Boeing Co. confirmed Friday that it had pushed back the date for a possible replacement for its popular 737 line of jetliners by several years, saying it needed more time for technology advancement to occur.
Chicago-based Boeing put together a team to "study the possibility of creating a new airplane for the narrow-body market" in 2006, Boeing spokeswoman Sandy Angers said Friday. Since the 737's 1967 debut, the aircraft has won Boeing more than 6,000 orders.
Angers said conversations with airline customers made it clear that requirements for a replacement plane -- 15% to 20% better fuel efficiency, 25% lower maintenance costs -- would require major technological advances in aerodynamics, materials and the jet's engine and electrical systems, among other areas.
"Our customers have told us that a new single-aisle, narrow-body airplane must have compelling advances over the current products," Angers said. "We've estimated that those technologies won't mature in the near term."
In response, Boeing has now reduced its 737 replacement airplane design effort and instead will focus on technology research and development.
Deliveries of a new plane are now not expected until the latter part of the next decade, instead of in 2012 as first predicted, Angers said. The study team has been absorbed into Boeing's broader product development group.
Shares of Boeing rose 7 cents Friday to $81.48.