The production system that promises to support a reduction in final assembly times for the Boeing 737 from 10 to nine days this year should become still more efficient with the introduction of a new automated panel assembly line (PAL) by early 2015. Built by Mukilteo, Washington-based Electroimpact, the PAL fastens stringers to wing skin panels at twice the rate Boeing now can manage using the current process at the 737 plant in Renton, Washington. Electroimpact designed the machine to “normalize” to the panel with an array of lasers that “see” the surface without touching it, allowing it to follow the panel curvature or contour. The process improves accuracy, consistency and “repeatability,” according to Boeing.
Boeing Renton Factory
Lukewarm market reception and performance deficiencies that continue to fall short of the new 747-8’s original design specifications might have elicited a fair share of skepticism from various industry quarters, but they haven’t deterred Boeing from declaring that “prospects look quite good” for the stretched, re-engined and re-winged jumbo jet, now in passenger operation with Lufthansa Airlines and five cargo customers.
For many months Boeing expressed a preference to introduce an all-new airplane in the narrowbody jet segment to replace its 737NG family by 2019.
It seemed to take an order of epic magnitude, but Boeing finally appears ready to launch a re-engined version of the 737NG. Those in favor of the approach all along can thank American Airlines and, by extension, Airbus, for finally convincing Boeing to jump off the proverbial fence.
American Airlines signed a pair of “landmark agreements” to place orders for 460 narrowbody jets from Boeing and Airbus, the airline announced today. Plans call for American to order 260 A320-family aircraft and 200 Boeing 737s, scheduled for delivery starting in 2013 and continuing through 2022.
Boeing landed separate firm orders from a pair of Algerian airlines today at the Dubai Airshow, for a total of 11 Next Generation 737-800s worth some $825 million at list prices. The orders involved Algiers-based Air Algerie, which signed for seven of the single-aisle jets, and Tasilli Airlines, which signed for four.
Quite possibly the last member of the best selling family of airliners in the history of the industry, the recently certified Boeing 737-900ER has at once filled a void in the 200-seat-class market left by the production retirement of the 757, presented Airbus with its first direct competition to the A321 and provided the platform on which CFM International launched its Tech Insertion upgrade for the CFM56-7 turbofan.
Five years had passed since Boeing added a new member to the 737 family, leaving many wondering whether engineers in Seattle had finally stretched the airframe’s capabilities to its practical limits. Then came the July launch of the 737-900ER, and suddenly it seemed clear that the market hadn’t yet gotten its fill of arguably the most commercially successful civil airplane line ever conceived.
Boeing is now offering a variant of the 737–its smallest model–designed to carry about as many passengers as the biggest example of its first jetliner, the four-engine 707 of the 1950s. The new Model 737-900ER will carry some 215 passengers in the latest single-aisle twinjet, compared with 219 in the first-generation 707 and 99 in the original 737.