You are here

Boeing set to commit to first new jet since 2013 with bigger 737

[CHICAGO] Boeing Co signaled its intent to offer its first new jet in almost four years, with the stretched Max 10 upgrade of the 50-year-old 737 single-aisle workhorse set to get the go- ahead at the Paris Air Show on Monday.

The US planemaker is confident that the plane can compete with rival Airbus SE's biggest narrow-body model, Kevin McAllister, who heads Boeing's commercial-airplanes arm, said Sunday. United Airlines, Indonesia's Lion Mentari Airlines PT and SpiceJet Ltd of India are among a clutch of carriers that may place contracts at the expo, Bloomberg News reported this month, citing people familiar with the negotiations.

Boeing is betting on the Max 10 to carve out sales and stem customer defections to Airbus's A321neo, which has racked up a considerable sales lead since being launched three years ago and still has room for upgrades. The Max 10 will seat as many as 230 passengers, roughly matching its European rival while burning 5 percent less fuel thanks to a lighter construction, Boeing says.

"Do I think the Max 10 as we've laid it out is the right plane? Absolutely," Mr McAllister said at a press briefing in the French capital on the eve of the show. "Based on feedback, there's significant demand for each of the models." The Max 10, which will be Boeing's first new model since the unveiling of the 777X series at the Dubai Air Show in 2013, will be 1.68 meters longer than the Max 9, currently the biggest member of the re-engined 737 family, which was launched alongside the Max 7 and 8 in 2011.

The stretch will be achieved by adding a 40-inch segment in front of the plane's wings, and a 26-inch plug behind them, with the wings themselves slightly modified to reduce drag at lower speeds. In order to carry the extra payload, the Max 10 will be equipped with larger, higher-thrust engines. The engines' position on the wings will be moved to affect the aircraft's center of gravity.

The plane will also get taller landing gear to help resolve balance and tail-skid issues that cropped up with the 737-900ER, Keith Leverkuhn, general manager of the Max program, said in an interview at the show site at Le Bourget Airport on Sunday. The longest earlier-generation model is prone to tipping up if hold baggage isn't balanced carefully.

The cumulative changes, which Boeing reckons it has achieved on a shoestring budget, are resonating well with customers, Mr McAllister said.

The Chicago-based company projects that the Max 9 and 10 will together capture 25 perc ent to 30 per cent of 737 sales over the next 20 years. The mid-sized Max 8 - ordered by carriers including Southwest Airlines Co. - will remain the "core" offering and account for the bulk of demand.

That could mean that the Max 10 runs a risk of cannibalizing sales of the Max 9. Airbus's chief salesman John Leahy said in Mexico this month that the new Boeing plane looks "very marginal" and risks compromising range and performance for "a few extra seats." Airbus itself could stretch the A321neo, should demand be sufficient, he said.