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Boeing's new 737 Max 10 received the green light at the Paris Air Show today, with the company touting orders and commitments for 240 jets from at least 10 airlines, worth roughly US$30 billion at list prices.
The aircraft marker's first new jet in almost four years is a stretched upgrade of the 50-year-old Boeing 737 single-aisle workhorse flown domestically by both Qantas and Virgin Australia.
Virgin Australia has also signed up to fly the smaller Boeing 737 Max 8 from late 2019, with 40 of the fuel-efficient jets on order.
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.
By comparison, the Boeiong 737-800 jets of Qantas and Virgin Australia carry around 174-176 passengers across both business and economy class.
“Do I think the Max 10 as we’ve laid it out is the right plane? Absolutely,” said Kevin McAllister, who heads Boeing’s commercial-airplanes arm, speaking 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" in the 737 Max range.
The 737 Max 10 is expected to sell for a little more than the shorter Max 9, which has a list price of US$119.2 million before discounts that are customary for aircraft purchases.
The Chicago-based company projects that the Max 9 and 10 will together capture 25 percent to 30 percent of Boeing 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 cannibalising 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.
The 737 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 metres 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 centre of gravity.
The cumulative changes, which Boeing reckons it has achieved on a shoestring budget, are resonating well with customers, McAllister said.