Boeing 737 Re-engining Decision Hinges On Replacement Timing

AIN Air Transport Perspective » June 11, 2010
Boeing's decision to retrofit new engines on the 737 could depend as much on ...
Boeing's decision to retrofit new engines on the 737 could depend as much on the technology available for an all-new replacement airplane by 2020 as any move by Airbus to re-engine the A320. (Copyright Boeing)
June 11, 2010, 8:21 AM

Boeing's decision to re-engine the existing 737 will depend not only on the actions of arch-rival Airbus, but whether or not the Chicago-based airframe maker concludes that it could bring to market a good enough replacement airplane by 2020, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney told analysts and investors at last week’s Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York. 

“The number-one thing I want to know is during what time frame we can get an all-new airplane done, that our customers will pay for,” said McNerney. “If that answer is 2025, then the case for re-engining strengthens. If the answer is 2020, no matter what Airbus does, I think customers will wait for us.”

Re-engining, if Boeing decides to follow that route, would likely happen around 2016, added McNerney. “We’re also studying how fast can we flow the technology from the 78[7] into a new narrowbody, what will an engine look like out there, and then stare at the two and make a judgment. I’d rather not put the backlog at risk twice if I don’t have to.” 

Meanwhile, McNerney essentially discounted the Bombardier C Series as a serious threat, referring to it as one of a class of “regional jets that are getting a little bigger.” Seating up to 145 passengers, the CS300 would occupy a capacity category now filled by the 737-700 and A319. “That's not necessarily a market segment we want to be in,” he said, referring to the sector that the C Series would occupy. 

“The one thing I do know about new entrants is that the Chinese will be there,” said McNerney. “And when I say ‘there’ I mean a competitive narrowbody airplane in the 150-, 160-, 170-[seat range]–not a regional jet. The argument is around will it be in 10 years [or] 20 years.”

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