Boeing hopes to have its initial groundwork laid for a 737 replacement by year end, but says re-engining the narrowbody in the near-term remains an option as continues evaluates potential market reception.
CEO Jim McNerney says: "If we could come up with the right airplane in roughly the 2019, 2020 timeframe, I personally feel that there's a strong argument that the market will wait for us, not withstanding the re-engining."
McNerney adds the feedback from customers "is in alignment with that" end of the decade goal for entry into service, however "we've got to work through this year what the airplane, more precisely, will look like."
Boeing remains averse to the investment required to modify the 737 to accommodate new fuel-saving engines, both in terms of the financial cost and placing its current 2,200-aircraft backlog at risk if customers begin delaying or converting orders to a re-engined 737.
McNerney says re-engining "only makes sense if the airplane wants to be developed in 2025 or beyond.
"I think what we're learning today about what our customers need and what technologies we have available to us, we are leaning toward development in the 2020 timeframe, but we're going to confirm that as we go through it this year, reserving the option - if we're wrong - as we go through the analysis to re-engine."
Though he adds, "But I don't think it's going to turn out that way."
Airbus plans a 2016 entry into service of its A320neo with Virgin America.