The world’s best-selling commercial aircraft hit another milestone on Wednesday, when Boeing announced that the 737 MAX, the latest development of its 737 twinjet, had surpassed 1,000 orders. With an order for 60 from Aviation Capital Group, a leasing company based in California and owned by Pacific Life Insurance, the 737 MAX now has 1,029 orders.
Boeing said the order, worth $6 billion at current list prices, includes 50 737 MAX 8s and 10 737 MAX 9s, the biggest airplane in the 737 family.
Surpassing the 1,000-plane threshold is a boon for Boeing (NYSE: BA), which had taken a beating from European rival Airbus after launching the 737 MAX later than the A320neo, a revamped version of the Airbus best-seller with new, fuel-efficient engines.
After offering the A320neo for sale in late 2010, Airbus, a unit of EADS (EPA:EAD), racked up a record year for orders in 2011 with 1,419 compared with Boeing’s 805. Boeing was caught off guard and did not reply with the upgraded 737 MAX until late 2011. But then, sales of the new plane took off and the MAX helped Boeing beat Airbus handily in 2012, with 1,052 overall orders through November compared with Airbus’ 585. (Both figures are from the manufacturers.)
Including all models since its first flight in 1967, the 737 now has a total of 10,466 orders, according to Boeing. That makes it the biggest seller in the history of commercial aviation; more than 7,400 have been delivered. Its European rival, the A320, entered service 20 years later and rapidly climbed to second place with 8,811 orders as of November last year, according to Airbus.
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The A320neo is scheduled for a first flight in 2014; with 1,554 ordered to date, it is the fastest-selling commercial aircraft ever. The 737 MAX will follow two years later.
While Boeing is playing catch-up to Airbus in the market for smaller, medium-range jets, it is beating the Europeans when it comes to the new generation of long-range jets made largely of composite materials. Boeing’s 787 has been in service successfully for more than a year and has a total of 844 orders, while the Airbus A350, designed to compete with it, has just 562 and won’t make its first flight until this summer.
After the latest order for the 737 MAX was announced, Boeing shares rose $1.42 at midday in New York to $76.78, while shares of Airbus parent EADS closed in Paris up 0.57 euros to 30.07.