Boeing MAX BBJ is back

The BBJ 737-8, the first of which has entered service, incorporates integral airstairs.

In a double move that Boeing Business Jets says underpins renewed product confidence and market growth, the company has announced the service debut of the first 737 MAX-based BBJ 737-8 as well as the first new order for the corporate variant since the return of the MAX to commercial service in 2020.

“The MAX is very much back for the BBJ, as it is for our commercial partners,” says BBJ president James Detwiler. “We've seen a tremendous amount of resurgence of interest this year, especially over the last six to eight months.”

Coming after the prolonged grounding of the MAX following two accidents (in 2018 and 2019), the order represents more than the renewal of business in the post-pandemic era, says Detwiler. “This is really a reaffirmation of the trust that our customers have in the platform and its capability and safety.”

First announced in 2014, the initial MAX BBJ variant is based on the 737-8, which succeeds the current 737-800-derived BBJ2. Incorporating the aerodynamic and systems improvements of the standard MAX, as well as the more fuel-efficient CFM Leap-1B engines, the baseline BBJ 737-8 has a design range of 6,465 nm—some 940 nm more than the BBJ2.

Configured with auxiliary tanks provided by Delaware-based BBJ completion specialist Aloft AeroArchitects (the former PATS Aerospace Systems), the aircraft is attracting interest and orders from a combination of early BBJ customers seeking to re-equip as well as new clients looking to up-gauge to a larger cabin, according to Detweiler. The aircraft’s baseline operating economics and lower emissions performance also appeal to a newer generation of high-net-worth customers, he adds.

“That carbon footprint is a big deal. Just having a cleaner airplane is important now to a lot of our particularly younger customers. Some of these folks have made their fortunes from the internet and things of that nature, and they're very eco-minded. So that's an attractive aspect if it's a lower emissions footprint and a lower noise footprint,” Detwiler says.

The growing MAX BBJ family will also soon include the longer BBJ 737-9 version, the first of which has been delivered to a completion center, as well as the smaller MAX 7-based derivative. “The first BBJ 737-7 is in production right now and should fly toward the end of the year,” says Detwiler. Although offering a smaller cabin than its MAX-based siblings, the aircraft is larger than the original 737-700-based BBJ and, with a design range of 6,600 nm, will fly considerably farther.

With certification of the baseline commercial variant expected over the coming months, “we anticipate that there will be another wave of interest in the BBJ 737-7 because that will have the best range of the three,” he adds.

Marking its 25th anniversary this year at NBAA-BACE, Boeing Business Jets is also looking to extend its portfolio with the BBJ variant of the 777-9, the first of which is due to enter airline service in late 2023. “We expect that there will be a very targeted customer set there, primarily in the head-of-state arena,” says Detwiler. “They typically buy these aircraft for the amazing range as the 777X BBJ connects any two cities on the planet.” 

To date, Boeing Business Jets has delivered more than 250 BBJs, the majority of which have been 737 Next Generation-based variants.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.