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ANALYSIS: A320neo vs. 737 MAX: Airbus is Leading (Slightly) – Part I

In today's aerospace market, the 737 MAX vs. the A320neo is a defining contest. Accordingly, how this battle plays out will have critical implications for the balance of power between the two most important aerospace players in global aviation. ( More...

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What is really needed is a detailed analysis of what make these planes different. From aerodynamics to how flight is controlled. Differences in cabins and cargo capabilities. Are there significant differences in quality of the software the runs the planes? In other words, what makes A better, or worse, than B? I don't really care if Virgin buys from Airbus of United buys from Boeing, as there is so much deal making going on in the finance section. Tell me about the nuts, bolts or glue.
Tim Marks 8
Nuts & bolts: All airliners are aluminum/composite tubes and are pretty much the same to maximize interior space but be strong enough to carry loads toward the center into the wingbox. Straight sided tubes are a source of (skin) drag since air being pushed does not like to flow in a straight line, but rather wants to flow in a wave. The best fuselage design can be found on the Lockheed Constellation that has an elongated teardrop shape, but is too expensive to build, so we are stuck with a cheap to build tubes - no new efficiencies can be gained from building tubes.

Attached to the tube are the wings to generate lift based on the Bernoulli flow principles. Reduction of drag and distribution of lift in relation to CG have all been studied extensively since the Wright Bros. Laminar flow wings were developed during WW2 and NACA (NASA) spent much of the 1950s and 1960s perfecting what the Germans started during the war. Airline wings are built on a compromise between low speed lift and high speed drag, with leading edge slats and trailing edge double and triple slotted designs in use to allow 'slow' landing speeds, but tucked up in place provide for minimal high speed drag. The advent of winglets took advantage of some free lift and drag reduction by utilizing wingtip vortices to make the effect length of a wing longer (span ratio) without making the planform of the aircraft wider - so it will still park at the airport gate. Some efficiencies can be gained with a new wing design, especially when updating older aircraft models, but gains today would only be in the 1% to 2% range at best.

The biggest gains in efficiency, given the above tube and wing planform criteria, come from the engines. Turbine engines have been more efficient from the start, when compared to a piston/crank or Wankel rotor engines, with fewer moving parts and a straight line combustion process (suck/squeeze/bang/blow). To gain more efficiencies out of a turbine engine, the leakage of air past the squeeze part of the process in the compressor stage is where all of the science takes place. Minimizing leakage to force all of the air coming into the engine to be compressed before adding fuel to create the bang imparts the engine's efficiency. This is the turbine portion of a modern jet engine, but they must also turn a fan at the front to blow air over and past the turbine to provide cooling. During the 1960s it was figured out that making this fan larger would create a ducted fan that would add thrust to the turbine engine. On the high bypass turbines of today with really big fans to turn at the front of the engine also gain from minimizing air leakage too. the design of the fan blades and how it meets the incoming air and the gap at the end of the fan blades against the inside of the nacelle are where the efficiencies come from in the MAX designed GE engines. Using a smaller higher RPM turbine with closer tolerances connected to a gearbox to stepdown the speed to spin the large intake fan is where the efficiencies are being found with the NEO designed P&W engines. Two differing design philosophies both aimed at the same outcome, burning less fuel per passenger mile.

Did I lose anyone?
Yup, all that is the basics, but now tell me what is different between the A320neo and 737MAX that would cause me to buy one and not the other. I already have a fair idea of the differences between Airbus and Boeing, so skip that part.
joel wiley 4
Which bird pencils out with the lowst TCO (total cost of operating) over your time of ownership? That is something you must decide for yoirself.
Tim Marks 0
Comes down to which engine you as an operator can believe in. Are you already operating with GE engines or P&W engines or neither? Claims of percentages of better efficiencies between the 2 OEMs have been flying around for a long time, so the market will just have to wait and see if they are real or just advertising hype.
Can someone explain why the new bombardier c series midsized passenger planes are failing to get traction in this market?
My biggest issue with this article is that it totally ignores the Boeing 757. While the numbers in the article may be accurate,mother don't tell the whole story.

You can't compare the order and production counts of the Airbus 321 and the Boeing 737-900 (and to some extent) the 737-800 without discussing the B757. For years it filled the niche that the A321 fills. In hind site, Boeing's decision to cease 757 production may have been a misstep. That decision opened the field for the A321 neo. While the B737-900ER tries, it just doesn't quite do it.
Bert Allen 3
and the 75 was the best-looking commercial aircraft since the Lockheed Constellation G-model
I don't like jargon filled articles. If a writer, no matter how technical, cannot relate in common terms the point they are trying to make, you loose the reader. And that is a modern trend in styles these days, baffle them with BS.
linbb 3
Still don't see the big deal with this as seems some just want to post nonsense that is nothing more than ford vs chevvy
joel wiley 0
When your job as a PR flack is to buff your employer, you churn out 'analyses'.
mjk1945 1
One major Airbus advantage, at least for the present, is the EUR/USD exchange rate.


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