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March 4, 2024
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At the Farnborough Air Show, Boeing announced it had finalized its design for the 737 MAX 7, adding two rows of seats and utilizing the same wing as the 737 MAX 8.  This should both simplify production of the two aircraft while providing additional seats for more competitive seat-mile costs against new technology competition from Bombardier and Embraer, and a competitor closer in size to the A320 rather than A319.

The initial MAX7 could not compete well against the CS300 and E-195 E2, and even after gaining an additional 9.5% in seat-mile economics with additional seats cannot match the new technology competition.  In addition, Boeing was competing hard on price with its MAX8 against A320neo, and now has a betteroginal  alternative to enable the MAX 8 to capitalize on its 12 seat advantage and maintain better margins in narrow-body competitions.

The new MAX 7 will seat approximately 155 in a single class configuration for Southwest and about 138 in a two-class configuration, up from 126 for the 737-700.  The aircraft will remain about two rows smaller than the A320, which typically seats 150 in 2-class configuration, bracketed by the MAX 8 which is two rows larger than the A320.  There will be a 24 seat – or four row – differential between the MAX 7 and MAX 8.

Two inserts will be placed into the fuselage, one ahead of the wings measuring 46 inches and one aft of the wing measuring 30 inches.  The aircraft will also utilize two over-wing exits, like the MAX 8.

With only 65 of the original variant sold, and both Southwest and Westjet (accounting for 60 of the 65 sold) wanting larger capacity, the decision to change the design before the first aircraft was produced was an easy one for Boeing.  Both carriers are LCCs with large 737 fleets, and would prefer to operate a single type of jet on their routes.  With -700s and -800s already in their fleets and MAX 7 and MAX 8 on order, the larger configurations enable additional passengers on peak days, while still providing lower aircraft mile economics than the MAX 8.

The change in fuselage positively impacts the new Boeing Business Jet.

The MAX 7 will also be the base aircraft for the new Boeing BBJ Max 7, replacing the existing BBJ that utilized the 737-700 fuselage with the 737-800 wing.  In this case, the additional floor space provides a competitive differentiation against the competing Airbus ACJ based on the A319neo, and the improved performance and range enables it to better compete with other ultra long-range aircraft like the Gulfstream G650ER.

While Boeing has not finalized the new BBJ MAX 7 specifications, range should exceed 7,000 nautical miles.  The market for ultra-long range aircraft is strong, with more than 250 orders for the G650.  Airliner sized business jets have taken about 20% of the market, and the new BBJ MAX 7 should be competitive in that marketplace, with a potential for 50-60 orders over the next decade.  Because the BBJ program has only a limited number of available slots in the production line, the waiting list now extends to 2021/2022 for a BBJ MAX 7.

With the improved efficiency of the LEAP1B engines, the new MAX 7 BBJ will require seven rather than nine additional fuel tanks, enabling greater range with lower weight.  Of course, cabin weight is another factor in range, as the weight of monuments and custom interior designs can dramatically change performance.

Typically, an interior for an aircraft of this size weighs 15,000-18,000 pounds, depending on the materials selected for partitions and optional equipment installed, such as a shower.   Unfortunately, because each interior is different, it makes apples to apples comparisons of performance and range difficult.

Boeing and Airbus tend to quote performance figures using different assumptions.  The Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ) quotes a range of more than 7,200 nautical miles, but that calculation is based on a lightweight interior of only 11,000 pounds.  Aircraft of this size often include showers, special galleys, and other elements that are heavy.  Boeing utilizes a higher interior weight of 18,000 pounds in its calculations, and believes that on an apples to apples basis, with the same interior weight, the MAX 7 BBJ will outperform the A319neo based ACJ.   When both enter service, we’ll find out.  But, in the interim, the marketing battles require prospective owners to look deep to discover the assumptions on which performance claims are based.

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