Boeing Set To Replace 737 MAX By 2030, If Not Sooner

Boeing’s 737 MAX woes were largely caused by the manufacturer attempting to add too much new tech to a very old airframe. Did Boeing make a mistake when it opted to develop the MAX rather than work on a clean sheet design? Perhaps. But the good news is that the US planemaker is likely to have a brand new short-haul aircraft ready to go within the next decade.

737 MAX
Boeing could bring us a MAX replacement by 2030. Photo: Getty Images.

A replacement for the 737 MAX

Some might say that a clean sheet design to replace the MAX cannot come soon enough. But with so much invested in the type, it’s likely we’ll see the popular narrowbody offered for sale for some time to come yet. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Quite some time ago, Boeing sketched out a design for a new narrowbody aircraft to completely replace the 737 product line. At the time, Reuters reported that this new aircraft was being targeted for entry into service by 2030 at the latest. Chief Executive Officer at the time, Jim McNerney, told the publication,

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“By 2030 we will have a new airplane … there’s a good chance it will be a composite airplane. It will be slightly bigger, there will be new engines. The current look of the planes (shape) won’t change dramatically.”

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In fact, Boeing had patented a design for the 737 replacement as long ago as 2009. In 2011, it outlined plans for this new aircraft and earmarked delivery for 2020. However, later the same year Boeing announced the 737 MAX as a re-engined version of the 737 NG, putting plans for a clean sheet replacement on the back burner.

A320neo
The introduction of the neo put pressure on Boeing to create the MAX. Photo: Lufthansa

 

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It is thought that this change of direction was in response to Airbus’ introduction of the neo version of its own narrowbody A320 product line. At the time, both companies were clear that they would not aim for a complete redesign much before 2030. Nevertheless, the plans still exist, and can give us some insight into the future of short-haul flying.

What do we know about the new 737 so far?

The patent for the new 737 was submitted back in 2009, so we can expect some modifications to be made from the original design type. However, the patent does give us some strong clues as to how Boeing plans to proceed with a successor to the 737.

Boeing new 737
The new aircraft would have a more elliptical fuselage. Photo: US Patent

The most notable inclusion in the patent is that the aircraft will feature a ‘near elliptical’ cross-section, as opposed to the circular cross-section we are used to today. Essentially, it would be wider than it is tall. This would provide a little more space internally, allowing for a twin-aisle design.

Boeing new 737 cross section
The wider fuselage would allow for an additional aisle. Photo: US Patent

For airlines like Ryanair and Southwest who strive for the shortest turnaround times possible, this would be a boon. A twin-aisle aircraft is far quicker to board and deplane, and could lead to more daily flights as a result.

Boeing new 737 above
Could this be the new 737? Photo: US Patent

Another key factor is the construction of the aircraft itself. The title of the patent is “Weight-Optimizing Internally Pressurized Composite-Body Aircraft Fuselages Having Near-Elliptical Cross Sections”. So, aside from the elliptical issue, we’ve got plans for a composite body construction, making the aircraft far more lightweight than the current product line, bringing with it all the fuel burn improvements you would expect.

Everything suggests that 2030 is the crunch date for a 737 replacement. However, with the NMA likely shelved and the MAX facing an uphill battle to claw back its reputation, perhaps we’ll see some movement on this new aircraft concept sooner rather than later.

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Tango Alpha

The next 737 will not be a twin aisle. Forget it.

Trent

I love the twin isle idea.

I would love to see Boeing launch FSA and NMA at the same time. Launch a 3×3 FSA with a passenger load of around 150 in all economy, roughly the size of the 737-700. At the same time launch a same type rating NMA at 2x3x2 with around a 240 passenger load. Split the difference between A220 and A321 with the FSA, and split the difference between the A321 and A330 with NMA.

High Mile Club

So, are we expecting the likes of a miniature 787? I wouldn’t mind, and the 797 looked like it was going that route.

Pingy

Short and f*t? I doubt it – efficiency would take a hit.

John

It won’t be a twin aisle. That oblong shape looks like a pain to manufacture.

Boeing for it’s clean sheet 737-sized new aircraft should keep it simple. Carbon fiber wings and fuselage will unfortunately have to make it in because that’s the standard, but no fancy and complex stuff.

They should design the aircraft for qualified pilots to completely disconnect and disable the computers and fly manually. Add analog instruments as backup.

Tony

Although written many times before, Airbus did this back in 1970. It was called the A300.

Anonymous

I would imagine it would look like a mini 787

Ng Fook Meng

A substantially bigger frontal cross-section would be a major drag factor for a mid-size jet. A lot of space on both sides of the cargo compartment will also be poorly utilised.

It would be difficult to compete with the likes of the A321Neos.

TonytTDK

Anyone who thinks twin-aisle short-haul is the future is simply Muddleheaded.
Single or twin-aisle design both have to board & deplane through a single door. That bottleneck is still the same.
The pictured design looks like a shrunk-down MoM design.
If Boeing are going to build the MoM/NMA alongside the FSA 737 replacement, then it might make economic sense to cut cists by developing a ‘combined’ design, as has been mentioned before, otherwise it’s just Boeing blowing smoke again…

Mick

They should of gone ahead with this plane instead of the Max, they would have saved alot of lives, the Max should never fly, cut your losses and do it properly boeing

The Equaliser

If Boeing don’t go bankrupt first!

The massive increase in Airbus marketshare must certainly be softening the b**w of the UK leaving the EU.

Berhanu Damessa

Why you temporarily stop production of Boeing 737-Max? There is always a solution for every problem on hand. Please check the steep turn condition! That could be a solution for this problem. Glad to hear that you have completed 814 test flights for Boeing 737-MAX with updated software. It is an excellent progress. But did you test 737-MAX for the extreme circumstances like steep turns and speed so low approaching stall? Because ET-302 Captain Yared Getachew had informed the air controllers in Addis Ababa Bole international airport that he faced a flight control problem and requested a clearance to get back to the airport. Since the plane was under takeoff procedure, this shows that the plane was making a steep turn to get back to the airport, and hence MCAS was activated. Please test the steep turn condition to be 100% confident on MCAS system.
On Seattle Times newspaper dated November 15, 2018 I read “Bjorn Fehrm, a former jet-fighter pilot and an aeronautical engineer who is now an analyst with Leeham.net, said the technical description of the New 737-MAX flight control system – called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) – that Boeing released to airlines last weekend makes clear that it is designed to kick in only in extreme situations, when the plane is doing steep turns that put high stress on the airframe or when it’s flying at speeds so low it’s about to stall. ” It is because of the above statement that I raised my point.
Ethiopian Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau preliminary report indicates that ET-302 was in an airworthy condition and the crew possessed the required qualifications to fly the plane. The takeoff procedures were normal, including both values of the AOA sensors. However, shortly after takeoff, the similarities between two crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia became clear. AOA sensors started to disagree – the left sensor reached 74.5 degrees, while the right sensor indicated 15.3 degrees. This shows that Captain Yared Getachew was making left steep turning back to Bole International airport to get a fix for the flight control problem he reported to air controllers shortly after takeoff and due to this steep left turning the left AOA reached 74.5 degrees and hence MCAS was activated. ET-302 plane was traveling to Nairobi which is located South of Addis Ababa, but the plane had crashed in the North – East direction relative to its original path of travel. This shows that the plane was making a steep left turn to get back to Addis Ababa, Bole International Airport.
Similarly, Indonesian Lion air final report indicated that the Digital Flight Data Recorder of flight JT610 showcased a difference of 21 degrees between the left and right Angel of Attack sensors. This shows that the captain was making a left/right steep turning back to the airport to get a fix for the flight control problem he reported to air controllers, shortly after takeoff, and due to this steep left/right turning the difference between left and right AOA sensors reading reached 21 degrees and hence MCAS was activated. On the preliminary accident investigation report of JT610 it is clearly indicated that, about a minute after taking off, the pilots reported to the terminal East traffic controller, asking for permission to some holding point, as they were having flight control problems.
Hence, before stopping the production of these planes, Boeing has to perform the steep turning condition on 737-MAX planes, and address this problem with a scientific approach. Stopping the production is a pessimistic way for solving this problem. Boeing is a big company armed with the required knowledge, skill, manpower, equipment and finance, and hence can solve this problem and make unforgettable history. GO BOEING!