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Memories Of 787 Factored In 737 Decision

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By Michael Mecham for Aviation Week - The need to be part of American Airlines’ historic narrowbody airplane order, coupled with the pressure to respond immediately to the market challenge posed by the Airbus A320NEO (new engine option) program, clearly was the deciding factor in Boeing’s offer of the new engine 737.


But they were not the only factors. Boeing blinked on its preference to introduce the New Small Airplane (NSA) as the successor to the 737NG family because it did not think the industry’s vast supplier network could meet the challenge of tackling another entirely new airplane over the next decade.


The Seattle airframer had been leaning toward introducing the NSA in 2019 or 2020, rather than taking the interim step of re-engining the 737NG.


“The technology is there,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Jim Albaugh said Wednesday at a joint news conference in Fort Worth with American Airlines Chairman and CEO Gerard Arpey and Airbus CEO Tom Enders. “But there is the issue of the production system, how quickly you can ramp up and how efficiently you can go to 40, 50, 60 airplanes a month. Quite frankly, we did not have those answers.”


Production Rates


Boeing is committed to producing 42 737s per month in the first half of 2014 as part of a broader expanse of a 40% buildup in aircraft production across all of its product lines by the end of 2013.


Airbus is moving to a 42-per-month production rate for the A320 in 2012 and is considering a bump-up of another two airplanes later, but has not made that decision, Enders said.


As for whether technologies exist for the step change needed for a successor to the A320, Enders stayed true to what Airbus has been saying for years. “We’re working on a new aircraft, but [technologies] are not maturing fast enough” to do it yet, he says.


So their response to American Airlines’ interest in changing out its entire fleet of single-aisle transports has not settled a basic split between Airbus and Boeing about the maturity of current aircraft technology. But it underscored their joint concerns about the industry’s supply chain.


Boeing officials say that a 42-aircraft rate at Airbus is not the same as 42 at Boeing because Airbus takes the month of August off for employee holiday time. Boeing says 42 at Airbus translates as 40 per month at Boeing.


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