At the risk of being told to chew on a chill pill by Airbus and Boeing, there has been a lot of thoughtful but at times confusing analysis about their various plans for new versions of current or under test airliners recently , especially about a true replacement for the Boeing 757, as well as a major upgrade and stretch for the Airbus A380.
This is not just about Airbus v Boeing, but each company versus themselves in what PR managers are probably gnashing their teeth over as ‘singing out of tune’ or something like that. As well as both airliner makers versus large rich customers making unreasonable demands about what they, the customer, dare to want guaranteed on engraved granite tablets in a performance contract.
The evidence for this is well pulled togther in two recent bulletins from Leeham News and Comment. Last week it dealt mainly with the hoary old chestnut of a 757 replacement.
That bulletin argued the case for a similar sized 757 replacement design.
Its main take away was:
The 737-9 doesn’t have the range, the field performance or the payload of the 757. Neither does the Airbus A321neo, although it is much better than the 737-9.
Entry-into-service for what we will dub the 757R is envisioned for 2025-2027, leaning toward the former.
However the later Leeham bulletin here, out today, interviews Airbus Americas chairman, Allan McArtor, who sees it very differently.
As for the prospect of a Boeing 757 replacement that would also mean replacing the Boeing 737-900ER/9 MAX and A321ceo/neo, McArtor doesn’t think a similarly sized replacement may make sense. Continued up-gauging trends may suggest the 757 replacement might well be a larger aircraft that falls to the A330-200 250-seater, he says.
Of course, this brings the market to the Boeing 787-8, but this plane has a range of 8,000nm vs the 4,000sm of the 757; and potentially an A330-200 Lite, a lighter gross weight/reduced thrust, shorter-range version of today’s A330-200 which has a range of 7,200nm. Some would suggest neither airplane is optimized to be a true 757 replacement, just as neither are the 737-900ER/9 nor the A321ceo/neo.
Also, by 2025, when a 757 replacement is envisioned, the A330-200 will be 30 years old, a design from the late 1980s/early 1990s, with an EIS of 1994.
“I think we can make incremental improvements to the A330 and probably keep the program going: a new engine, winglets, avionics,” McArtor said. “Personally I don’t think Boeing is ready to commit to a 757 replacement. I think they’d use the lower-end 787.”
McArtor has a point. The replacement for the Boeing 737-300 classic didn’t really turn out to be the similar sized 737-700, but the much larger 737-800.
But that’s not what is really intriguing in the interview. McArtor used the term ‘new engine’ in relation to on going improvements to the A330, which is something AirAsia X founder Tony Fernades has been agitating for since 2011, and Airbus has been hosing down with cold water for the same period.
The A330 must be really annoying in Seattle. Its reliable, economical, flies high hours, and looks like it would obsolete the 787-8 with a new engine, except that it has been around since 1994, which is … despicable, if you are a Boeing executive.
McArtor also builds on the comments made by EADS CEO Tom Enders in Sydney a week ago, when he spoke of the A380 having its best days ahead of it. McArtor speaks warmly of a stretch of the A380, which will be a relief to those who were briefed in Toulouse in June this year on a ‘pack’ as in 11 abreast economy seating, as more likely than a stretch.
Airbus has made an interesting constraint for itself in its A350 specifications, in which its standard nine across seating will be closely comparable to ten across in the A380 in economy on its lower deck. An 11 across A380 would be notably less amenable than a nine across A350, and a 10 across A350, which is inhumanely possible, would achieve equality of misery with a high density A380 and a nine seats across Boeing 787.
This makes every single word that senior managers in Boeing and Airbus say worth really close attention. They seem, if you read the two Leehams carefully, to be moving away from the more rigid positions they were taking earlier this year.