Boeing thinks it might sign the first order for a BBJ MAX this week, albeit for an aircraft that won’t be delivered to completion for another five years. Airbus is less sanguine about its own ACJ NEO – stating that the new aircraft is “beyond the planning horizon” of the typical private jet customer.
Business jet versions of the 737 MAX-8 and MAX-9 were launched at NBAA last year. Now, says Boeing Business Jet president Steve Taylor, “proposals are out, we are very close to signing deals and I am optimistic we might sell one before the end of the EBACE show.”
Taylor acknowledges that sales in the very large jet market are hard to come by these days – Boeing chalked up just three orders since the last EBACE – but he says he’s optimistic that the BBJ MAX will re-energize interest.
“There’s a very strong market opportunity with 148 BBJs in service today and several of those customers looking for a new aircraft with a step-change in capabilities. Over the next 12 months we expect pretty good traction from existing owners.”
Boeing is planning for the first green 737 MAX delivery in 2018.
Airbus is less clear about its ACJ NEO plans. “The first NEO is quite a long way down the road,” says Airbus marketing director David Velupillai. “We launched the NEO program earlier than the MAX and we’ll be able to deliver earlier but I can’t give you a definitive date. The NEO is beyond the planning horizon of most of our customers who want an aircraft in the next year or two.”
Both Boeing and Airbus have still to offer new engines on all their aircraft. Boeing has not yet launched a BBJ MAX-7. According to Taylor, “If there is such a thing as a BBJ MAX-7 it will be beyond the end of the decade. We have yet to decide if that’s the best way to deliver a 7,000-mile range aircraft or whether perhaps we can do it with a higher gross weight 737 MAX-8.”
Airbus currently has no plans to offer an A318NEO but Airbus Corporate Jets says this does not invalidate its plans for an improved ACJ318 Enhanced. The last ACJ318 currently on order will be delivered at the end of this year. But Airbus stopped building the aircraft for airline customers many years before that. “Interest remains in the 318,” says Velupellai. “It’s not being offered as a NEO yet but we have not completely ruled that out. We absolutely do expect to get more ACJ318 orders.”
It’s been an open secret for some time but now Airbus has finally confirmed that Saudi Arabia’s Prince Al Waleed – 2007’s high-profile buyer of the first VVIP A380 – has decided not to take delivery of the aircraft and has passed it on to a third party. Airbus now acknowledges that “it is correct to say he is no longer the customer for this aircraft – the aircraft has been sold to another buyer.”