Boeing is examining a re-engined 737, but says it will not be rushed into a launch decision to counter the Bombardier CSeries or any A320 upgrade from Airbus. "We continue to look at ways to improve the 737 further and re-engining is one option," says Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice-president marketing Randy Tinseth.
Like Airbus, Boeing is known to be examining an upgraded version of its single-aisle twinjet re-engined with an advanced turbofan such as the CFM International Leap-X or Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan.
Tinseth says that a technical feasibility study into the installation of a new engine on the 737 confirms that "it will work", but will require a lot of effort.
He adds that the CSeries and the increasing likelihood of a move by Airbus are not putting pressure on an early decision from Boeing. "There is no reason to rush [into a decision], we'll wait until the right time," he says.
© Flightglobal/Tim Bicheno-Brown
A re-engined 737 would offer family appeal over CSeries: Tinseth
Responding to claims by Bombardier that because it is all-new, the CSeries will retain a strong appeal and 10% lower operating costs even against re-engined versions of existing single-aisles, Tinseth points to factors that might work against it: "You have to take into account the [lower] transition costs of a re-engined derivative for an airline, and risks involved with an all-new design," he says.
However, Tinseth expects Bombardier to be a strong competitor as it works hard to build its slim CSeries orderbook, which stands at just 50 aircraft with under three years to go to until first flight: "This is either going to be the shortest production span in history or Bombardier will have to get more sales. I think they'll figure out how to get customers, and be very aggressive."
Airbus has progressively pushed back its expected in-service date for any all-new single aisle - it now thinks this will not be until the mid-2020s - but Boeing continues to plan for a potentially earlier arrival.
"We are working to ensure that we have the technologies in place to have a single-aisle replacement late this decade," says Tinseth. "Customers have been very specific with what they want - 15-20% better than today's aircraft."
While emerging engine technology is a key factor contributing to this improved performance, Tinseth says that the airlines want the 15-20% improvement in all areas - maintenance cost, noise, range and so on.