When Boeing launched the last iteration of its ubiquitous 737 back in 1993, the head of its Renton plant declared it had "built and delivered more than 2,500 and we expect to deliver another 2,500".

That bit of optimism, courtesy of Gordon Bethune before his legendary stint at Continental Airlines, proved, in retrospect, to be remarkably conservative given that Next Generation family sales are approaching 6,000.

So place your bets for the longevity of the 737 Max which, despite being seemingly conceived with all the dignity of a hurried back-alley fumble, has finally given back a sense of direction to the US airframer.

Airbus has shown, with the A350, that being late off the blocks does not necessarily cripple a programme - and Boeing has the pain of its 787 and 747-8 development behind it, while the A350's birth is yet to come.

But, as ever, "it's the economy, stupid". Engine exclusivity has never hampered the 737, but there is a question as to whether the legacy structural design will force a compromise on the capabilities of the powerplant.

Airbus might have left Boeing somewhat punch-drunk with its A320neo onslaught, but it is easy to forget that the 737 outsold the A320 last year, and if Boeing is able to firm the near-500 commitments to its new model, then it will have made a half-decent start in its campaign to catch the Toulouse Express.

Better late than never, Boeing. Game on.

Source: Flight International