Boeing unveiled a new version of its bestselling 737 aircraft at the world’s biggest air show in Paris, injecting life into a faltering civil aviation market, Reuters reports.
After years of booming orders driven by increased air travel and more fuel-efficient planes, passenger jet manufacturers are bracing for a slowdown in demand while they focus on meeting tight delivery schedules and ambitious production targets.
In a sign of their more modest expectations, some companies have cut back on staffing and catering at this year’s Paris show and made less space available for the media.
But Boeing generated a burst of activity on the opening day on Monday 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 runaway sales of the rival Airbus’ A321neo.
The US planemaker said it had more than 240 orders and commitments from at least 10 customers for the new 737, which can carry up to 230 people in a single-class configuration.
“Many airports are running out of capacity and for those airports this is a perfect aircraft,” said Ajay Singh, the chairman of low-cost Indian airline SpiceJet, as his company signed a provisional deal to buy 40 MAX 10s.
However, Airbus immediately hit back with an order for 100 of its popular A320neo planes from leasing company GECAS, as well as a deal for 12 A321neos with Air Lease Corporation.
Airbus sales chief John Leahy brushed off the latest Boeing challenge, saying that much of the interest in the MAX 10 was from existing Boeing customers switching orders from other models.
“We think the 737 MAX 10 is a competitor to the [MAX] 9 and that’s why a lot of people are converting,” he said.
Twenty of SpiceJet’s provisional order for 40 MAX 10s were conversions from an existing order for other 737 models.
GECAS also converted an existing 737 order for 20 planes to the new model and Europe’s largest tour operator TUI Group did likewise for 18 aircraft.
Boeing did announce provisional new orders for 90 MAX 10s including 50 from Indonesia’s Lion Air.
It also won a boost from leasing giant AerCap for its 787 Dreamliner long-range jet, which sits in a category for which demand has been fragile over the past year.
While demand for passenger jets may be ebbing, there are signs that interest in military aircraft is picking up after years in the doldrums because of government budget cuts and weak economic growth.
Lockheed Martin is in the final stages of negotiating a US$37 billion-plus deal to sell 440 F-35 fighter jets to a group of 11 nations including the United States, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
That would be the biggest deal yet for the stealth warplane, which is making its Paris debut this week.
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