It’s been well known and well communicated that composites for use in primary fuselage structures scale up better than they do in the opposite direction. Therefore it comes as little surprise that any potential 737 replacement, whether launched this year or later may not get the same monolithic composite fuselage employed on the 787.
“We can’t scale down proportionately because the thinner skin would be susceptible to hail damage,” said Frank Doerner, materials VP at Boeing’s research and technology group.
Perhaps it is with this in mind that Airbus has warned about the dangers of going toward a clean sheet design when new materials for narrowbodied airplanes has not yet matured enough – there’s good merit to this although where that would leave Boeing in terms of a potential new 737 replacement is not clear.
What is clear though is that the 787 and A350XWB have brought so much new technology and materials expertise that the subsequent second generation of widebodies will be driven by extensive composite knowledge.
As Airbus looks to launch the re-engined A320 by the end of the year, the comments by Doerner dampen the prospects many hold on an all new 737 emerging before the decade is out. If that is the case, then it is more likely than not that Boeing will stick to the singular CFM International LEAP-X engine to provide commonality with existing CFM-powered 737s.
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