Boeing seeks big Farnborough orders under new boss

Thu Jul 5, 2012 6:52am EDT
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By Bill Rigby

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) heads to the year's biggest air show under a new leader looking to make a hit with its latest single-aisle aircraft and undermine Airbus' leadership of the global $100 billion a year airliner market.

The world's No. 2 aircraft maker, which put top salesman Ray Conner in charge of its commercial plane unit only last week, will also be grilled by international customers on how it plans to replace its successful but aging 777 mini-jumbo and increase production across the board.

"There's going to be lots of eyes looking toward Boeing 737 MAX orders," said John Plueger, Chief Operating Officer of Air Lease Corp, one of the aviation industry's leading aircraft buyers. "And a lot of attention focused on production rates and the overall worldwide demand equation."

Boeing is scrambling to catch up to Airbus in orders for single-aisle aircraft - the workhorse for many airlines - with its revamped, re-engined 737 MAX unveiled last year in response to Airbus' reworked A320neo.

Boeing has 451 firm orders for the MAX since launching it last August, but wants 1,000 sales by the end of this year, as it tries to close the gap with Airbus, which has already booked more than 1,400 firm A320neo orders.

A good part of Boeing's goal could be realized at the Farnborough International Airshow next week, where airlines and leasing companies like to grab publicity with big orders.

Air Lease Corp, run by leasing pioneer Steven Udvar-Hazy, is one of the most likely MAX buyers at Farnborough, having firmed up an order for the A320neo a month ago.

The Los Angeles-based firm says it has had discussions on the MAX, but would not be drawn on the date of any announcement.   Continued...

Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner aircraft stands on the tarmac at Manchester Airport in Manchester, northern England April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Phil Noble