The Boeing 737 MAX 9 completed its first flight April 13. The plane is seen here landing at Boeing Field in Seattle. (Craig Larsen / Boeing Co.)

The Boeing 737 MAX 9 completed its first flight April 13. The plane is seen here landing at Boeing Field in Seattle. (Craig Larsen / Boeing Co.)

Boeing could commit to new airplane at Paris Air Show

EVERETT — The Boeing Co. could make headlines later this month at the Paris Air Show, where it could officially unveil its 737 MAX 10. The airplane maker already has an initial design for what would be the biggest version of its best-selling single-aisle jetliner, and is talking with airlines and other potential buyers.

“We’ve put offers on the table” to customers, said Kevin McAllister during a June 2 press briefing with a handful of reporters. It was his first interview since leaving GE Aviation in November to take the helm of Boeing’s commercial airplane division.

The MAX 10 would seat about 188 passengers in a standard layout with first-class and coach seating. The plane is a straightforward stretch of Boeing’s 737 MAX 9, which holds 178 passengers in the same layout.

The MAX 10 is Boeing’s response to Airbus’ A321neo, which has dominated the market for the biggest single-aisle jetliners. The A321neo has room for 188 passengers as well. Since Boeing launched its 737 MAX update in 2011, airlines have shown moderate interest in the MAX 9. Instead, they’ve favored the larger A321neo.

The 737 MAX 9 had its maiden flight in April. Boeing plans to show it off along with its other new jet, the 787-10, at the Paris show, which begins June 18. The show is the biggest of its kind, drawing tens of thousands of industry insiders from around the globe to France every other year. Given its marquis status within aerospace, companies often use it as a backdrop for big announcements.

Reuters reported Monday that Boeing plans to officially unveil the MAX 10 at Paris with Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air as the launch customer. The company has not confirmed the report.

Jet Airways, an India-based airline, is in talks to buy 50 737 MAX 10s, a deal worth at least $5.6 billion, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

Boeing assembles the 737 airplane in Renton. However, the single-aisle plane is critical to the company’s success in the next few years. Boeing plans on cranking up 737 output from 42 a month now to 57 a month by 2019. Boeing leaders are counting on the production increase to bring in more cash to make up for revenue declines on its 777 program. The company is winding down 777 production as it gets closer to rolling out a successor, the 777X, which is assembled in Everett.

For now, McAllister said he is focused on smoothly increasing aircraft production and finishing current development programs: the MAX family, the 787-10 and the 777X.

“We’ve got to deliver on both” production and development, he said.

Airplane orders have softened in recent years, but McAllister said he is not concerned.

“I think we’re seeing a pretty good market,” he said.

While airlines and aircraft lessors are buying fewer jetliners in some parts of the world, Asia and Europe continue to set a steady pace for new orders, he said.

Boeing continues closing in on an all-new airplane that would be bigger than a 737 and more compact than the 787, the company’s smallest twin-aisle airplane. So far, Boeing has talked in-depth with 57 customers about what they need in such an airplane, McAllister said. Boeing executives have indicated the all-new airplane would likely be called the 797.

The key questions are: “Can we do this airplane? And can we do it economically?” McAllister said.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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