Today Boeing announced it has finished defining, in broad terms, the 737 MAX, completing a major milestone in development known as ‘Firm Concept’. The bump at the nose wheel door is now gone. There are a number of tweaks that enable a 13% improvement in fuel burn. On the analyst call this was explained to mean that the 13% is an improvement on the earlier stated numbers and this means the MAX should be 19% more fuel efficient than the NG.
The fuel burn improvements come from the new CFM LEAP engines, the new tail cone and advanced winglets. CFM achieved architectural freeze in September, by freezing fan size and core size. The final LEAP design freeze is expected in April 2013. Other tweaks include an electronic bleed air system to be supplied by Honeywell and large-format flight deck displays, supplied by Rockwell Collins.
Boeing will add a transition line in Renton for the MAX in 2015 and this line is likely to be an additional production line if the company reaches beyond 42 per month. Boeing is planning for detailed design in mid-2013 and EIS in 2017.
An very interesting item that came up in the Q&A is that Boeing will go for amended type certification. They do not see need for re-certification and are working closely with the FAA and EASA. Of course this fits with the original idea of minimal changes from NG. But just how minimal is minimal now? Clearly Airbus would prefer to see the MAX be put through a re-certification program as this likely to move EIS out more to the right. But Boeing are masters at amended certifications (737, 747). Airbus is also watching scope creep on its neo for the same reason.
[Update: Boeing sent us a note to clarify the fuel burn numbers we mention above. “What was shared on the call yesterday is that the 737 MAX will be 13% more fuel-efficient than today’s most efficient Next-Generation 737s (the ones rolling out of the factory now). Chief Project Engineer Michael Teal said that you have to remember that we’ve continued to improve the NG since it was introduced into the market. These improvements add up to 6% fuel-burn improvement. So if you were to compare a 737 MAX to the first NGs that were delivered, the MAX would be 19% more efficient.”]