“Do we see the 10 as a competitor of the A321? I think if you look at the numbers, the answer is no,” Airbus’s chief salesman, John Leahy, said Monday, adding that the Neo version has 10 more seats and can fly over 10,000 miles farther. “Put that all that together and we think the 10 is a competitor to the 9, and I think that’s why you’re seeing a lot of people converting.”
At least one potential Max 10 customer also voiced reservations. Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA CEO Bjorn Kjos wasn’t convinced the plane’s range is compatible with the discount carrier’s strategy of plying the North Atlantic with single-aisle aircraft.
“I’m not sure the price is giving us the right bottom line,” Kjos said at the Paris expo. “It may be perfect inside the U.S., but not for us.”
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 5 1/2 feet (1.68 meters) longer than the $119.2 million 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 wide-bodies remains buoyant despite concerns about economic and political turbulence in the Middle East and low fuel prices serving as disincentive to invest in more efficient aircraft.
“We are continuing to see strong energy in the marketplace,” said Muilenburg, predicting that new orders should roughly match deliveries this year. “I think there’s a little upside here this week” at the Paris show.
The stretched version of the 737 will be achieved by adding a 40-inch (102-centimeter) 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 baggage isn’t balanced carefully in the hold.
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 U.S. planemaker 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 — ordered by carriers including Southwest Airlines Co. — will remain the “core” offering and account for the bulk of demand.
Airbus is also considering a response and could stretch the A321neo should demand be sufficient, sales supremo Leahy said in Mexico earlier this month, while dismissing the new Boeing plane as “very marginal.”
“I can understand how our competition is upset,” said Randy Tinseth, a Boeing marketing vice president. The Max 10 “has the same capacity as our competition, flies a bit further, has better economics. I think over the next few days our customers will stand up and say it’s a good airplane too.”
–Julie Johnsson, Guy Johnson and Benjamin Katz / Bloomberg