Boeing pushes back 737 replacement development

Saturday, May 24, 2008

United States airframer Boeing has announced that development of a replacement for their 737 narrowbody airliner, begun two years ago, has been pushed back several years, Boeing saying that further advancement of technology is required.

Spokeswoman Sandy Angers said that that the team formed to look at the development had been merged into the parent product development team and would cease looking at specific designs. Boeing say airlines demand performance improvements of 15-20% are required if a new airliner is to be commercially viable.

"We've reduced our airplane-design effort and are focusing more on the technology breakthroughs," said Angers. "We need technology breakthroughs in engines, aerodynamics, materials and other systems. You can't simply shrink the 787 and expect the same benefits for the narrow-body market. We've got difficult challenges."

One important difference is that the plastic composite used for the fuselage of the 787 would not offer as significant a weight saving on a smaller aircraft. The delivery date for the plane is now anticipated to be around 2020, and not 2015 as previously hoped. This coincides with the expected date for Airbus to deliver their A320 replacement. Industry analysts predict development of one to trigger development of the other. Boeing had hoped to have their's ready for 2012.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Scott Carson said "We're continuing our research effort until we find the right solution. It has to be a 25-year product."

Since its 1967 debut 5,700 737s have been deliverd to date, with orders for 2,200 more, keeping the jet in production until at least 2014. It is Boeing's most popular airliner.