Friday, February 11, 2011

2010 Year in Review for the 737

Photo taken at Boeing Field by Brandon Farris, photo is showing Boeing's 737 that is testing the new changes.

2010 marked the 43rd year of production for Boeing’s single aisle 737, which saw 376 planes delivered to customers ranging from the United States Navy to Ireland’s Ryanair. Air Austral was the only new customer in 2010, receiving the two 737-800’s they ordered. The year brought on new challenges and changes for the 737 program, from the inception of the Sky Interior to the creation of an even more fuel efficient aircraft.

On October 27th fly Dubai took delivery of the first Sky Interior equipped 737. The change was brought on to make flights more enjoyable for the passengers while also adding fresh new features such as bigger over head compartments and mood lighting. These changes were originally created for the 787 but have been brought on as a normal option for most Boeing aircraft types now.

Another announcement that the year brought on was the launch of a program aimed at increasing the fuel efficiency of the aircraft another 2%. The changes included using a different anti collision light that is more aerodynamically sound, and modifying the CFM-56’s engines just a little. Test flying to validate these changes are expected to be wrapped up by the third quarter of 2011, opening the door for a type wide change. Since the 737NG entered flight testing and production in 1997 Boeing has managed to cut the fuel consumption by 5%.

Boeing received a total of 508 orders in 2010, with the largest order being from Air Lease Corp for 54 737-800’s, which will be operated by unknown carriers at this time. Another other major announcement for the year was the increase in the production line. Last year Boeing delivered 31 new 737’s a month. To keep up with Airbus’s increase of production Boeing has set a goal to turn out 35 planes a month by 2012 to 38 a month by Q2 of 2013. Another recent release stated that Boeing is looking at the possibility of pushing this number up to an ambitious 42-50 737’s a month, but ramp space at Renton along with airport support remain concerns in being able to support such an increase.

What is 2011 going to bring for the program? While Airbus decided against a new aircraft all together and decided to launch an NEO (New Engine Option) for its A320 series, Boeing still has yet to decide between a similar upgrade version or new aircraft altogether. It has been reported the Boeing will be making its decision in the near future. Another deciding factor playing into this decision is the Bombardier C-series starting production and flight testing in the near future. Especially with big customers such as Southwest and Ryanair putting increased pressure on Boeing to come up with a new option, Boeing needs to carefully consider its options and make a timely decision.

Why NEO is likely to not work for Boeing like it did for Airbus is the 737 sits so low to the ground which is an issue that Boeing ran into while designing the Next Generation (NG) 737. General Electric had to work on a design that flattened the bottom of the CFM-56 engine a little to provide enough clearance between it and the ground. So if Boeing is to elect for a Next-Next-Generation 737 they would then need to raise the aircraft in some way or develop another solution such as putting the engines on the top of the wings or on that tail in a design similar to the 717. So it is believed that due to this challenge Boeing may elect to go for a new aircraft design over redesigning the existing 737 body.