Boe­ing takes on Air­bus with new 737

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT / INTERNATIONAL - Tim Hepher and Mike Stone

BOE­ING un­veiled a new mem­ber of its best-sell­ing 737 air­craft range, in­ject­ing new life into a fal­ter­ing civil avi­a­tion mar­ket, as French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron flew in to open the Paris Air Show yes­ter­day.

Af­ter years of boom­ing or­ders, driven by ris­ing air travel and more fuel-ef­fi­cient planes, pas­sen­ger jet-mak­ers are brac­ing for a slow­down in de­mand while they fo­cus on meet­ing tight de­liv­ery schedules and am­bi­tious pro­duc­tion tar­gets.

But Boe­ing gen­er­ated a fresh burst of ac­tiv­ity at the world’s big­gest air show by launch­ing the 737 MAX 10 to plug a gap in its port­fo­lio at the top end of the mar­ket for sin­gle-aisle jets fol­low­ing run-away sales of Euro­pean ri­val Air­bus’s A321­neo.

The US air­craft-maker said it had more than 240 or­ders and com­mit­ments from at least 10 cus­tomers for the new plane, which can carry up to 230 peo­ple in a sin­gle-class con­fig­u­ra­tion.

“The MAX 10 is go­ing to add more value for cus­tomers and more en­ergy to the mar­ket­place,” Boe­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Den­nis Muilen­burg said at a pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mony.

But in­dus­try sources said Air­bus would im­me­di­ately hit back with a large or­der for the A321­neo.

Peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said on Sun­day that Air­bus was also close to clinch­ing a $5 bil­lion (R65bn) deal with low­cost car­rier Viva Air Peru.

Air­bus will also an­nounce an or­der for 10 of its A350-900 wide-body jets, in­dus­try sources added.

Al­though de­mand for pas­sen­ger jets may be fal­ter­ing, there are signs that in­ter­est in mil­i­tary air­craft is pick­ing up af­ter years in the dol­drums be­cause of bud­get cuts and weak eco­nomic growth.

Lock­heed Martin is in the fi­nal stages of ne­go­ti­at­ing a $37bn-plus deal to sell 440 F-35 fighter jets to a group of 11 na­tions, in­clud­ing the US, two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter told Reuters. That would be the big­gest deal yet for the stealthy war­plane, set to make its Paris Air­show de­but this week.

In another boost for a de­fence project, Macron flew in to the show on an Air­bus A400M mil­i­tary trans­porter in his first of­fi­cial en­gage­ment since win­ning a par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity in elec­tions on Sun­day.

His ar­rival was fol­lowed by a fly­past by the world’s largest pas­sen­ger plane, the Air­bus A380, and France’s aerial dis­play team.

The cer­e­mony lent high­level sup­port to two am­bi­tious Euro­pean aerospace projects tar­nished by prob­lems in re­cent years: the A400M be­cause of chronic cost over­runs and de­lays and the A380 be­cause of weak sales.

Air­bus said it was work­ing on an up­grade of the A380 – called A380­plus – with fuel-sav­ing wingtips, con­firm­ing plans re­ported by Reuters in March. – Reuters

Kevin McAl­lis­ter, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of com­mer­cial air­craft at Boe­ing, left, and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Den­nis Muilen­burg with a model of a Boe­ing 737 Max 10 pas­sen­ger jet dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the In­ter­na­tional Paris Air Show. Photo: Bloomberg

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