Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney has indicated that the airframer may take on Airbus's proposed re-engined A320 family with an all-new single-aisle aircraft, rather than upgrade the 737 with new powerplants. It is also examining whether to develop a new long-range aircraft to replace the 777.
Boeing has been evaluating a re-engined 737 to match an expected Airbus move to launch an upgraded A320 powered by CFM International's Leap X or a version of Pratt & Whitney's geared turbofan, with which the European company is expected to move ahead by the Farnborough air show in July.
Speaking during Boeing's first quarter earnings call, McNerney said the decision facing Boeing, which will come by the end of the year, is whether to re-engine the twinjet or to proceed with a new, replacement model.
© Tim Bicheno-Brown/Flightglobal
Boeing's re-engining evaluation includes whether the all-in net fuel savings will be enough to be attractive to airlines. Considerations include physical changes needed to accommodate a larger engine, new maintenance, training and supply costs to customers and what the actual fuel savings over the current CFM56
engine might be.
Airbus has consistently held the view that emerging technologies required to achieve the kind of step change in fuel burn and operating cost performance demanded by airlines for an all-new single-aisle will not be available for at least a decade from now.
This puts the likely in-service date for an all-new airliner at around 2025, believes Airbus, prompting it to seriously consider an interim re-engined A320 family development.
Meanwhile, Boeing is examining whether to substantially upgrade its 777 twinjet to compete with the Airbus A350 XWB, or to go with a new aircraft. McNerney says a "re-do" of the 777 is "an option," suggesting it could incorporate engine improvements and increased use of composites.
These improvements, combined with a more capable version of the larger 787-9 variant than originally forecast, could make development of a 787-10 "double stretch" unnecessary, he says.
McNerney says the company has plans that will protect the backlogs in the event a new or re-engined product is introduced, but he did not reveal what these are.