Boeing would like its possible 737 clean-sheet design to have a 15-20% improvement in fuel efficiency over today's model, VP for marketing Randy Tinseth says at the Asian Aerospace show in Hong Kong.

The airframer is also targeting a 20-30% improvement in airframe maintenance cost and a total improvement in cash operating cost of at least 10%. Tinseth says those benchmarks are what will be necessary "to overcome the investment hurdles of all new spares and engines".

"That's what your customers would want and require to make an investment in the airplane," Tinseth says.

Boeing's emphasis on a clean-sheet design comes as the company is having a "difficult time closing the business case" to re-engine the 737, Tinseth says. The re-engined 737's targeted 11-12% improvement in fuel burn only equates to "a couple of percents' improvement on operating cost", Tinseth says.

"We ask ourselves, 'Can we do better than that?' and we may think we may be able to with a new airplane."

Tinseth downplays competition with Airbus' re-engined option, the A320neo, saying today's 737 is more reliable, has a lower operating cost, and offers a higher range. "The neo is a way for them to address their value gap that is in the market today. Our question is how do we even go better? How do we take that next step?"

Boeing expects to decide by mid-year whether to re-engine the 737 or proceed with a clean-sheet design, Tinseth says, with an announcement likely at the Paris air show. If the airframer proceeds with the latter option, it will look at ways to bridge the efficiency of today's 737 with the replacement.

"The heritage of the 737 has been about improvement and I don't see any reason why we would change that," Tinseth says. A replacement 737 would enter service around 2019 or 2020.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news