Home' Asian Aviation : AAV May 2017 Contents 34 AsianAviation | May 2017
AS THE STALWART BOEING 737 TURNS 50 YEARS OLD with
more than 9,000 shipped from Washington state to points around
the globe since the 1960s, the American manufacturer is banking
on the newest member of the family to carry on for years to come.
Boeing’s Michael Teal, the deputy programme manager for the 737
MAX programme, recently spoke to correspondents in Asia about
the strength of the new metal hitting the skies and how Asian car-
riers will come to prefer a MAX over the “other guys”.
Teal explained the 737 MAX “is the fastest-selling aircraft in history
and we’re very proud of that fact” and attributed the plane’s appeal to
its fuel savings, which he pegged at 20 percent if one includes the 6
percent earned from previous improvements in the 737 Next Genera-
tion and an additional 14 percent fuel burn improvement with the MAX.
Those savings were a result of the new CFM LEAP 1A engine
on the MAX , the new AT winglet (nicknamed the X wing by some
writers), new aerodynamic improvements in the aft of the aircraft
and other technical improvements. Teal said the new engines alone
didn’t give Boeing all the fuel savings they wanted for the plane
which is why design teams made changes to the airframe, added
the winglets and redesigned the tail structure as well.
In addition to making it cheaper for airlines to fly the new MAX when
it comes to filling up the tanks, Teal said training will also be quicker
and easier because of the “commonality ” of systems between the 737
Next Generation and the MAX . He said pilots transitioning between
the aircraft would, in most cases, be able to complete any training
using a laptop and spending a day learning, although Teal said some
experienced pilots have been accomplishing this task in three hours.
Teal said pilots aren’t the only group of people benefiting from the
plane’s new systems—maintenance, repair and overhaul teams will
be able to take advantage of a new “health management system” for
the plane that will allow them to come to the flight deck, plug into the
plane, and diagnose any problems. Smaller glitches that won’t affect
flight safety can be scheduled for later dates to keep the airplane in
the air and improve its dispatch rate, he said.
Boeing of course, does have stiff competition in Asia in the narrow-
body market with the Airbus A320 family being the plane of choice
for many of the low-cost carriers (LCC) sprouting like mushrooms
throughout the region. Teal was undaunted however, saying the 737
Max’s range and lower fuel consumption makes him “confident we
can make inroads in that market space”. One reason he’s confident is
the 2016, US$11.3 billion order by LCC VietJet for 100 737 Max 200s.
Teal added that in addition to the VietJet order, “we have strong
interest from other LCCs in the (Asia-Pacific) region” including from
fast-expanding carriers in China where “airlines are very interested”.
Teal was also confident that airlines making the switch from
Boeing Next Generation 737s to the MAX won’t need “a large army
of people on the ground” to bring them into service because “if you
operate NGs, you can easily put them there with the MAX and op-
erate away. The systems that exist today can handle the MAX and
we’re optimistic it’s going to go well.”
The Boeing engineer also said the company was making “dispatch
reliability ” a key focus of the MAX and is shooting for a 99.7 percent
dispatch reliability rate, the same as the current Next Gen aircraft.
“ There are always initial issues that crop up” when rolling out a new
model, he said, “but the things we saw in flight testing we were able
to fix . But if history is any guide, there will be something that I don’t
know about that we’ll find but I’m confident it will be close to the
(Next Generation)” in terms of being repairable.
Teal also told reporters that the company could begin delivering
a 737 MAX 10X aircraft in 2020 if airlines start ordering the largest
version of its 737 MAX family this year. Boeing began marketing
the 737 MAX 10X as an option to customers this year but has yet to
receive any orders. Teal said the design of the 737 MAX 10X would
be firmed up by the end of this year and customers could receive
the aircraft in 2020 depending on orders.
The day after Teal’s comments to reporters, Boeing announced that
its MAX 9 version completed its first flight. The airplane completed a
successful two-hour, 42-minute flight, taking off from Renton Field in
Renton, Wash. Piloted by Boeing Test & Evaluation Capts. Christine
Walsh and Ed Wilson, the airplane performed tests on flight controls,
systems and handling qualities. The MAX 9 will now undergo com-
prehensive flight testing before customer deliveries begin in 2018.
MAXing it out
Boeing is confident carriers in Asia will warm to the 737 MAX. AAV editor Matt Driskill
was on a recent conference call with Boeing officials.
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