Boeing will match or exceed the range of the Airbus A320neo with its 737 Max family, as the company seeks to firm the configuration of its re-engined narrowbody.

The airframer expects the CFM International Leap-1B-powered 737 Max to be "as good or better on range" than the A320neo family, said Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of marketing, Randy Tinseth.

Airbus identifies the range of today's sharklet-equipped A319, A320 and A321 as 6,850km (3,700nm), 6,150km (3,300nm) and 5,590km (3,200nm), respectively, and expects to add an additional 500nm with the addition of its Pratt & Whitney PW1100G and Leap-1A engines.

"We're going to make some minor structural enhancements to the 737 Max, so we can have a slightly higher maximum takeoff weights so we can slightly increase the range of the airplane as well," said Tinseth at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference in suburban Seattle.

Tinseth declined to say what its target ranges or weights were for the Max family, but each variant would top its next generation 737 predecessor. The 737-700's design range is 6,200km (3,445nm), -800's is 5,700km (3,085nm) and -900ER's is 6,000km (3,235nm), respectively.

A higher maximum takeoff weight would allow the 737 Max to carry more fuel and payload, while offsetting the increased structural weight that comes with the larger 175cm (68.75in) Leap-1B engine fan.

Boeing has slowly detailed the changes it will make to the 737 Max to achieve a 12% improvement in fuel burn over today's Next Generation 737.

Tinseth's presentation identifies local strengthening of the empennage, fuselage, along with systems revisions, wing strengthening, a modified fuel system, longer nose landing gear and strengthened main landing as key changes to the 737 Max, along with the new pylon and nacelle needed for the larger Leap-1B engine.

Other changes include flight deck revisions and aft fuselage aerodynamic improvements.

Tinseth said there would be a 12% improvement in Leap-1B specific fuel consumption when combined with the 1% drag improvement on the aft fuselage, and paired with the 2% increase in drag and weight as a result of the structural modifications.

All told, Boeing claimed the re-engined 162-seat 737-8 will hold a 17% fuel burn advantage over today's 150-seat A320 and a five percentage point fuel burn advantage over the A320neo. Further, the 737 Max would have an 11 percentage points lower fuel burn than today's 737-800 on 1,100km (600nm) sectors, said Tinseth, who claimed today's narrowbody is 6% better than today's A320.

GE Aviation CEO David Joyce said 6 February the engine-maker, Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems had completed their engine installation studies, calling the configuration "nailed down".

The final configuration of the 737 Max will be frozen in 2013.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news