The Boeing Company's board of directors has approved the launch of a new-engine 737 family of commercial jets, based on order commitments for 496...

The Boeing Company’s board of directors has approved the launch of a new-engine 737 family of commercial jets, based on order commitments for 496 aircraft from five airlines and what Boeing says is a strong business case.

On August 30, 2011, the Boeing Company’s board of directors approved the launch of the new-engine variant of the 737, based on order commitments for 496 aircraft from five airlines and a strong business case

“The re-engined 737 will allow Boeing to continue to deliver the most fuel-efficient, most capable airplane with the lowest operating costs in the single-aisle market,” says  Jim Albaugh, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO. “This, coupled with industry-leading reliability and maintainability, is what customers have told us they want. As a result, we are seeing overwhelming demand for this new and improved version of the 737. We are working with our customers to finalize these and other agreements in the weeks and months ahead.”

Boeing has not named the five airlines which have ordered the 496 737REs, but American Airlines announced it was ordering 100 and optioning 100 more even before Boeing officially launched the 737RE program.

American’s 737RE order announcement on July 20 (announced at the same time American said it was ordering 130 Airbus A320neo-family jets and optioning up to 280 more) effectively confirmed to the world for the first time that Boeing would proceed with another re-engining program for the 737. The 737 family has already been re-engined twice, with the CFM56-3-powered 737 ‘Classic’ family replacing the original, Pratt & Whitney JT8D-powered 737-100 and 737-200 in production; and then the CFM56-7B-powered Next-Generation 737 family replacing the 737 Classic family (which included the 737-300, 737-400 and 737-500).

Other launch customers for the 737RE may well include another Dallas-based carrier, Southwest Airlines, which has said for years that Boeing should launch a re-engined version of the 737NG family and is already the largest operator of Boeing 737-family jets in the world.

Yet another customer might be Delta Air Lines, which last week ordered 100 Boeing 737-900ERs. Although Delta said then that it wouldn’t place another order for single-aisle jets for at least a year, Deltas is know to be planning an order to replace at least 100 single-aisle jets in the 737-7 seat-capacity range. Alaska Airlines has also indicated its interest in a new version of the 7737.

The new 737 family will be powered by CFM International LEAP-1B engines optimized for the 737. Boeing claims the 737RE will have the lowest operating costs in the single-aisle segment, estimating a 7 per cent advantage over the competing – and extremely fast-selling – Airbus A320neo family, which offer a choice of engine types between the CFM LEAP-1A and the Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1100G geared turbofan. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2017.

Boeing has not offered specific operating-cost comparisons between the 737-7 at the lower end of the 737RE family and the all-new, 110-to-149-seat Bombardier CSeries family. Bombardier claims the CSeries will have operating costs some 20 per cent lower than any comparably sized single-aisle aircraft operating today and at least 10 per cent lower than any re-engined 737 or A320, since these aircraft’s airframes will be based on existing designs and thus are not aerodynamically optimized either in terms of the latest aerodynamic design thinking or in designing the airframes round their new engines. The CSeries will be powered by the PW1500G version of the PurePower PW1000G geared-turbofan family.

The Boeing 737-8 is likely to be the highest-selling version of the new, CFM LEAP-1B-powered Boeing 737RE family. The Boeing Company's board of directors officially approved the launch of the 737RE program on August 30, 2011

However, says Albaugh, “Customers tell us they want to improve profitability and fuel efficiency while reducing their environmental footprint. This solution meets all three of those needs.”

Boeing says that, when compared to a fleet of 100 of today’s most fuel-efficient aircraft, 100 737REs will emit 277,000 fewer tons of CO2 and save nearly 175 million pounds of fuel per year, translating into $85 million in cost savings. The U.S.-based manufacturer expects the 737RE’s fuel burn to be 16 per cent lower than the current A320 family and 4 per cent lower than the A320neo family.

Boeing has named Bob Feldmann vice president and general manager of the new-engine 737 family. With 35 years of aerospace experience, Feldmann most recently led the Surveillance and Engagement division within Boeing Military Aircraft, a unit of Boeing Defense, Space & Security that includes several commercial derivative programs based on the 737. Boeing says Feldmann has been instrumental in leading the successful development of complex programs such as the EA-18G Growler and the P-8A Poseidon.

Michael Teal has been named vice president, chief project engineer and deputy program manager. Teal’s most recent role was vice president and chief project engineer on the 747-8 program, where Boeing says he was instrumental in managing the airplane’s configuration and integration, performance, safety, test and certification.

In service since 1967, the Boeing 737 family is the world’s most popular family of commercial jet transport aircraft, having won orders for more than 9,000 aircraft.

Today’s Next-Generation 737s are up to 7 per cent more fuel-efficient than the first 737NGs delivered in 1998.

Boeing forecasts global demand for more than 23,000 aircraft in the 737’s market segment over the next 20 years at a value of nearly $2 trillion.