Boeing may decide to launch a replacement programme for the 737 before May 2009.

Scott Carson, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president, says the company will “likely” decide on a single-aisle replacement within 18 months. A final decision must be made by the company by 2012, he adds.

A Boeing spokeswoman confirms Carson’s remarks, which were reported in the French newspaper Le Monde.

The new timeline means Boeing could be seeking to advance the development schedule for the 737 replacement.

In the past, company officials have stated that technology to justify a 737 replacement would not become available until at least 2015.