Boeing studies 737 replacement ideas

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Manufacturer looks at ways of using technology from 7E7

Preliminary studies of an aircraft family to succeed Boeing's narrowbody Next Generation 737 are gathering momentum as a launch decision on the middle-of-the-market 7E7 looms.

The studies are focused on what Boeing's product development preliminary design group calls the "Y-1" replacement requirement. It is believed to cover a three-member family including 120- 150- and 190-seat models to match the capacity range of the 737-600/700/800/900, as well as the lower end of the 757, which ceases production in October.

The Y-2 study is the 757/767 replacement effort under way with the 7E7, while the Y-3 is the preliminary design requirement for a longer-term 777 successor and the Y-4 a nearer-term 747-sized solution.

Although the 737 continues to attract orders, Boeing is aware of the need to replace "from within" rather than allow Airbus to snatch further market share with an enhanced A320 family. Boeing says that although "there are no plans at this time to replace the 737 with a single-aisle version of the 7E7", it "fully expects" the technology being developed for the new twin to "have applications to current and future Boeing aircraft".

Flight International
understands the internal entry-into-service (EIS) target date for the first Y-1 product is around the 2013. The target dovetails with Boeing's planned EIS for the 7E7-3/8 in 2008 and the stretched 7E7-9 in 2010/11. The Y-1 would adopt 7E7 systems, structural and design technology. Even without additional orders, Boeing says the current 737 backlog will "carry us out to around 2010-12".

General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce are believed to be studying a revised Y-1 requirement calling for a generic thrust bracket of 26,000lb (115kN). Neither CFM International nor International Aero Engines, the two existing multi-national narrowbody engine suppliers, are thought to have been directly approached. CFMI is expected to unveil an enhanced Tech56 technology study towards the end of the year, while IAE is ramping up studies of a next-generation V2500.

GUY NORRIS / LOS ANGELES