BOEING is stepping up planned production of its 737-based business jet, from six a year to two a month, based on customer response to the aircraft since it was launched in July 1996. "We plan to deliver over 40 aircraft in the first couple of years," says Larry Clarkson, president of the Boeing Enterprises subsidiary formed to pursue non-core opportunities, including a long-range business jet based on the next-generation 737.

The aircraft is being marketed by Boeing Business Jets, a joint venture formed with engine manufacturer General Electric. The venture has so far announced three firm orders, two for GE and one for an outside customer, but Clarkson says that details of extra orders will be unveiled soon. "We have done better than projections," he reveals.

Clarkson says that the venture has negotiated additional slots on the 737 production line, which is scheduled to reach an output of 21 aircraft a month by the end of 1997. The business jet, which combines the fuselage of the 737-700 with the strengthened wing of the larger -800, will be built on the same line as next-generation 737s destined for airlines.

The 737 business jet, which will be flown in mid-1998 and be certificated in the fourth quarter of 1998, has additional fuel tanks, giving a range of more than 11,000km (6,000nm). "Green" deliveries are to begin in the third quarter of 1998. Aircraft interior completion will be undertaken by Jet Aviation in Basle, Switzerland, and K-C Aviation of Dallas, Texas.

Clarkson believes that the aircraft has taken customers away from the rival Bombardier Global Express and Gulfstream V long-range business jets, for which orderbooks of over 60 and 90 are claimed. He says that the aircraft offers a bigger cabin and lower costs because of spares commonality with airline-operated 737s.

Source: Flight International