There is no new 757 replacement coming. Except maybe there is. And we’re not calling it a 757 replacement, except for acknowledging that’s exactly what it is. And it is definitely not being designed the way the 757 was, except that seems to be exactly what is happening. Welcome to the wonderful(ly confusing) world of Boeing‘s product development and the uncertain future of a “757 MAX.”
The 787-8 is a major step forward in efficiency and it has moved past most of the production growing pains such that Boeing is now delivering the type at a record pace and dispatch reliability is reasonably high. But airline customers do not necessarily need or want a plane that large. And so, once again, rumors are swirling of a new design option to fill the void. Everyone seem to be keen on not saying “757” when describing this option but, well, that’s essentially what it is, built on the 737 MAX fuselage. As the WSJ reports:
The design features new wings and stretches the 737’s body to seat up to 245 passengers and adds taller landing gear to make room for larger engines, said people familiar with the studies.
So, just like the way the 757 was built on similar dimensions to the 737, with larger wings, higher landing gear and spectacularly more powerful engines, so would the “757 MAX” seem to be. But the company is also not truly committed to the design, at least not yet. And, as FlightGlobal reports, there is also a question of whether a stretched 737 MAX is large enough for what customers want. Larger wings and engines on the 737 MAX can get to a plane about 20% larger, roughly the same as the 757 is today relative to the 737NGs. Going 20% longer again moves from 757-200 to 757-300 length and that aircraft never did have quite the same feel as the 752, nor did it have the range or short-field takeoff performance. In other words, it is not really what the industry is asking for or needs in a new aircraft model.
And, while the fuselage and wings are important, the main innovation has to come in the engine for this to fly. The fuselage and wings add only marginal upgrades to the overall kit compared to the engines. And finding a manufacturer to produce the correct new engine option for the resized “stretch” 737 MAX could also prove to be a challenge. A high bypass turbo-fan option is obviously desirable but getting it properly sized, between that of a 737 and 787 model, will require some new design work from those vendors.
So, will it ever fly? I have no idea. But the fact that it is essentially a 757 MAX without calling it such is most entertaining to me.
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