Boeing delivered the first 737 MAX 8 narrowbody airliner on May 16. The aircraft was handed over in Seattle. The Malaysia-based carrier will be the first airline to put the newly re-engined model into service.
The use of new CFM LEAP 1-1B engines, along with aerodynamic tweaks to the airframe and new winglets, offers a substantial increase in the 737’s fuel efficiency. Production of the 737 family, which now includes both the current models and the MAX family, is set to climb to 47 aircraft per month in 2017. The manufacturer plans another increase, to 52 aircraft per month, in 2018, followed by yet another increase, to 57 aircraft per month, in 2019.
Boeing justifies these rate increases by pointing to the enormous firm order backlog for the 737 family. At the end of April 2017, Boeing was sitting on orders for over 4,478 aircraft, including 3,714 orders for 737 MAX models. The MAX’s share of the backlog stood at almost 83 percent. The MAX models are the future at Boeing, and production of the current models powered by the CFM56-7 engine will likely end in 2019.
In the past few years our 737 forecast has largely tracked Boeing’s production plans, because the manufacturer has consistently followed through on announced rate increases. However, we believe that there will be a softening in order intake in the near term that will lead Boeing and Airbus to pull back slightly from their current production targets. We believe that Boeing will increase production to 55 aircraft per month in 2019 rather than 57 as planned.
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