June 24, 2013
The Airbus A320NEO used to have a head start of more than two years on the competing Boeing 737 MAX. But that advantage is now becoming smaller, as Boeing is bringing forward the introduction of all three versions of its new narrowbody by several months.
The initial 737-8 is now due for first delivery toward the beginning of the third quarter of 2017, rather than toward the end of the fourth. The 737-9 will follow 18 months later and in turn be followed by the -7 another 18 months later.
“Things are going so well,” Boeing Vice President and General Manager for Airplane Development Scott Fancher said at the Paris air show here June 19. According to Fancher, Boeing has long played with the idea of putting out the aircraft earlier. “We anticipated the opportunity to accelerate MAX from Day One,” he said.
Boeing is proceeding with the acceleration because the program has met development milestones with more ease than expected. The schedule change means the MAX is now likely to be less than two years behind the A320NEO, which is expected to enter service toward the end of the third quarter of 2015.
The MAX program has tallied more than 1,400 orders; the NEO had chalked up 2,245 as of June 19.
While Airbus secured orders for 135 NEOs from EasyJet here last week, Boeing can be confident it will be able to soon firm up what could be an even larger commitment from fellow European low-fare carrier Ryanair—CEO Michael O'Leary hopes to finalize a deal for more than 200 737 MAXs before year-end. “If it is not 200 plus, then it is not worth doing,” O'Leary said here. Ryanair expects talks on specifics of a potential deal to continue until the end of September before final negotiations are started.
Ryanair's anticipated MAX deal is preceded by an order for 175 Boeing 737-800s, which the airline firmed up following approval by the board of directors last week. The aircraft, planned to be delivered in 2014-18, are strategically important to Boeing because the large order will help ease the transition from the 737NG to the MAX.