Boeing Sees First VIP 737 Max Sale as Large Jet Orders Near

Boeing Co., the No. 1 planemaker, said it’s close to sealing the first order for a 737-8 Max airliner in a business jet layout, and that government buyers are showing interest in the new 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 models.

The sale of the first Boeing Business Jet based on the reengined 737-8 Max short-haul plane could come this week, BBJ President Steve Taylor told reporters at the Ebace conference in Geneva today. The aircraft would be delivered in 2018.

Boeing, based in Chicago, has sold only three BBJs -- a 737, 787 and 777 -- in the past 12 months as sales of business jets have been held back by political turmoil in the Middle East and weak European economic output. Boeing’s BBJs are all derived from its airliner offerings.

“It is a very tough market but we continue to find opportunities,” Taylor said. “I see a very strong market for the Max.”

Boeing is also marketing the larger 737-9 Max as a BBJ and sees demand for both 737 models spurred by replacement of more than 140 737s used as private jets today, Taylor said. The company hasn’t decided whether the 737-7 Max, the smallest version, for which Southwest Airlines recently became the first customer, will be marketed as a BBJ, he said.

Airbus Sales

Airbus SAS still has to secure the first sale as a business jet of an A320neo, its reengined short-range plane, even though it’s due to enter service in 2015, ahead of the Max. The Toulouse, France-based aircraft maker is focused on deals with nearer-term deliveries, said David Velupillai, marketing director for the Airbus Corporate Jet unit.

Sales efforts include continued marketing of the A318 airliner model in a business jet role even though there are no more planes in Airbus’s backlog. Demand remains in markets such as China, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, said Francois Chazelle, vice president for the Airbus unit.

At Boeing, sales of wide-body BBJs to private individuals are being driven by demand from governments looking to replace and augment their state fleets.

The first of 12 BBJ 787 Dreamliners is scheduled for handover before the end of the year, Taylor said. Deliveries of passenger models were delayed when the jet was grounded for more than three months over an electrical fault. Taylor said the company is in advanced talks for the sale of two more 787 BBJs and there are additional prospects on the horizon.

Boeing Talks

Airbus has sold only one A350 in a VIP configuration. Chazelle said the A330 will compete with the 787 for orders and projected the Boeing jet would suffer additional cancellations.

Boeing is also in negotiations over the sale of two more 747-8s as private planes for heads of state, Taylor said, without naming the possible buyers. He dismissed the Airbus A380 superjumbo, which has only one private sale, as “not a player.”

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al Saud, only private buyer of an A380 -- and the world’s 24th-richest person -- has sold the jet, Velupillai confirmed, without identifying the new owner or when the changeover will occur. Airbus signed the original deal during the Dubai air show in 2007