Aerospace & Defense

What Boeing Will Not Be Talking About at Next Week's Paris Air Show

The biannual Paris Air Show officially kicks off next Monday, June 17. Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) revealed its exhibit and demonstration lineup a week early so that all our hearts would not be aflutter in anticipation. There was little need to worry about that in any event, and no need now.

Of the four items Boeing highlighted in its announcement, there are one demonstration and three displays, one of which the company says is interactive. The company also has scheduled a series of news briefings for media.

Before the second fatal crash of a Boeing 737 MAX in the past year, most Boeing watchers figured the company would use the occasion of the Paris show to announce an authorization to offer its long-awaited new midsize airplane, variously dubbed the NMA or the 797. In fact, some analysts were expecting a green light before the Paris show for the twin-aisle, twin-engined jet designed to carry 200 to 250 or so passengers on flights of up to 5,000 nautical miles. Boeing already had announced in January that it would defer its launch decision on the 797 until next year.

What Boeing is doing is building a 360-degree theater in which show attendees can “learn more about the company’s capabilities” and where Boeing will show off “its commitment to innovation, industry partnerships and safety.” This is described as an interactive exhibit that will highlight the company’s latest aircraft and services and provide a “first look” at Boeing’s “vision for the future of mobility.” Pretty weak tea.

The U.S. Department of Defense plans static displays of Boeing’s AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter, an F-15 fighter jet, a P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and the first-ever air show appearance of the KC-46 tanker Boeing is building for the U.S. Air Force. Be still my beating heart.

Finally, an Air Tahiti Nui 787-9 will give a display of the “capabilities and innovations” of the 787 Dreamliner. Boeing also plans to show a 737 converted freighter and what it calls a “passenger air vehicle,” an autonomous (self-flying) air taxi designed for urban commutes of up to 50 miles. Ok, the air taxi makes this mildly interesting.

On Wednesday Boeing has scheduled a media briefing at 12:45 p.m. CET to discuss its wide-body programs. This is the last but one of its scheduled media events for the show, and the one at which the company is most likely to say something about its plans for a 797. In February, industry analyst Richard Aboulafia outlined the substantial challenges facing a new program.

No scheduled event includes a discussion of the problems the company is having with its 737 MAX. Since the two crashes that killed 346 people, resulting in the grounding of the global fleet of the 737 MAX and the production cut from 52 a month to 42, Boeing has been working on a software fix for the aircraft’s anti-stall program that appears to be on its way to being approved, but not as quickly as hoped. Acting U.S. Federal Aviation Administration chief Dan Ewell said in May that the plan may not be cleared to return to service even in October.

American Airlines, which had canceled all scheduled flights of its 737 MAX fleet until mid-August, announced on Sunday that it is canceling all flights through September 3, the day after the Labor Day holiday weekend. American operates a fleet of 24 737 MAX jets.

Boeing shares traded up more than 3% in Monday’s premarket session, at $357.00 in a 52-week range of $292.47 to $446.01. The stock’s 12-month price target is $421.05.

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