The first business jet version of a Boeing 737 MAX is about to fly from the factory, marking the beginning of a journey to be outfitted as a BBJ MAX 8.

After the installation of an auxiliary fuel tank, which will enable the new owner to fly up to 6,640 nm (12,297 km) in a standard configuration, the “green” aircraft’s interior will be completed and the airframe painted in the U.S. by Comlux Completions of Indianapolis (Booth P718).

“We are excited to see the first BBJ MAX come to life and fly through the development milestones. In the past few weeks, the aircraft has achieved factory rollout, first fight, multiple certifications, and now flyaway,” said Greg Laxton, Head of Boeing Business Jets.

Customers from around the world have placed orders for nearly 20 BBJ MAX airplanes, including all three models: the BBJ MAX 7, BBJ MAX 8, and BBJ MAX 9. Several are destined for Asia Pacific and Greater China.

Demand for BBJs Is Strong in Region

“We’re almost the victims of our own success with how well used BBJs are selling,” says Greg Laxton, Head of Boeing Business Jets. Potential customers are buying pre-owned BBJs now instead of waiting three to four years for delivery of a new one from an interior completions center.

That, Laxton surmises, is why no new BBJs were delivered into Asia Pacific or Greater China last year (it’s the same story with Airbus Corporate Jets). Customers, if they’re buying new, would rather have a MAX with its new, more efficient engines and performance improvements, but they can’t have one as production is sold out. Instead, they’ll often “make do” with a used BBJ until a new one is available.

Boeing Business Jets has sold all the aircraft allocated to it by Boeing Commercial “although often we can do something for a customer,” Laxton allows.

The push and pull of demand for instant gratification led to two customers in Asia Pacific selling their BBJs last year while four used ones were added, according to data from Hong Kong consultants Asian Sky Group.

Laxton says there are 30 BBJs operating in Greater China and 51 in the whole region, counting head-of-state, government-operated and foreign-based aircraft.

Boeing Business Jets continues to be very strong in China. “We continue to see strong interest in the whole BBJ family and the MAX family and even into the BBJ 787,” he says.

The MAX, Laxton says, is resonating with customers due to its cabin space, cargo space, reliability and range. “I really think we’re the market leader when it comes to that,” he adds, noting that a BBJ MAX 7 can fly nonstop nonstop from Shanghai to New York. “And then if you go to the BBJ MAX 9, it's basically unchallenged when you look at the hundred-plus square meter cabin and being able to fly over 6,500 nm.”

Look out on the Static Display/Chalet 7 for a 1/12 scale cutaway model of a BBJ MAX 7 with an interior by famed designer Alberto Pinto.