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Mar 8, 2017

Boeing MAXs out with a real MAX 9 and an unreal MAX 10

The at times perplexing story of Boeing's MAX family has taken two new turns in recent days

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

On its way to a podium finish, the first 737 MAX 9

Let’s pretend for a moment. If you were an airline planning to buy a lot of new single aisle jets Boeing’s 737 MAX family might be of slightly confused interest this week.

Overnight in Renton Boeing rolled out a real MAX jet, the first of the 737 MAX 9 model, which corresponds to the current series 737-900, and joins the 737 MAX 8, which is the higher tech replacement for the widely used 737-800.

However it also released earlier more details, and an official graphic (below), of a minor stretch of the MAX 9,  the MAX 10, via Twitter, to delegates and media at the ISTAT trade show in San Diego.

The unreal but available SuperMax, the 737 10 MAX

Leeham News and Comment has published a technical and strategic insight into the MAX 10, which seems to be a backdown by Boeing from earlier ambitions for a more capable version of the jet, as it struggles to come up with an answer to the A321 NEO, the largest of the competing Airbus line of new tech single aisle jets.

The concern du jour for the less ambitious MAX 10 appears to be that it is both on active offer to potential customers, yet there is no official delivery date, or schedule for its certification flights. Meanwhile the A321 NEO was certified to take its second engine option made by the Franco-American CFM consortium last week, and continues to eat the Boeing alternative designs alive when it comes to winning orders.

Boeing is in the position of being simultaneously humiliated and rewarded in this contest between the 737 MAX and A320 lines, being beaten by Airbus by a large margin in sales, but in a sector where demand is so high than it will according to management briefings, make more money from these jets than anything else in its history.

Some of the US business and technical media are also being mean to the Boeing jet’s prospects, no doubt to give it some tough love and encourage it to do better.

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20 thoughts on “Boeing MAXs out with a real MAX 9 and an unreal MAX 10

  1. comet

    A year ago, Boeing had been dropping rumours that it would build a 737 MAX 10 with a raised undercarriage.

    I guess that plan just entered the dustbin.

    It demonstrates that Boeing management is suffering from complete paralysis. It’s more than a year since the Airbus A321 NEO took to the air, and Boeing is only now deciding what it will do about it, and then taking the minimalist option because any other plan “would take too much time.”

    1. Dan Dair

      Comet,
      Everything about how Boeing is proceeding implies that they have no capital resources to draw upon, to improve their product range.
      I don’t purport to have insight into their business finances, nor their future strategy, but I feel like they are one sudden economic slow-down away from ruin.?
      Others may disagree & others may actually have first-hand insight into why I’m mistaken, but the B737 airframe should have been replaced years ago & the fact that Boeing are stretching it out to a -10 model resonates as a ‘lack-of-cash-to-invest’.
      Boeing used to ‘eat-up’ the single-aisle market.
      With its only remaining model, Boeing is now only making money because Airbus can’t make enough of what the airlines really want, fast enough.?

      Still perhaps Boeings CEO & senior execs will their retaliation in first, by blaming president Trumps’ economic uncertainty strategy for their own appalling lack of ability to steer this historic company into a secure future.?

      1. Tango

        Boeing has the financial y resources to spend billions in stock buy backs each year.
        Its the failure of the board to execute and impose on the CEO a rational policy of product developments and allowing the profits to be diverted to one of the most insane aspect os current Corporate Operations in the US (and Airbus in Europe)

        You gain value by offering a solid product line, not pissing it away on share buy backs.

        In the old days they called it eating your seed corn.

        There is supposed to be a balance in the Corporate world. Company Needs, Workers needs, shareholder expectations.

        When any one of those gets skeweed too far (auto unions in the US and the nutty paying of $35 an hour for someone to put bolts in a car and full pay when laid off ) then the fabric begins to tear.

        Boeing fabric is ripped sail top to sail bottom.

        In this case the pig (shareholders) have to suck it up, take the hit while Boeing corrects its mistakes. There is no free lunch.

        1. Dan Dair

          Tango,
          I think we’re both looking at this from the same perspective,
          but do you really believe that US shareholders will actually bite-the-bullet & accept no dividends for perhaps five years.?
          I can’t imagine that the US stockmarket would respond well to a financial ‘call’ from Boeing to re-capitalise with a rights-issue.?

          I’m not in big-finance, but I look (granted, from some distance away) at the big hole Boeing seems to have got itself into & I honestly can’t see how it gets itself out of it.?
          I wonder sometimes whether the stockholders would rather ride that train right through the station & crash into the buffers, before they’d take the short-term hit, to help steady the ship.? (to mix my metaphors.!!)

  2. chris turnbull

    Gee all this commentary makes it sound like Boeing has a huge – almost crippling – deferred liability for development of another aircraft type . That can’t be right – tell ’em their dreamin !

  3. comet

    I wonder why Boeing can’t offer a delivery date.

    1. Tango

      Because no one wants the -10.

      Its a pathetic joke offering on an already pathetic stretch out of the 737 product but not one but TWO generations.

      Keep in mind I had the joy of being a very early flyer in the 737 and it was a fine aircraft that has been pushed way too far. The engineers pulled out miracles just to get what they go (at a far higher cost than Airbus and their simple NEO for the S320 series)

      Ford and the Model T comes to mind and very close match.

      The -9 is performance limited already. The -10 just maintains that with a cute gear trick, but it can’t match the A3421 in passengers nor can it do so in range.

      The 900 and -9 have never sold that well, ok for a derivative, but compared to the A321 it has less than 25% of that market.

      If you look at the sales the 737-800/8 match the A320, its the A321 that is slewing the single aisle numbers greatly to Airbus side

      And the A321 is moving to 50% of the product line production.

      That is ALL Alabama is going to make.

    2. Dan Dair

      Comet,
      Perhaps because ‘Boeing has a huge – almost crippling – deferred liability from development of another aircraft type’.?
      I can’t imagine where I got that idea from.?

      Perhaps Bombardier & Embaraers’ ‘time’ has finally come & they should begin to scale themselves up towards the time when they’ll be the ‘second-players’ to a world of aviation dominated solely by Airbus.?
      If Boeing should cease to build new aircraft, there’ll be a substantial market for quality single aisle aircraft which will need to be filled.?

  4. Tango

    Where it gets interesting is Alaska Airlines (Seattle Bases) (a solid and loyal Boeing customer) has picked up some great options (low cost and early delivery) for the Airbus A321 with the Virgin American merger.

    They are going to take delivery of some and I suspect bump the others down the road for final decision while they see what they have.

    They will then pick those delivering up when they find out how well its suits their growing cross US system.

    What Boeing ahs done is screw a loyal customer with lack of product development and left them no where to go.

    The A321 pickup alone is a saving grace as AK now has access to what they need.

    Ak Airlines has routes to Florida now, and a 737-9 is somewhat lame, the -10 would not even make the distance with a full passenger load and have problems taking off in hot Florida.

    The 737-8 fits the routes and has a miner advantage on A320 in more seating, but after that its just gone. fell off a cliff.

  5. comet

    It’s ironic, isn’t it?

    They call it the Max.

    But Boeing has done the absolute minimum.

    They should call it the MIN-10.

    1. StickShaker

      I don’t know exactly what Boeing’s latest plan is on modifying the 737 main gear for the Max 10 stretch but I was always cynical of their flippant attitude when suggesting that developing an articulated main gear would be a piece of cake.
      From what I have read the 737 main gear is a very tight fit in the wheel wells, if an articulated design was so easy then why haven’t they done it sooner ?

      1. Dan Dair

        StickShaker,
        I should have thought that there would always be an element of uncertainty with any kind of articulated main-gear.?
        I haven’t actually seen any proposals for exactly how it will articulate, but anything which complicates the deploying process will inevitably create the potential for failure.?
        Also, I can’t imagine where the extra length will stow, as I too am under the impression that the whole of the wing-root area was full of wing-spar & other vital bits of ‘aircrafty-stuff’.?
        (as you can see, I am thoroughly conversant with aircraft-engineering terminology.!!)
        Those vital bits of aircrafty-stuff, from what I understand, will be difficult & therefor expensive to relocate in order for space to be created for more landing gear, however it articulates.?

        1. comet

          I think the talk of giving the 737 new landing gear was always just a marketing ploy, to keep airlines believing Boeing was about to do something great.

          In the end, Boeing did the bare minimum possible, to avoid having to design a brand new aeroplane.

          Presumably, for every year that Boeing avoids that inevitable new design it will shed market share.

          I guess Boeing must be counting on the well-received 777 to keep the entire company afloat.

          1. Dan Dair

            ….and I return to that thing I’ve been saying now for some time;

            The last rites of Boeing as a commercial aircraft manufacturer will be to sell the extremely capable B777 to Airbus,
            who will then re-brand it the A370. (just as Boeing did with the Macdonnell Douglas DC9/MD80, which became their B717)

            Boeing might sell the B787 too, (presumably Airbus wouldn’t be interested in it as their biggest A330 & smallest A350 pretty much cover those same sectors) but one of the other aviation players would need to grow a big pair to take it on.?
            However it might work as it’s a good aircraft, it’s just such a pity Boeing spent/lost so much of it’s capital on the development fiasco.? Without those massive debts to service, another manufacturer might be able to create big profits from it.?

            I would assume that no US jobs would be lost as a result of the sale of the B777.? Why change a manufacturing process which is apparently functioning so very well.?
            I’d move the development back to France, taking the US staff with me, that wanted to go, but other than that I’d leave production well-alone.!

  6. JW (aka James Wilson)

    From Aviation Week:
    Customers Press Boeing To Launch New Midsize Widebody Aircraft Soon

    1. Dan Dair

      Those ‘customers’ would probably have better luck by asking Embaraer or Bombardier to build the much-talked-about (but little-actioned) MoM airframe for them.?
      In fact, if enough of them got together to promise sales, perhaps they would.???

  7. Ben Sandilands

    JW,
    I don’t think at the moment that Boeing is listening to these pleas, anymore than it did at any stage during similar repeated stories in recent years. They make it very difficult to sell the high capacity MAX jets and stories last year also quoted ‘sources’ as saying there was disunity among those in favour of a new jet as to whether it should be a wide body, a narrow body, a quasi wide body (my own personal wish) and exactly what the capacity/range specs would be. In my opinion, the 767-300 was the best sized and most amenable jet on domestic routes in Australia ever, but the economics of the A330 killed it off.

    1. Dan Dair

      Ben,
      Apropos your last comment;
      I understand that this is all just smoke until Boeing starts to make one (like that’ll ever happen), but;
      Is there actually any consensus at all about the so-called MoM type aircraft.?
      How many passengers is it supposed to carry.?
      What range is it supposed to have.?
      What are the airlines / Boeing looking at as a defining market sector.?

      Also, have you any idea how that A320/21 proposal to have a 5-across, twin-aisle configuration plays-out against a MoM design.?
      Have you any idea what the ‘bean-counters’ would make of such a configuration,?
      but also would it have a serious chance of success if it could be loaded & unloaded from both sides of the aircraft.? (a lot less queuing, so a much faster turnaround maybe worth an extra sector per day.?)

      There’s not much point in investing in a twin-aisle MoM, if you’re still limited to the bottleneck of one port-side door at the front for passengers to get on and off, is there.?

  8. comet

    Remember when the first 787 was rolled out to the media. The barrelled sections were clipped together with fasteners bought from the local hardware store. It could have fallen apart in front of everyone’s eyes.

    Someone better check this new 737 MAX 9, just to make sure it really is… um …a plane.