Boeing has maintained the pressure on Airbus, its main rival, with the launch of the biggest version yet of the 737 short-haul jet.
The world’s largest commercial aircraft maker announced plans for the 737 Max 10 at the Paris Air Show on Monday.
The new variant of the plane can carry up to 230 passengers and already has more than 240 orders from 10 customers.
Boeing says the new 737 will have the lowest operating costs of any single-aisle plane ever produced.
“The Max 10 will provide customers with even more flexibility in terms of airplane range and higher seat count,” chief executive Dennis Muilenburg told the BBC.
Stepping up production
The US company has had about 3,700 orders for the 737 Max family, which ranges from the 172-seat Max 7 to the 220-seat Max 9.
The Max 10 is 66 inches longer than the Max 9 at 143ft 8in (43.8m), but its slightly bigger passenger capacity means its range is 300 nautical miles less than the 3,515 of the Max 8 and 9.
Boeing is increasing 737 production from 42 to 47 planes a month by the end of this year and will reach 57 annually by 2020 to meet demand, Mr Muilenburg says.
The 737 competes with the Airbus A320neo family of jets that the European manufacturer introduced last year, which has had about 4,600 orders. The neo range also offer airlines lower fuel consumption and more seats, with the A321neo carrying up to 240 passengers.
Boeing is also evaluating demand for a new plane that would sit in between the largest 737 variant, and the 787 Dreamliner, and come into service in about 2024-25 if it goes ahead.
Mr Muilenburg said the aircraft being planned would have a range of about 5,000 nautical miles and carry in the region of 230 passengers – about 100 fewer than the biggest version of the Dreamliner.
“We see a potential need for about 4,000 aircraft in that market. We have time to figure it out and build the business case so we get it right.”
The Boeing boss said there was an estimated demand for about 41,000 new commercial planes over the next two decades.
Every year in Asia alone 100 million people fly for the first time, Mr Muilenburg said: “That’s what is fuelling our investments in the future and our increased production.”
Airlines in other regions, such as India and South America, are also buying thousands of new planes as the growing middle classes find air travel within their reach.
Although Boeing and Airbus have the lion’s share of the global commercial aviation market, they are facing competition from the likes of Bombardier of Canada, Brazil’s Embraer and even lesser-known manufacturers such as COMAC of China and Russia’s Irkut.
However, Mr Muilenburg is not too concerned about the threat posed by these upstarts. “Aerospace is outpacing global GDP, so we should expect new competitors. In the long run, competition makes us better… it drives innovation.”