Boeing eager to nail down timeframe for cleansheet narrowbody

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Boeing CEO Jim McNerney says he still prefers to replace the 737 with a cleansheet design unless airline demand fails to mature before 2025.

Speaking at the Sanford Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference on 3 June, McNerney says "the number one thing I want to know is...during what timeframe we can get an all-new airplane done that our customers will pay for."

While no final decision has been made on the future of the venerable narrowbody workhorse and company cash cow, McNerney's preference is to move directly to a cleansheet aircraft: "I'd rather not put the backlog at risk twice unless we have to."

McNerney says delivery positions for the 737 are sold out for "several years" beyond 2012.

However, McNerney balanced his position and underscores if the customer driven timing for a new narrowbody offering is pushed until 2025, then "the case for re-engining strengthens. If the answer is 2020, no matter what Airbus does, I think customers will wait for us."

McNerney says studies are looking at "how fast can we flow some technology from the 787 into a new narrowbody".

Boeing's more-electric architecture designed for the 787 is intended to serve as a significant product differentiator and is likely to find its way into the airframer's next cleansheet design.

With scaled down 787 systems and a future engine offering, Boeing aims to offer between 15-20% direct operating cost savings over today's narrowbody aircraft.

Chief competitor Airbus is planning an end of year decision on re-engining the A320 family for a mid-decade entry into service. Additionally, a 2013 entry into service by market newcomer Bombardier with the 110-149-seat CSeries is weighing heavily on Boeing's decisions to re-engine or replace the 737.

A decision from Boeing is expected by year end as well. If the airframer opts to re-engine the 737 with powerplants from CFM and or Pratt & Whitney, a 2016 entry into service likely to be the target.