EBACE: BBJ models could extend 747-8, 737NG run, Boeing says

Boeing could continue producing business jet versions of the 747-8 and the 737NG for several more years, says the newly-appointed head of Boeing Business Jets (BBJ).

Both types have appeared close to ending production, with waning deliveries of the 747-8 casting doubt about the programme’s future and the 737 Max set to replace the older 737NG family of aircraft.

But BBJ president David Longridge says demand remains high for the head of state version of the 747-8 and 737NG version could remain in production after the 737 Max is introduced.

“It’s not completely out of the question,” Longridge says about extending 737NG production. “That’s something we wrestle with all the time: Is there a marketing ongoing for the NG version of the BBJ in whatever form it is after we start building the 737 Max? We haven’t decided, and frankly we don’t know.”

Two military versions of the 737NG – the C-40 combi and the P-8A anti-submarine warfare aircraft– are expected to remain production through at least 2019.

Last month, Boeing announced an ongoing study to launch a commercial, BBJ version of the C-40 combi, with the front of the aircraft reserved for cargo and the rear allocated to seating passengers or VIPs.

Boeing also is continuing to study an ultra-long-range version of the 737 Max BBJ. “We are definitely very interested. We pester our I’ll call them ‘parents’ at Boeing corporate all the time,” Longridge says. “At the moment we have nothing to announce.”

Meanwhile, the US Air Force has committed to buy at least two 747-8s to replace the 747-400-based VC-25 fleet often called Air Force One. US budget documents released in February indicate that the USAF will make an initial payment for the first 747-8 in 2016 and possibly buy a second aircraft in 2020.

Despite a recent decision by the Japanese government to order two 777-300ERs to replace 747-400s for VIP transport, many governments still prefer to operate four-engined aircraft for head-of-state missions.

“Don’t be of the opinion that the 747-8 in its VIP role is fading away because it is not,” Longridge says. “In the VIP world we probably have more demand for the 787 in terms of number of customers than just about any part of the Boeing company.”