With a record undelivered backlog of more than 3,400 737s on its books, Boeing has announced it will increase production to 47 aircraft per month in 2017, the fastest rate ever achieved for any jet airliner.
The move, which has been anticipated for some time, comes as Boeing prepares to ramp-up production of the existing 737 Next Generation model to 42 per month in the first half of 2014 and begin assembly of the follow-on 737 MAX family.
Boeing currently makes 38 737s a month at its Renton, Wash., site and is setting up a new assembly line within the facility to produce the initial MAX aircraft alongside the current 737 models.
The transition to 47 a month in 2017 partly reflects the sustained backlog demand for the current model, as well as the production build-up to support the MAX, first deliveries of which will begin in the third quarter of that year.
Boeing says that the combined 737 Next Generation and MAX output will be 560 aircraft per year, as the company works to consolidate the process of “bridging” into production for the re-engined variant.
Boeing adds that the combined rate represents almost a 50% increase since 2010. Overall orders for all 737 versions now stand at around 11,200, of which some 6,500 are made up of the CFM56-powered 737 Next Generation. The company also holds firm orders and memoranda of understanding for more than 1,600 CFM Leap-1B-powered MAX versions.
Airbus, which holds orders for around 2,600 re-engined A320neos, currently plans to increase the production rate for its single-aisle twinjet from the current 42 per month to 44 in 2017. However, the European manufacturer also has signaled a potential follow-on rate increase to up to 50 a month later in the decade.
Boeing likewise is thought to be contemplating even higher production numbers, having contacted its suppliers with prospective plans to go to a rate as high as 52 per month, pending increased demand for the MAX beyond 2019.