AUSTRALIAN GOLFER Greg Norman has ordered a $36 million Boeing 737-based business jet, and signed a seven-year deal to promote Boeing Business Jets, a joint venture formed by Boeing and engine manufacturer General Electric in 1996.

Norman's Great White Shark Enterprises company will receive its aircraft, which has the fuselage of the 737-700 combined with the strengthened wing of the larger -800, in late 1998. He cites the aircraft's long range and relatively high capacity as reasons for his decision to replace the Gulfstream IV he acquired only a year ago.

Norman is the first identified customer for the CFM International CFM56-7B powered aircraft, which has attracted 18 firm orders, says Borge Boeskov, president of Boeing Business Jets. He says the joint venture logged 15 orders between January and May, including Norman's. As a result, Boeing is to raise the production rate to 24 a year from 1999. Up to nine will be built in 1998.

Boeing hopes that the aircraft will take customers away from the rival Bombardier Global Express and Gulfstream V long-range business jets which Norman considered buying, but rejected. He says the Boeing aircraft "-is the superior business jet which offers better value than the GV".

Although corporate clients are expected to form the bulk of the customers, at least one has been sold to a government for use by its head of state, and Boeing is in negotiations over further sales to two more governments. Boeskov says that contract talks continue and that more sales could be announced during the Paris show.

The 737 business jet will be flown in mid-1998 and certificated in the fourth quarter of that year.

Source: Flight International