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Hey Boeing, How About Making A 737 USB?

My quick drawing for a 737 USB (upper surface blowing) re-engine concept

 It’s pretty clear that Boeing isn’t listening to me since my heartfelt plea for a 787 to spend a little time in AeroShell Square at Oshkosh 2010 was ignored, but that won’t stop me from trying to send more good ideas their way. Like this one: the 737 USB. ‘USB’ stands for Upper Surface Blowing, that rather unique concept that Boeing proved to be quite effective back in the 70’s with their YC-14 demonstrator. If you’ve been paying attention lately, you know I have a bit of a crush on the YC-14, so when I stumbled on to some speculation by FlightBlogger that the wind tunnel model below might possibly reflect Boeing’s thinking for an answer to the question about what to do concerning new technology engines on the 737 airfame, it didn’t take long to come up with what I think is a better idea.

 The real catalyst for the idea came from one simple little design element in that wind tunnel model. If you look under the cockpit you’ll see a bump on the lower side of the fuselage. Why the bump? Well, with larger diameter engines, the already marginal ground clearance would require longer landing gear legs…  and one solution for the nose gear would be to build the bump to make room for it. Now in my mind, that’s not an acceptable solution. But after about 30 seconds of thought, my beloved YC-14 came to mind. Why not take the USB knowledge and apply it here. You completely solve the ground clearance issue; you get the potential added benefit of some STOL capabilities; and you make emergency ditching something that might be kinda fun - you know, not having to worry so much about those pesky engines getting in the way of a smooth water landing.


Boeing 737 wind tunnel test model  (image: Boeing)

 So, rather than just dream about it, I put together that drawing to show what a 737 USB might look like. I like it. It’s kinda like HondaJet meets the most produced airliner in history… without the odd looking engine pylons. Plus, airlines get the added benefit of being able to use the inner side of the engine nacelle as a mini billboard for inflight ads, cuz you know that’s gonna be here one of these days, right?

 Ok, so I’m having a little fun with all this, but the truth is that I think this makes a fabulous solution. I admit that I don’t know what the engineering and certification costs would be like to make such a change to the airplane, and in fact that seems to be the driving force behind whether a re-engine project will ever take place. It may make more sense to wait a little longer for a 'clean sheet' airplane to be designed. But hey, even then, the USB concept just might be the best answer... or maybe they should just crack out the old YC-14 tooling and build a 200 seat STOL (super comfy) airliner version. Hmm, I feel another drawing coming on - which livery would look good on an airliner version of the YC-14?


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Reader Comments (11)

Inventive idea! But I think it'd be miserable for the passenger experience. All those lost windows, and the folks seated right next to the exhaust? No thanks. Also, I'd imagine the thrust would interfere with the horizontal stabilizer, so that'd need to be moved. Part of the reason this worked on the YC-14 was that it was intended as a cargo aircraft--no passenger experience concerns--and its high wing design lent itself to something more like this.

I also think a design like this would require such significant re-engineering of the wing that it'd probably just better benefit Boeing to start clean-sheet.

I also don't think the YC-14 could seat 200 passengers either. It's size is a little deceptive.

All of that above said, I really applaud you on this sort of thing--I couldn't hope to count the hours I've spent in X-Plane reconfiguring popular aircraft designs to make fun and far-out stuff (my personal favorite was a high-wing, tilting wing 747 for STOL--I think I painted it bright purple).

December 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLee

Lee- I'm glad you see the value in a fun little exercise like this. It's not really meant to be all that serious, but then again I think it has some merit. I'm not sure, but I think the visibility wouldn't be as bad as it appears for the pax. Plus, in my world, every seat would have a nice video monitor that gives access to a range of camera views to check out whenever you want.

The horizontal stab might be an issue... it would be fun to know for sure. As for the YC-14 pax capacity... hard to say, but I did a quick comparo before I posted and it's a pretty big fuselage. About the same length as a 738 but with a lot more diameter and much higher GW. Might be able to do a section of double deck and put the bags behind the main cabin area. That 200 number tho is probably more like dense coach rather than 'comfy', so you make a good point

Anyway, it's all just fun dreamin'... thanx for playing along : )

December 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMartt (admin)

Ahem. <>

December 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterairpigz lurker

Personally I think it looks really cool! Not sure about practicality since I am no engineer; however, it would be really cool to see those top wing mounted engines as a passenger.

December 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark

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December 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterzhmqev zhmqev

Very clever idea. Companies serving northern Canada are using old 737-200 modified with gravel kits to operate out/into gravel strips. No modern aircraft can replace the -200 mainly because of obvious FOD issues. This could be the answer! The horizontal tail in the way? Remove it and replace with a canard!
Great blog!

June 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarc LW

I've always maintained that all they have to do is make it look like Tony Stark's private BBJ in the first Iron Man movie. Problem solved...dramatically!

October 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterviperelbow

Nice idea, but I agree the passenger experience would be awful. Not to mention and more importantly this is a NEO upgrade. So Boeing are looking to make minimal change to the airframe. If they were serious about USB then they would probably redesign the entire frame. Not a bad idea IMHO since the 737 is getting well past is used by date.

November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLazybones

What a inventive idea from the aircraft researchers to use the USB device in Aeroplane.
I think it is somehow a difficult task because it is providing the usability where as it is a problem for the people too. 737 USB is a unique device is a airframe being used in aircraft. But to do this task lots of experience is needed because it is very much important and needed for the people too.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermikkalgutam

Like the idea! this is the"" Cassidy Effect"" put forward in world war II USA.
With present by-pass engines Draughting cold air past the motor this could be used without detrimental effect to the upper surface with laminated strenght to prevent surface peeling.
This would provide shorter runways,lower lift off speed,greater load /person capacity.
In flight once support airspeed reached redirected back as direct thrust- (harrier jet style).
I'm just blowing Ideas in the wind.

April 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStephenfitton

Boeing figured out how to make a big engine 737nex without USB, but I thought the idea was viable for another Boeing Airframe. I have spent a lot of time around C-130s, C-141s, C-5s and C-17s. They carry cargo and have ramps. The 747F also carries cargo, but needs elevator ground equipment support wherever it lands. If you could make a 747F with "kneeling" gear, and USB engines, you could probably just use front C-5 type ramps to load. Once the gear was stretched again, the plane should have improved low speed capabilities.

June 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBarry Taylor

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