The Boeing 737 is a very successful aircraft and Boeing has been spending a lot of time thinking about its future. The big question for Boeing is should they work on making the current model more efficient or look to create an entirely new design. The plane is still very popular; Boeing has made and delivered over 6600 and they have 2200 more on back order. With an aircraft still so in demand, it is a big risk to build a brand new plane.
For the short term, Boeing has been working to squeeze 2% more efficiency from the current 737 Next Generation. Two percent might seem small, but it can save airlines about $120,000.00 per airplane per year. If you are an airline with multiple 737s, that can add up to big savings — quite quickly.
Currently Boeing is working on two aspects to get that two percent savings out of the 737. One percent is coming from an updated CFM56-7BE engine and another percent making the plane more aerodynamic, reducing drag and increasing efficiency. Although these additional savings will be appreciated by airlines, to continue to stay competitive, Boeing will need to get their single aisle aircraft to be even more efficient.
As of now, it appears that Boeing is going towards a possible redesign.
Boeing Chairman President and Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney recently said, “We’re gonna do a new airplane. We’re not done evaluating this whole situation yet, but our current bias is to not re-engine, is to move to an all-new airplane at the end of the decade, or the beginning of the next decade.” As of now, this is not a done deal, but it appears that they will most likely create a new airplane to replace the 737.
Boeing isn’t making this decision on their own. They have been working with airlines to see what they want for the short and long term. Obviously some airlines aren’t too fond of the idea of a totally new aircraft. There are quite a few that have a fleet of only 737s and having a mixed fleet, while it is being updated, is not something they want. This would be more costly for airlines in the short term, but would save them more money after entirely switching the fleet over.
At a recent Boeing media event Scott Fancher, the Vice President and General Manager of the 787 Dreamliner Program was asked what new technologies from the 787 could be scaled down for the new Boeing 737. When asked about composite materials being found in the new 737, he stated, “some composites scale down nicely, but others, they don’t.” He explained that some of the new systems technology and engine efficiencies could also be scaled down. Boeing feels that all the investments made on the 787 Dreamliner will serve as a basis for future new aircraft.
Boeing is not quite ready to talk about what the new Boeing 737 might look like. However, Darin Kirschner decided to take a shot and he had the skills to do it. Kirschner has allowed me to share his two mock ups of what the Boeing 737 replacement (which he is calling the Boeing 737.X) could look like. Just to be clear, these two photos are not in anyway from or endorsed by Boeing. That being said, they look awesome.
“While I do have aerodynamics training and am an Industrial Designer at heart, what I’ve produced is pure art and conjecture,” Kirschen stated. “It is no more likely to be truly accurate than any other fantasy, but understanding flight as I do, I think that if Boeing were to pattern the replacement 737 after the 787, we would get something within degrees of what I’ve created here.”
He started with the Dreamliner and scaled it down, creating a 12′ diameter cabin. He cleaned up the nose and cockpit and kept the styling cues of the 787. Just like in the 787, the windows are increased in size and spaced out. This will allow more natural light in and make the cabin seem bigger. I know I am very excited to see what Boeing comes up with… stay tuned.