Boeing Co. is set to receive orders and commitments worth roughly $30 billion for the stretched Max 10 upgrade of the 737 workhorse, as its first new jet in almost four years counters Airbus SE’s headstart at the largest end of the single-aisle aircraft market.
The biggest 737 variant is set to get more than 240 orders from at least 10 different airlines, Boeing said at the launch announcement on Monday. The US planemaker is confident the model can carve out sales and stem customer defections to the Airbus A321neo, which has racked up a considerable sales lead since being launched three years ago and still has room for upgrades.
“We think the timing’s just right,” Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenberg said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “Max 8 and Max 9 continue to be at the heart of the market. The Max 10 is going to add” to a portfolio that boasts a production backlog of seven years.
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.
The Max 10, which will be Boeing’s first new model since the unveiling of the 777X series will be 5 1/2 feet longer than the $119.2mn Max 9, currently the biggest member of the re-engined 737 family, which was launched alongside the Max 7 and 8 in 2011. Boeing said demand for single-aisle planes as well as widebodies remain buoyant despite concerns about turbulence in the Middle East and low fuel prices serving as disincentive to invest in more efficient aircraft.
The stretched version of the 737 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, Kevin McAllister, who heads Boeing’s commercial-airplanes arm, said Sunday.
The Chicago-based company projects that the Max 9 and 10 will together capture 25 percent to 30 percent of 737 sales over the next 20 years. The mid-sized Max 8 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, its largest narrow-body, should demand be sufficient, he said.