Boeing today confirmed an additional 1% fuel-efficiency improvement for the 737 MAX family of aircraft. This addition brings the total fuel savings from 13% to 14% over the current generation 737NG models. The additional 1% derives from improved aerodynamics, particularly associated with reducing drag created by vortices between the engine and wing, as well as continuing improvements to the winglets.
“This recent fuel-efficiency gain will widen the performance gap in the single-aisle market” said Keith Leverkuhn, VP and general manager of the 737 MAX program. He indicated that the program is on schedule, and that CFM will begin ground testing of the LEAP-1B version of the engine for the MAX next year. The LEAP 1-A version for the Airbus A320neo family is already in ground testing in Ohio.
An interesting aspect of the 737 MAX is that it will be e-Enabled. “We are enhancing the capability of the 737 MAX to meet the future needs of a digital world” said Michael Teal, chief project engineer for the program. Some of the systems, including the electronic digital flight data acquisition unit or eDFDAU and networked file server or NFS will be retrofit to the existing NG program prior to being introduced on the MAX. In addition, built-in test equipment will be installed on the aircraft to bring additional data to the cockpit.
These new systems will also include broadband connectivity, and the ability to connect the aircraft with the ground to download data to more quickly resolve maintenance issues upon landing. Of course, with these new capabilities come cyber-security risks, which will also need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner.
With the aircraft now at design freeze and firm systems definition, the 737 MAX is rapidly approaching the time to begin construction of the first prototype. While there remains a long road ahead, 737 MAX is making good progress as Boeing focuses on obtaining every possible efficiency from the initial 737 design that first entered service in 1967, and looks to be on track for entry into service in the third quarter of 2017.