables of moving people on and off an airplane, there's actually some benefits there."
Asked about the timing of a new single-aisle jet, Jewell said: "When Boeing says it's ready to go, CFM will be ready to go with them."
She was more positive about the open-rotor engine, saying it could cut fuel use by 25 percent or more from current engines, and issues such as noise could be solved.
"It has to be designed in conj we an airframer. ... We still think its probably 2025 to 2030 before you realize that," she said. "Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? The jury's still out."
Les évolutions (moteur et aéro) seront testés le mois prochain pour une livraison en avril 2011
Peau de banane à Bombardier : Boeing explique qu'ils seront en retard
Peau de banane pour le Comac C919 et l'Irkut MS21
Officiellement Boeing est donc sur de lui