Boeing launches MAX 10 at Paris Air Show

Boeing launched the new 737 MAX 10 on the opening day of the Paris Air Show, reporting that it has 240 orders and commitments to announce this week.

It initially made public about two-thirds of those Monday, saying that the rest will be announced in Paris later.

Of the 158 orders and commitments announced so far, four were new firm orders, 90 were new purchase commitments and 64 were conversions of existing orders for MAX 8 or MAX 9 models.

The largest MAX 10 sale announced Monday was a new commitment for 50 jets from Indonesia’s Lion Air Group, which previously ordered 201 MAXs.

Lion Air is also the launch customer of the 737 MAX 9 and its subsidiary, Malaysia-based Malindo Air, this month took delivery of the first two 737 MAX 8s, which are now in commercial service.

A bigger, broader sale commitment that included MAX 10s along with other MAXs and 787 Dreamliners was announced by CDB Aviation Lease Finance of China.

In Paris, CDB signed a memorandum of understanding for 42 MAX 8s, 10 MAX 10s and eight 787-9 Dreamliners. Of those MAX 10 orders, six were conversions from a previous order for MAX 8s.

In a phone interview from Paris, Keith Leverkuhn, Boeing vice president in charge of the MAX program, said the 64 conversions from existing MAX orders reflect the importance of allowing airlines to substitute other models as they nail down their fleet-planning needs. He added that he’s very pleased with the number of incremental orders.

Boeing’s list price for those 94 new orders is about $11.7 billion. However, standard industry price discounts would cut the value to just less than $5 billion, and it’s highly likely that for orders like these launching a new model the discounts are much bigger.

The new airplane is set to enter service in 2020 and means the MAX family now comes in five different versions: the MAX 7, MAX 8, MAX 9, MAX 10 and also a high-density version of the 8 called the MAX 200.

The MAX 10 is a stretch of the MAX 9 that will seat up to 230 passengers. It’s designed to stem the loss of sales to the rival Airbus A321neo, which has won more than 1,400 orders.

Though Airbus claims its jet has more range, Leverkuhn vehemently challenged that.

He said the Airbus claim is based on adding auxiliary fuel tanks, which airlines add only if they absolutely need the extra range, as they are a maintenance headache.

With two extra auxiliary tanks, the A321neo has slightly more range than the 3,450-mile range of the MAX without such tanks, Leverkuhn said. But Boeing can trump that by adding just one tank to the MAX 10, which extends its range to 3,700 miles.

“Base-to-base airplanes, we have more range,” Leverkuhn said. “If we put one extra tank, we have better range than they have with two.”

Hoever, Airbus in 2015 also launched a long-range version of the A321neo with three auxiliary tanks, the A321LR, that will have a longer range again: 4,600 miles.

That Airbus jet is set to be available in 2019 and has been ordered by low-cost carrier Norwegian Air for its strategy of flying transatlantic using single-aisle planes.

Norwegian chief executive Bjorn Kjos isn’t convinced the MAX 10’s range is enough for his long-haul route plans.

“I’m not sure the price is giving us the right bottom line,” Kjos said at the Paris show. “It may be perfect inside the U.S., but not for us.”

Airbus sales chief John Leahy dismissed the new plane as a competitor to the A321neo.

“We think the (MAX) 10 is a competitor to the 9, and I think that’s why you’re seeing a lot of people converting,” Leahy said Monday in Paris.

Aside from the range issue, Boeing’s pitch for the MAX family is that because its jets are lighter than the Airbus A320/A321 family, they are more fuel efficient that the neo and give airlines much better economics.

An independent analysis by aviation consulting firm Leeham.net comparing the MAX 10 and the A321neo concluded that with similar seating configurations, the economics of the two jet families are roughly on par.

Leverkuhn said the MAX 10 now completes the MAX family and offers airlines great flexibility.

For carriers that want a jet to fly longer, thinner routes, the MAX 9 has almost 600 miles of extra range than the MAX 10. But the 10 has two extra rows of seats.

“For those airlines that want capacity, they now have it,” he said. “If they want the range, they have the MAX 9.”

Other MAX 10 announcements in Paris on Monday:

• Chinese airplane leasing firm BOC Aviation announced a memorandum of understanding for 10 airplanes, “subject to internal approvals.”

• New Chinese lessor Tibet Financial Leasing signed a memorandum of understanding for 20 MAXs, including both MAX 10s and MAX 8s with the precise mix not disclosed.

• India’s SpiceJet signed a memorandum of understanding for 40, half of which were conversions from existing MAX orders.

• And TUI Group of Germany, which operates charter and scheduled flights for European tourists, converted 18 existing 737 MAX orders to the MAX 10.

• GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), the commercial aircraft leasing and financing arm of GE, which makes the LEAP engines that power the Boeing jet, converted 20 of its existing MAX orders to the larger MAX 10.

However, in a sign that the Airbus A320neo remains a potent competitor, GECAS also announced Monday in Paris a new order for 100 A320neos, including A321neos.

And Air Lease Corp., the major airplane lessor led by industry playmaker Steven Udvar-Hazy, signed a firm order for 12 additional A321neos.