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Startup EnCore nears first 737 Max seat deliveries

Two and a half years after the partnership was announced, Boeing-backed startup EnCore will deliver the first Lift passenger seats for the 737 Max ordered by an undisclosed European customer next month, says a company official on 27 September.

The seat manufacturer’s partnership with Boeing was revealed in April 2015 with the quiet signing of a statement of intent.. That announcement coincided with the depth of the industry’s seating supply crisis, which threatened to slow Boeing’s carefully choreographed production ramp-up for commercial aircraft.

EnCore formed part of Boeing’s solution to an industry-wide supply crunch for cabin seats. By sponsoring the new start-up, Boeing hopes to bring in a new supplier it can trust to make deliveries on schedule, as well as partner with a chosen supplier to design a new seat specially crafted for the interior of the 737 Max.

The start of deliveries next month marks a new milestone for seat-making start-up and a test of whether Boeing’s strategy will prove effective as it prepares to hike production of 737s and 787s even more over the next two years.

So far, EnCore is making progress on the sales front, but is being careful not to grow too fast. Three customers – two undisclosed European carriers customers and India-based SpiceJet -- have ordered EnCore’s Lift seats for a total of 250 aircraft, says Tom Eaton, director of design for Lift by EnCore.

The seat frames are designed with assistance from Boeing’s technical staff, allowing Eaton’s staff to sculpt the frames to closely follow the contours of the 737 Max sidewall, yielding a seat measuring 17.9in wide.

As the company transitions from design and production to deliveries, EnCore is interested in growing the business without over-committing. Last April, the company unveiled a prototype for a new economy-class seat for the 787. EnCore is now working with Boeing to transition the prototype into a product, but not before late 2019 or 2020, Eaton says.

“At the moment we need to pace ourselves,” he says. “One of the things we pride ourselves on is on-time delivery and quality. So anything that puts that at risk will be deferred to later.”

The same philosophy applies to questions about offering seats to other manufacturers. So far, the company’s customers are exclusively Boeing operators, but at some point the company could sell seats to airlines that operate aircraft made by multiple manufacturers.

“It’s a bridge we’ll have to cross when we get to it,” Eaton says, “but at the moment we have sufficient business to keep us busy for many years.”

CLARIFICATION: The article has been update to clarify that the agreement with Boeing was announced in 2015, but EnCore was launched independently a year earlier.

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