Boeing seeks Farnborough orders under new boss

Thu Jul 5, 2012 4:24pm 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 face international customers' questions 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 and a lot of attention focused on production rates and the overall worldwide demand equation," said John Plueger, chief operating officer of Air Lease Corp (AL.N: Quote), one of the aviation industry's leading aircraft buyers.

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 the EADS EAD.PA subsidiary's 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.

Boeing could make progress at the Farnborough International Airshow next week, where airlines and leasing companies like to grab publicity with big orders.

A Boeing spokesman said this week that the company did not save up orders to announce at airshows. For example, on Thursday Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd (VAH.AX: Quote) said it had ordered 23 737 MAX planes in a deal worth $2.19 billion at list prices.

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.   Continued...

A Boeing 737 MAX airplane is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters July 5, 2012. REUTERS/Boeing/Handout.