Southwest Leads as 737 MAX Launch Customer

Southwest Airlines Launch Customer of Boeing 737 MAX | photo of 737-700 winglet | FlyersPulse Air Travel News

Southwest Airlines Provides Firm Boeing 737 MAX Orders

Long-time business partners, Boeing and Southwest Airlines, announced a firm order for 150 of the new, fuel-efficient 737 MAX aircraft today – December 13, 2011.  Southwest, an all Boeing operator, is the first to place firm orders for the new-engine variant and will take delivery of the first 737 MAX in 2017.

Southwest’s fleet is currently made-up with the 737-300 and 737-500 classics and the 737-700 Next Generation.  As the 737 MAX launch customer, Southwest extends its legacy with Boeing as the 737 launch customer for the -300, -500, and -700.  The all-new 737 MAX will come delivered with the Boeing Sky Interior, a great enhancement for Southwest customers.

The firm order is the largest in Boeing history both in dollar value, nearly $19 billion at list prices, and the number of airplanes. It supports Southwest’s initiative to modernize its all-Boeing fleet, the world’s largest fleet of 737s. The Boeing 737 MAX will build on the strengths of the 737 Next Generation technology and will be powered by CFM International LEAP-1B engines.

CFM International, the manufacturer of the LEAP-1B engine, is a 50/50 joint company between Snecma (Safran group) and GE.   LEAP engines incorporate revolutionary technologies never before seen in the single-aisle aircraft segment. The new engine combines advanced aerodynamic design techniques, lighter, more durable materials, and leading-edge environmental technologies, making it a major breakthrough in engine technology.  Kevin McAllister, vice president of Global Sales for CFM parent company GE Aviation said, “This order from Southwest launches a terrific new chapter in our relationship.”

The 737 MAX is focused on fuel efficiency – “Today’s environment demands that we become more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly, and as the launch customer of the Boeing 737 MAX, we have accomplished both,” said Garry Kelly, Southwest Airlines Chairman, President, and CEO.  “We are teaming up with our friends from Boeing to lead the industry in a way that makes both our shareholders and our customers proud to associate with Southwest Airlines.  Today’s announcement will allow us to maintain our position as a low cost provider in the years ahead.”

Operators of the 737 MAX will achieve 10 – 12 percent lower fuel burn compared to today’s best CFM56-powered 737.  The reduced fuel burn will result in lower CO2 emissions by an additional 10-11 percent over today’s most fuel-efficient single aisle aircraft, but most importantly, the LEAP-1B powered 737’s will have the lowest operating costs in the single-aisle market with a seven percent advantage over its competition.  Boeing’s rival Airbus is developing the Airbus A320neo, otherwise known as New Engine Option, to compete directly with the Boeing 737 MAX.

In addition to the 737 MAX, Southwest expanded its current order book with an order for 58 additional CFM56-7BE-powered Next-Generation 737-800s.  The -800 will be a new, larger type to the Southwest fleet.

This benchmark order is an important step in the growing momentum for the 737 MAX – the re-engined aircraft has orders and commitments for more than 900 aircraft from 13 customers while the 737NG has orders for more than 6,600 airplanes and Boeing has delivered more than 3,800.

Boeing launched the 737 MAX program with the LEAP-1B in August 2011; in November, the two companies announced that the LEAP-1B will have a 68-inch fan. During 2012, the engine design will be optimized for the new 737. CFM and Boeing had been working together for several years to evaluate engine configurations for both re-engined, as well as potential new aircraft to replace the Next-Generation 737 family.

The new planes are to be built in Renton, Washington, per the recent agreement with the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union (IAM) which allowed Boeing South Carolina to proceed building 787 Dreamliners.

Fuel Efficiency is of utmost importance as it is now the largest cost for most airlines where profit margins are slim. Fuel savings alone can make a difference between a loss or profit in any given quarter with many air carriers.

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