The Boeing 737 Max 10 airplane landing at Boeing Field in Seattle on June 18. (Chona Kasinger / Bloomberg)

The Boeing 737 Max 10 airplane landing at Boeing Field in Seattle on June 18. (Chona Kasinger / Bloomberg)

Boeing ramps up 737 Max but 787 deliveries are still blocked

Boeing last month maintained its steady trickle of sales as it navigates the aviation downturn.

By Dominic Gates / The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Boeing in September maintained its steady trickle of sales this year as it navigates the aviation downturn, adding 22 net jet orders.

Sales were buoyed not only by a dozen net orders for the 737 Max but also by Boeing’s dominance in the booming air freighter market, where it won orders for six large widebody 777F cargo jets.

Military derivative models also added to Boeing’s tally. It booked five new orders for 737-based P-8 anti-submarine planes that will go to the German Navy.

However, production in Boeing’s factories is still depressed.

Even though Boeing ramped up deliveries of the 737 Max in September, it again delivered zero 787 Dreamliners. That airplane program has been blocked by manufacturing quality problems since May.

European rival Airbus delivered more planes but won just a single new order in September.

Airbus ended last month with 133 net orders for the year compared to 302 for Boeing.

Despite that lag in 2021, Airbus still retains a huge order backlog advantage of nearly 3,000 aircraft built up over more than two years previously.

Positive on the Max

The good news for Boeing is the strength of the air freight market during the pandemic and the steady recovery of the 737 Max program since the 21-month grounding of the jet was lifted in December.

Boeing delivered five widebody freighters in September. And in addition to the six orders for 777Fs, a further net total of seven 777s were restored to the official backlog following a reappraisal of orders previously considered too dubious to count as firm.

And Boeing stepped up the pace of Max deliveries from 14 of the jets in August to 26 in September. Since the jet’s return to service, Boeing has now delivered 194 Maxs.

Boeing won orders for 16 MAXs in September, while orders for four Maxs were cancelled.

In addition, a net 19 orders previously removed from the Max backlog were restored after the contracts and financing for those jets were reinforced.

That leaves at the end of last month a backlog of 3,290 unfilled Max orders.

Airbus delivered 29 of the rival A320neo family of jets and added just one order — for one VIP version of the A319neo.

The A32neo family now has a backlog of 5,626 orders, its advantage lying in the more than 3,000 unfilled orders for the largest A321neo model, which has wildly outsold Boeing’s largest single-aisle jet, the Max 10.

Negative on the 787

The bad news for Boeing is the continuing paralysis of the 787 Dreamliner program.

Not only were there no deliveries last month, but one 787 order was cancelled and Boeing removed a net total of another 14 Dreamliner orders from its official backlog as the firmness of those contracts became dubious.

That’s almost certainly because the 787 delivery delays now stretch back a full year. Airlines that have waited more than 12 months for a jet delivery have the ability to cancel a contract without penalty.

Dreamliner deliveries initially halted in fall 2020 when engineers discovered unacceptable gaps between fuselage sections. A few deliveries then resumed in March, only to stop again in May after more defects showed up.

Deliveries cannot start again until the Federal Aviation Administration approves Boeing’s proposals for inspections of the 787s to ensure the quality issues on each jet are fixed. That remains pending.

Across all airplane programs, Boeing delivered a total of 35 airplanes to Airbus’ 40 airplanes.

Notable among Boeing’s deliveries, Ryanair took seven Maxs in September, all of the high-density Max 8200 model.

Airbus deliveries included six widebody jets, two of which were A350s for Japan Airlines.

Formerly an all-Boeing customer, JAL defected in 2013 following an incident when a battery overheated inflight on one of its 787s, leading to the Dreamliner being grounded for months. JAL ordered 31 of these big Airbus jets then, and with the September deliveries it now operates a dozen A350s.

Last month, Airbus’ total firm order backlog dipped to 6,893 aircraft. Boeing’s total backlog stands at 4,163 aircraft.

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