Paris 2011: Boeing Vows To Defend Lower Reaches of Narrowbody Market

Paris Air Show » 2011
June 19, 2011, 7:35 PM

Boeing intends to defend the segment of the market where its 737-700 resides, at least with incremental product improvements in the “medium term” future and possibly with an all new airplane to appear in 2019 or 2020, according to Nicole Piasecki, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ vice president of business development. That bit of information might particularly interest Brazil’s Embraer, which continues to wait for Boeing to announce a decision on an eventual successor to today’s 737NG before it commits to a new program of its own.

Analysts have speculated that Boeing could abandon what now constitutes the lower reaches of the narrowbody market, particularly if it opted to build an all-new airplane. Such a move, they argue, could leave an opening for Embraer to develop a 130- to 150-seat narrowbody of its own and help the Bombardier C Series gain more traction in its 110- to 145-seat segment.

“There is, obviously, emerging competition in the marketplace,” said Piasecki. “It is Boeing’s intention to defend the lower part of the market.” Still, she acknowledged an undeniable upward shift in the heart of the narrowbody segment “by a couple of seat rows.” In fact, Piasecki confirmed that Boeing will no longer pursue the sector of the market served by the 737-600, which typically ranges in capacity from 110 to 125 seats, due to pilot scope clause considerations in Europe and the U.S.

For what Piasecki called the medium-term future, Boeing has turned its attention to the so-called NG+, which, she said, amounts to a phrase for continuous improvement.

“We have a whole bunch of things that we’re taking a look at to eke out more performance in the mid-decade, 2015 time frame,” she said, in addition to the 2-percent fuel burn improvement expected to result this year from the 737’s latest Performance Improvement Package (PIP).

“We feel our NG is very competitive,” said Piasecki. “On that program we’re way down the learning curve, we’ve got a set of customers that is very strong; we have an installed fleet and so we believe [in] our ability to continue to make these incremental improvements in our program in the medium term, including going up in production rate to make our airplanes available.”

The Bombardier 130- to 145-seat CS300 will deliver, according to Piasecki, a small per-seat operating cost benefit over the existing 737-700. However, “I’ll say that our numbers are different from what their claims are in the marketplace,” she said. “We don’t publicly talk about our numbers, but we have confidence that our 700 can compete very aggressively and the 737-700 re-engine or new small airplane would be superior in terms of operating economics to the C Series 300.” –G.P.

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