LATEST NEWS / WASHINGTON – Boeing launched Tuesday an upgraded version of its popular 737 airplane powered by a more fuel-efficient engine, citing strong demand from airlines.
Boeing said the new line, dubbed the 737 MAX, will use CFM International’s LEAP-1B engines optimized for the single-aisle 737, the world’s best-selling commercial aircraft.
Boeing’s board of directors has approved the new line based on order commitments for 496 airplanes from five airlines and “a strong business case,” the company said in a statement.
The first deliveries are scheduled in 2017.
“The re-engined 737 will allow Boeing to continue to deliver the most fuel-efficient, most capable airplane with the lowest operating costs in the single-aisle market,” Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in the statement.
“Customers tell us they want to improve profitability and fuel efficiency while reducing their environmental footprint,” said Albaugh. “This solution meets all three of those needs.”
Albaugh said that Boeing was working with its customers to finalize sales agreements. The company did not identify the five airlines.
Boeing last month announced it would build a re-engined 737 when American Airlines split a record order for 460 aircraft between Boeing and Europe’s Airbus, breaking the Boeing’s long-time monopoly on the AA fleet.
American Airlines parent AMR Corp. said on July 20 it would buy 200 Boeing 737s and 260 Airbus A320 jets.
Both the US aerospace and defense giant and France-based Airbus are selling more fuel-efficient versions of their popular single-aisle passenger jets as part of the deal, valued at $38 billion at list prices.
American said it planned to order 100 of the re-engined 737s and will buy 130 of the Airbus A320neos.
Boeing’s decision to offer its best-selling 737 with a new engine, rather than building an all-new aircraft, was seen as forced by the competition from the Airbus A320neo.
The A320neo also includes an option for its own version of the LEAP-X engine from CFM International.
Boeing, whose medium-haul 737 has won more than 9,000 orders since it was introduced in 1967, has been under intense pressure since Airbus launched the upgraded and more fuel-efficient A320neo series in December 2010.
The A320neo, available from 2015, has chalked up more than 1,200 orders or options since then.
Still under development, the Leap-X engine is being made by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric of the United States and France’s Snecma.
Boeing shares gained 2.2 percent to $66.03 in closing New York trade Tuesday.