The Boeing 737 Max is finding a 2nd life as a private jet. But customers still ask about its infamous 20-month grounding.

  • Boeing has a lucrative side business selling commercial jets to ultrarich private travelers.

  • Boeing Business Jets can be found in the fleets of billionaires, heads of state, and governments.

  • One aircraft Boeing expects to be a top seller is the 737 Max, despite its near-two-year grounding.

Airlines are not the only Boeing customers eager to buy up the 737 Max aircraft.

A small percentage of Boeing's yearly sales are made not by airlines but by ultrawealthy individuals, national governments, and heads of state looking to buy some of the world's largest private jets. And each Boeing commercial airliner has its own private-jet variant, collectively known as Boeing Business Jets.

One aircraft Boeing says is primed to be a best-seller is the 737 Max, or the Boeing Business Jet 737 Max in airliner-turned-private-jet parlance.

"I wish we could build more airplanes because we seem to have the demand for it, in the near term," JD Detwiler, the president of Boeing Business Jets, told Insider. "It's the future for BBJ, and you're going to see a lot of additional orders here, hopefully, in the next year or so."

In 2021, Boeing landed two orders for the BBJ 737 Max, showing that the wealthy are just as willing as airlines to trust the aircraft after a 20-month grounding by global regulators following two fatal crashes. Expected customers for the aircraft include the approximately 200 current owners of BBJ 737 aircraft that may want to upgrade to a newer Max and take advantage of its cost-saving economics and lower operating costs.

Three of the four Max variants are for sale as Boeing Business Jets. Only the Max 8 and the Max 9, however, are certified. The Max 7 variant is scheduled to be certified in 2022, while the Max 10 is on track for a 2023 certification.

Max aircraft range in price from $99.7 million for the smallest Max 7 to $134.9 million for the largest Max 10. Airlines typically never pay the list price because they are frequent customers, but it's unknown how much of a price break, if any, an ultra-high-net-worth buyer might receive when negotiating with Boeing.

Comlux Boeing Business Jet 737 Max
A Boeing Business Jet 737 Max with an interior completion by Comlux.Comlux

The timeline between purchase to flying passengers for a given BBJ 737 Max is about 2 1/2 years, Detwiler said, factoring in 12 months to build the aircraft, three months to install auxiliary fuel tanks to give the aircraft its extra range capabilities, and another 12 months to complete the interior. The first two BBJ 737 Max aircraft entered service with their owners last year.

Boeing only builds the aircraft and delivers them to customers. Auxiliary fuel tanks are installed by Aloft AeroArchitects in Delaware, while interior completion can be performed by licensed BBJ interior-completion centers, including the likes of Comlux in Indianapolis or AMAC in Basel, Switzerland.

Boeing also expects to soon land business-jet orders for its newest commercial aircraft, the $442.2 million 777X that's set to be the world's largest twin-engine aircraft once certified.

Boeing 777X at Dubai Airshow 2021
The Boeing 777X at Dubai Airshow 2021.Thomas Pallini/Insider

The 777X will be the largest Boeing Business Jet that customers can buy new once the Boeing 747 exits production later this year. The high price, however, will probably put the aircraft outside the budget of most individual shoppers.

Boeing Business Jet leadership says customers still ask about the grounding, which represented one of Boeing's darkest periods as a company. But after a full year's worth of largely uneventful Max flights and airlines once again spending billions to acquire the aircraft, the company expects the wealthy to fall in love with the Max.

"We saw it first with the commercial return to service, a lot of our customers in the US, for instance, saw that customers love the Max, they feel very safe in the Max, and I think that our airline customers, in particular, love the efficiency of the Max," Detwiler said.

Read the original article on Business Insider