Boeing today revealed the 737 Max will be converted into a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), with deliveries starting to the VIP market almost as quickly as the re-engined and updated narrowbody enters commercial service in 2017.
The BBJ Max 8 will become the fourth version of the 737 family to be aimed at the business aviation market, and the announcement precedes a decision by Airbus on whether to offer a corporate jet version of the similarly re-engined A320neo.
"I don't think we'll get enough [production slots] for all the demand we're expecting," says Steve Taylor, president of Boeing Business Jets.
The same changes being introduced with the 737 Max 8 - including new CFM International Leap-1B engines, split-tip winglets and a redesigned tail cone - are expected to deliver similar performance improvements for the BBJ market, but with a different emphasis. Airlines are more focused on the fuel savings, while business jet passengers are more influenced by increased range and reduced cabin noise, Taylor says.
The BBJ Max 8 should improve range by roughly 600nm compared to the roughly 5,670nm range of the BBJ2, the business jet version of the 737-800, he says. A BBJ version of the 737 Max 9 will follow the introduction of the version based on the 737 Max 8.
By announcing the BBJ at NBAA, Boeing beats Airbus in the race to develop alternative versions of the re-engined narrowbodies. Airbus unveiled the A320neo nine months before Boeing launched the 737 Max family in August 2011, but has yet to announce an Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ) version. The delay has baffled Airbus' competitors in Seattle.
"I'm fascinated they haven't moved out more quickly than not," Taylor says.
Boeing, meanwhile, is continuing to evaluate other opportunities for spin-offs of the 737 Max. Boeing adapted the BBJ into a military surveillance and patrol aircraft, and Taylor says the example will be followed with the BBJ Max.
"Inevitably it will," he says. "The military is typically not an early adopter of these kinds of things, so not right in the front end."
Boeing has sold 157 BBJs since introducing the type 15 years ago.
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