By Rob Russell
Boeing is heading to the Paris Air Show in a far different condition than the last time the mega-event was held in 2019. Four years ago, Boeing was in a world of pain with the world's media and the public focused on the aftermath of the two 737 MAX tragic crashes and the turmoil that followed.
It might still have some production hiccups and quality control issues, but at least it can head to Paris with a healthy and growing order book and a solid delivery performance in May. At the end of last month, Boeing posted a backlog of 4,634 aircraft, with nearly 80% of those orders for 737 narrow bodies.
Busy days for 737 MAX
During May, Boeing delivered 50 aircraft, close to doubling its April output of 26. With 737 production picking up pace, it managed to deliver 36, with 35 of those being 737 MAXs headed for ten identified customers, while two MAXs were delivered to the ever-present unidentified customer(s). The sole non-MAX delivery was a 737-800A maritime patrol aircraft which is now in the hands of the South Korean government.
More than 30% of MAX deliveries went to Southwest Airlines with eleven delivered to the Texas-based low-cost carrier. Irish headquartered budget airline Ryanair received six, as did United Airlines, with two each for lessor AerCap, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Unidentified. A single MAX went to Air Lease Corporation, BOC Aviation Limited, Copa Airlines and TUI Travel PLC.
As of the end of May, Boeing had delivered 163 737 MAXs in 2023, and 44 of those have gone to Southwest Airlines, 29 to United Airlines and 24 to Ryanair. Those three carriers account for 60% of global MAX deliveries in the first five months of this year. On the lessor front, Air Lease Corporation has accepted fifteen, 777 Partners, the backers of Canada's Flair Airlines and Australia's Bonza, has taken four and AerCap three.
Despite another quality control issue affecting production, Boeing delivered eight 787s in May, with two 787-8s for American Airlines, a 787-9 to AerCap, Air Lease Corporation and Turkish Airlines and 787-10s to Air France-KLM Group, British Airways and EVA Air.
Rounding out the 50 deliveries were three 777F freighters, one each to China Airlines, China Southern Airlines and DHL Aviation. UPS received two 767-300F freighters, and FedEx Express added one of the type to its fleet.
Boeing also reported securing orders for 69 aircraft in May, although it only identified two 787-8s for Asia-Pacific airline Air Niugini. The balance of orders was for eight 787-9s and 59 737 MAXs destined for Unidentified Customer(s), with perhaps an announcement imminent for Paris.
A more realistic backlog at Boeing
In contrast to Airbus, Boeing makes accounting adjustments each month to move orders in or out of its books, depending on how solid the orders are. In May it added 59 orders back into the backlog, bringing that to 4,634 aircraft. However, Boeing's monthly report lists Total Unfilled Orders of 5,351 aircraft but also shows that 717 fall into this adjustment category, reducing its backlog to 4,634.
Unsurprisingly the 737 dominates the backlog with 3,655 narrow bodies still to be delivered, followed by 539 787s, 324 777s and 116 767s. The 767 backlog is an interesting mix of customers, with the majority of orders for the 767-2C military tanker variant, predominantly to the US Military.
The United States Air Force has 58 on order, while four each are destined for tanker programs in Israel and Japan. The balance is destined for carrying freight as 767-300Fs, with 24 going to FedEx Express, 25 to UPS and one to the United Republic of Tanzania. It is remarkable that this aircraft continues to take orders, considering the many options for airlines and operators to choose from.
Expect a few big announcements in Paris!