While Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) remains coy on its plans to launch a fourth version of its new 737 MAX family, the company has revealed its thinking on perhaps the thorniest problem facing the company as it comes to decision on the new 737-10. The plane would be the largest in the 737 MAX family and is expected to seat 189 passengers in a conventional dual-class cabin and to have a range of 3,000 to 3,300 nautical miles.
The issue the company is wrestling with is a design for a new landing gear. The 737-10 would be 66 inches longer than the 737-9. Those extra inches require Boeing to modify the proposed plane’s main landing gear to ensure adequate clearance of the longer body for takeoffs and landings. It may sound simple, but apparently it is not.
Boeing has a number of goals for the 737-10. First among them a strong challenger to the Airbus A320neo, a plane designed to carry 193 passengers over a similar range. That said, Boeing wants to limit both the cost of the new plane and get it to market as soon as possible.
Many analysts expect Boeing to launch the plane this summer with a delivery date of 2020. Some potential customers for the 737-10 believe the aircraft has to meet a first delivery date in 2019. Designing a workable landing gear is probably the key to keeping the cost down and meeting a 2019 deadline for first deliveries.
Now for a little inside baseball. Boeing’s general manager for the 737 MAX program, Keith Leverkuhn, told Aviation Week how the company envisions the landing gear to work:
[Boeing is focused] the upper portion of the gear as it integrates with the actuator. [Our new design will include] clever folding using a link mechanism at the top. [The lower part of the gear leg will include] an additional shock strut that fits inside the same forging. This moves the contact point aft a little bit. That’s fundamentally what we are doing and yes, it will look like a trailing link gear. We want to make it maintainable, reliable, and we are going to need that gear to get the performance we want out of the -10 but I’m confident in the solution set.
Boeing sees a market of about 1,000 for the 737-10. Is that really enough to build a new plane that may be just an interim solution to the “middle of the market” problem the company is looking at solving with an all-new dual-aisle replacement for the 767 that has been dubbed the 797?