Re: What does the 737-X do for Southwest?

From:         drinkard@bcstec.ca.boeing.com (Terrell D. Drinkard)
Organization: Boeing Commercial Airplane Group
Date:         07 Dec 93 11:39:18 PST
References:   1
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In article <airliners.1993.780@ohare.chicago.com>,
 <Watson_John/MEPTEC_dalhp002@dal.mobil.com> wrote:

[Some stuff deleted]

>The new 737-X aircraft have larger engines and a bigger more efficient 
>wing.  However, the downside of these increases is a reported 10,000 
>pound increase in empty weight.  From what I have read, the airplane 
>should not have extra range and can cruise at 41,000 feet for best 
>efficiency.  

I don't work on the 737-X, so take this with a small grain of salt, but
that 10,000 increase is probably overstated.  Every PD program goes
through a phase where the airplane is too heavy.  We do the basic design,
and then everyone adds features until the airplane is way too heavy.  From
there we subtract stuff until the airplane is at its target weight, which
is determined primarily by aero performance issues and structural
requirements.  Its the same as with a car design, or anything else.
Computer programmers call it 'creeping featurism'.

I have seen their payload-range curves and the airplanes do indeed have
substantially more range than any of the previous models.  The decision to
cruise at 41,000 ft is probably driven by the faster wing.  That is, no
matter how fast the airplane is capable of flying, unless you can get above
the mass of traffic around 35,000 ft it just won't matter - you'll fly the
same speed as everyone else (not always true, just a rule of thumb).  This
can be very important on crowded routes like Boston to Chicago.  Airline on
time performance is judged by block time, not cruise efficiency.

>It would seem to me that for Southwest, they will not be able to take 
>advantage of the longer range and higher cruising altitude offered by 
>this option.  It would seem that at lower altitudes and shorter route 
>segments, that the higher weight would be more of a penalty than a 
>benefit.  One might say that Southwest is planning on making longer 
>stages or even cross county routes where this would make sense.  If 
>so, Southwest would loose one of their advantages in not having to 
>have full galleys with ovens, etc.  {I don't think they can get by 
>with three hour flights with just penuts.}

I can't speak for Herb Kelleher, but I would not be surprised to see that
extra range used for reducing turn times and operating costs by tankering
fuel.  Or that extra Max Zero Fuel Weight to start hauling more cargo.  The
737-X offers more capability, not just added range.  The galley problem can
be handled with sandwiches and drinks.  Hot meals are not neccessary.


>Can anyone shed any light on how the "X" upgrade would beneift 
>Southwest?  Is the new wing so efficient, that short hauls are made 
>more efficient?  Was the price that Boeing offered so competitive to 
>get the new version off the ground that it was too good to pass up?

Another reason that Southwest may be interested is that the 737-X should
have lower maintenance costs.  One of Boeings goals in general is to reduce
the cost of keeping the airplane in the air, and I believe the 737-X people
are working that pretty hard.  Another reason is that even with all the
improvements in maintenance, speed, and range, the price of the 737-X is
not likely to be much more than the current family.  This is a real value
to a customer, any customer - not just Southwest.  The Boeing goal is to
continue to reduce the cost of our products without reducing value.

Just a note, I saw that same article in the Seattle Times about the -600
number being held for an airplane less than 100 seats.  I checked, and that
was a journalistic brain fart.  The -600 will be the same size as the
current production -500.  The -700 that Southwest ordered is the same size
as a current production -300.  There is no -900.

-- 
Terry
drinkard@bcstec.boeing.com
"Anyone who thinks they can hold the company responsible for what I say has
more lawyers than sense."