Dramatically better fuel economy and range coupled with attractive pricing and faster and less expensive completion options could rekindle Boeing’s (Booth 1598) sluggish single-aisle BBJ programs, if customers can step into the middle of a flood of airline orders and pry aircraft off the assembly line.
Driven by the airlines’ desire to cut costs and increase fuel efficiency, Boeing announced the 737 Max program in 2011 after contemplating–and ultimately rejecting–a completely clean-sheet design replacement for its 737 twinjet. Even before Boeing could finish the details of the Max’s design, the airlines, eager to boost earnings, began placing massive orders. Although Boeing won’t deliver the Max until late 2017, as of August it already has more than 2,200 orders for the airplane. The first BBJ Max is expected to be delivered without an interior in 2018 to California’s AvJet on behalf of a private client who currently owns a BBJ.
Boeing largely completed the Max’s design last year. It will be 14 percent more fuel efficient than current production 737s, thanks to new CFM International Leap-1B engines with a larger intake fan tip diameter–a healthy 69.4 inches–that are mounted further forward and higher on the wing and connected by new and more aerodynamic engine mounting pylons.
The new jet also features newly designed winglets as well as a more aerodynamic vertical stabilizer. To provide adequate ground clearance for the larger engines, the landing gear will be lengthened so the airplane will stand a little taller on the ground. The Max will employ limited fly-by-wire controls to the wing spoilers. Other planned changes includes the addition of four 15.1-inch Rockwell Collins flight displays in the cockpit, the same displays that are on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Maintenance on the Max also will be easier as fault data, once collected by instruments in the forward equipment bay, will now be available for maintenance technicians and pilots on the cockpit display screens.
The Max will also hold more maintenance data on its enhanced onboard network system and network file server, doubling the maintenance data available during flight and transmitting it live to ground stations so that issues can be quickly resolved either in flight or shortly after the airplane lands. This should further enhance the aircraft’s dispatch reliability; the current-generation 737 has a 99.7-percent dispatch rate.
The BBJ emerged from a 1996 partnership between Boeing and General Electric, a manufacturing partner on the CFM-56 series of engines for newer-generation 737s. The original BBJ took components of two 737 models, the 737-700 series airframe and the larger 737-800 series wing, landing gear and center fuselage section. Anywhere from three to ten auxiliary fuel tanks can be installed in the belly of the airplane, giving it a maximum range of 6,196 nm (eight passengers), equating to 14 hours in the air.
A stretched version called the BBJ 2 has 25 percent more cabin capacity, but at the price of slightly reduced range. Boeing fielded an even larger version, designated the BBJ 3, in 2005, based on the 737-900ER airliner that seated 189 passengers in coach. More than 150 of the 737-based BBJs have been sold.
The Boeing Business Jet variants of the Max are designated Max 8 and Max 9 and are based on the current BBJ 2 and BBJ 3, respectively and have significantly more range. The Max 8 will see a 14.6-percent range improvement and the Max 9 should post a 16.2-percent range jump over current aircraft. The BBJ Max 8 will have a range of 6,325 nm, an increase of more than 800 nm over the BBJ 2. It will share the same cabin size as today’s BBJ 2, offering customers a 19-foot longer cabin and three times the cargo space of today’s BBJ1.
The BBJ Max 9 is expected to offer a 6,255-nm range with the same cabin space as today’s BBJ 3. While the BBJ single-aisle market has been soft of late–Boeing delivered just seven last year–BBJ president Steve Taylor expects that to change. “We expect a large demand for the BBJ Max, particularly for those BBJ owners who want to fly farther and more efficiently and still maintain the exceptional comfort of a BBJ,” he said.
Germany’s Lufthansa Technik already has designed a VIP pre-customized modular cabin concept for the BBJ Max 8 (it also can be installed on new or used BBJ 2s) that it claims will shave 25 to 30 percent off the typical completion time and cost, with prices starting at $20 million. The Lufthansa Technik concept divides the BBJ 2 cabin into five zones with more than 720 possible layout/furniture/material combinations.
Prices for green–no paint or interior–for the BBJ Max 8 and Max 9 start at $74 million and $80 million, respectively, according to a Boeing spokesman. Typical paint and interiors add $25 to $40 million to the finished price.