From Paper Airplane to Metal Airplane: Boeing Thinks it Has Found the Perfect Middle Ground

From Paper Airplane to Metal Airplane: Boeing Thinks it Has Found the Perfect Middle Ground

By Paula Hock

In the last several weeks, the race for commercial airliner market dominance has become a bit more interesting. News has been swirling about some new additions to the Boeing aircraft lineup, one having already launched and one rumored in development potentially set to begin flying in the next five to ten years.

Boeing’s 737 MAX 9

Recently, Boeing launched the 737 MAX 9, the recent addition to its most profitable product line. The MAX 9 was officially debuted on March 7 and will feature a maximum capacity of 220 passengers and a range of 6510 km. Billed as having “the highest efficiency, reliability, and passenger comfort in the single-aisle market,” 83 customers have already poured in over 3,600 orders worldwide.

The 737 MAX series is the fastest-selling aircraft family in Boeing history. This is not surprising, considering the potentially expanded customer market. Not only will feeder networks need the mid-range workhorse, but airlines that focus their fleets on the 737 aircraft family will benefit from the additional capability of this expanded series.

In rolling out an additional product in the MAX series, Boeing hopes to up the competition in single-aisle, narrow body aircraft. Their biggest competitor, the Airbus A320 family has seen recent developments of its own- like the “neo” series offering new engine options in addition to other improvements in the cockpit, wings, and efficiency systems.

The Drawing Board

This week, Boeing gave one of their large customers, United Continental Holdings Inc., a close look at the newest aircraft still in development: a new jetliner intended as a middle-of-market trans-Atlantic flyer.

For several years, the aircraft manufacturer has had a gap in its product line-up between the 737 narrow-bodies and the 787 Dreamliners. The response from United to this new design has been quite positive after initial skepticism of the jets developed to fill that void over the last several years.

United’s CFO, Andrew Levy, said, “What we’ve seen so far is very, very interesting to us.” He continued with an explanation of how Boeing got them on board with the idea: “We thought a twin made no sense, but we walked through it and had our questions answered. From what we’ve seen, we like it. But it’s a paper airplane. Hopefully, they’ll launch it.”

Market Horizons

The development of a new aircraft (rather than improvements made to current models) consistently creates a flurry of activity across the industry. New aircraft require new suppliers, refreshed or potentially newly designed interiors, additional material sourcing and more.

Whether this paper airplane will take flight remains to be seen. If successful, however, it will force market players to develop competitive products in a continually changing product landscape.

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