In some of my articles I have dealt with the stretch of the Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737 MAX 7 or better said the shrink of the Boeing 737 MAX 8. If you are interested in knowing what exactly changed on the Boeing 737 MAX 7, I would advise you to read my article Stretch Or Shrink? Here Is What Is New On The Boeing 737 MAX 7. I also pointed out that history has shown that the smallest members of the Boeing 737 and Airbus (OTCPK:EADSF) A320 series have never been best sellers.
So Boeing is coming up with a MAX 8 shrink, which will not bring the company significantly more sales. So you might wonder why Boeing is doing all this and maybe the better question you could ask is "Why is Boeing coming up with a redesigned MAX 7, while it needs an airplane to compete with the Airbus A321neo and A321neoLR?".
In Part 1, I explained why the Boeing 737 MAX 9 cannot compete with the Airbus A321neo. In this part I will look at what a Boeing 737-10X could look like and why Boeing did not launch it.
So in the previous article I concluded that the Boeing 737 MAX 9 is underpowered and it lacks capacity. That will be the starting point for a simple design for the MAX 10.
As I pointed out in the previous article the MAX 9 carries 178 passengers versus 185 passengers for the Airbus A320neo. So a Boeing 737-10X would need a stretch that accommodates 12 extra seats or 3 rows. According to my model this would add between 1,200 kg and 1,300 kg to the aircraft's weight. The stretch would add roughly 4 meters to the fuselage.
As weight increases, a natural thing to start thinking about in the designing process is the use of a bigger wing. For a Boeing 737 MAX 10 a span increase, however, would not be possible as it would change the gate category of the aircraft, which currently is 4C. A requirement for any stretch would be that the aircraft's gate designation would not change. Aircraft with a 4C designation can have a maximum wing span of 36 meters, the Boeing 737 MAX already has a wing span of 35.92m. So a bigger wing is not one of the possibilities. The only thing Boeing would likely change is the use of a stronger wing, which adds roughly 650 kg to the aircraft's weight. So the next thing you would like to change is engine thrust.
The CFM LEAP-1B turbofans used on the Boeing 737 MAX provide a thrust of 100kN-120kN. The current MAX 9 is already underpowered. This means that Boeing needs to opt for a more powerful turbofan, this turbofan would be the CFM LEAP-1A, which would add roughly 20kN-30kN in thrust. This, however, has 3 drawbacks: The LEAP-1A is heavier and has a bigger diameter. The first drawback means that the weight will increase by roughly 700 kg. The second drawback means that Boeing will need to increase the length of the gear strut to maintain sufficient ground clearance and the aerodynamic efficiency will decrease a bit.
So in order to maintain sufficient ground clearance Boeing will need to increase the gear strut length, combined with the higher overall weight this means that the weight of the landing gear will increase as well. Since the weight of the landing gear system is closely related to the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft, the landing gear is quite a heavy component. Strengthen and increasing the length of the gear strut will likely add 200kg-300kg to the weight.
If we compare the Airbus A321neo with 185 seats to the Boeing 737 MAX 10 with 190 seats, we get the following results:
Figure 1: Performance Boeing 737 MAX 10 versus Airbus A321neo (Source)
What can be seen is that a Boeing 737 MAX 10 will only have a slight edge over the Airbus A321neo. Up until a trip distance of 2,750nm the Boeing 737 MAX 10 would have a per seat advantage of roughly 1%. On the longer trips the fuel burn for the Airbus A321neo will be lower.
The Airbus A321neo, however, can easily seat 190+ passengers. An Airbus A321neo with 190 seats will be performing 1%-2% better than a Boeing 737 MAX 10.
The purpose of this article series was to show how a MAX 9 performs versus Airbus A321neo and what a stretch would look like and its performance. The main conclusion is that a stretch as well as the MAX 9 would be less efficient than an Airbus A321neo. Boeing chose to redesign the MAX 7, because it could simply adopt the wing and gear from the MAX 8. For a Boeing 737 MAX 10, Boeing would lose some commonality, due to the use of a new turbofan and add a few billions in development costs for strengthening the landing gear and wing. The end product would still have a hard time competing with the Airbus A321neo and in no way would be an answer to the Airbus A321neo LR. A stretch would only be marginally better than a 185-seat A321neo. On the longer trips the Airbus A321neo would even be more efficient.
Development costs of a few billion dollars would make the MAX 10 quite pricey. Additionally, the Airbus A321 neo can easily serve as a 185-205 seat aircraft. That is a potential a MAX 10, in the way Boeing looked at it, simply does not have.
The MAX 10, with 190 seats, would be a costly endeavor with very little competitiveness.
Besides the limited competitiveness of a stretch, there are some other problems. Boeing currently is close to rolling out the MAX to commercial service, which can enter service during the first half of 2017. The MAX 9 would likely follow after that. The MAX 9 and MAX 7 will follow in 2019. Boeing would likely want to monitor performance of the MAX 9 before stretching. After that follows finalizing the design of the stretch and certification of the redesigned parts, which adds to the costs. In 2020, the jet maker will be launching the 777X. So the product launch schedule for Boeing commercial aircraft is a crowded one. Additionally, the company is aiming to have a 737 replacement ready by 2030. This means that development of this new aircraft family would already start in 2024-2025. This gives Boeing very little space to launch a MAX 10. The jet maker could as well wait a few years and come up with an aircraft that will actually be able to compete with the Airbus A321neo, rather than launching an expensive half answer now.
Boeing probably also foresees this and has chosen to make a quick and cheaper redesign of the MAX 7 and save a few billion dollars that it could be using for an all-new aircraft.
If you would like to receive updates for my upcoming articles, please click the "Follow" text at the top of this page next to my profile.
Disclosure: I am/we are long BA.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Editor's Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major U.S. exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.