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PARIS: IAG signs for 200 Max jets

Boeing has gained a boost to its beleaguered 737 Max programme on the second day of the Paris air show, landing a surprise letter of intent for 200 of the jets from European airline group IAG.

The 200 jets would be a mix of -8s and -10s.

"I have great confidence in Boeing and great confidence in the Max. It will make a great addition to our fleet," says IAG chief executive Willie Walsh.

"This has been a tough negotiation," he adds. "It's a good deal for us and I hope a good deal for Boeing."

Walsh says two recent Max crashes are "very much on" his mind, but says: "Looking to the future, this is a great aircraft."

Powered by CFM International Leap-1B engines, the jets would be delivered between 2023 and 2027, says IAG.

In its statement, the group says it envisions that the aircraft would be used by a number of its airlines, including Vueling, Level and British Airways. It specifies that the UK carrier would operate the aircraft from London Gatwick airport.

"We intend to use these aircraft within a number of airlines within the group," Walsh confirms.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Kevin McAllister says: "This is a very special day, and we can't thank you enough in the confidence you placed in the 737 Max family, and all of us."

The airframer has taken no Max orders since the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737-8 in March, and some observers questioned whether any airlines would sign for more while uncertainty clouded the programme.

Many assumed that while Boeing might land some widebody orders at the show – as indeed it already has – it would otherwise make little news.

Boeing had seemed to indicate the same, as executives insisted that their primary message at the show would centre on efforts toward the safe return of the Max to service.

Cirium's Fleets Analyzer shows that Boeing has outstanding orders for some 4,400 Max jets.

The Max crisis started when a Lion Air example crashed shortly after take-off from Jakarta in October 2018 – an accident which led to Boeing's reveal that it had equipped the aircraft with a previously undisclosed software called the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

Investigators have said that technology, added by Boeing to drop the aircraft's nose in certain conditions, contributed to the crash. Boeing added the technology to make the Max fly like its predecessor in the family, the 737NG.

Despite an emergency regulatory order aimed at ensuring pilots understood how to counter errant MCAS activation, a second crash – of the Ethiopian aircraft – proved that the issues remained unresolved.

The crashes killed 346 people and triggered the global grounding of Boeing's most-popular aircraft – one critical to the company's future.

Boeing has changed the MCAS software in ways it says eliminates the problem. The company is now waiting for regulators to clear the aircraft to fly again.

Read all the latest news and information from the 2019 Paris Air Show on our dedicated page

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