Boeing is in “advanced talks” with customers regarding the sale of a freighter version of its coming 777X wide-body aircraft, an executive said on the eve of the Dubai Airshow.
"Cargo has been one of the silver linings of this [Covid-19] crisis for us as manufacturers and also for the airlines in terms of the logistics requirements around the globe," Ihssane Mounir, senior vice president of commercial sales and marketing, said during a briefing on Saturday.
"Now, the supply chain is relying big time on air cargo ... When you look at the cargo market, it has been at its highest. I like to call it the Olympics of cargo right now in terms of how well it is been doing."
The 777X freighter will be the largest cargo aircraft in the market when it is launched, he said.
"We are in pretty advanced discussions with a number of customers," Mr Mounir said.
"The demand is sticking its head up and it looks pretty good, so we will obviously continue talking to customers. We are not at a point yet to make any announcements, whether about customers or for a launch, but we are pretty advanced into the discussions."
The US plane maker confirmed plans for the entry into service of its long-delayed 777X passenger version in 2023 after discussions on the regulatory, flight-testing and market fronts.
Commercial aviation's recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a “strong foothold” in the past several months, with the pick-up in international traffic fuelled by the reopening of transatlantic flights, Mr Mounir said.
Boeing is also "close" to resuming deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft, he said. The deliveries were suspended to allow the plane maker to deal with production flaws.
"This is a case of Boeing being tough on Boeing. This is a case of us looking at every single aspect of the design and manufacture of the plane, making sure we are complying ... we will bring back that plane to delivery as soon as it makes sense and we have all the checks with the regulators and with the customers."
Meanwhile, Boeing is also engaging with the aviation regulators in China regarding the recertification of its 737 Max in a market that has yet to lift a ban on the narrow-body jet.
The 737 Max was given the green light to resume service by regulators in western countries late last year after being grounded for about two years after two fatal crashes.
"The largest jurisdiction that remains out there for the recertification of the plane is China," Mr Mounir said.
"We have had good engagements with the CAAC [Civil Aviation Administration of China] and with the airlines in China, and we had a successful flight test of the 737 in [the country]."
Mr Mounir said Boeing will leave it to regulators to predict the timetable for the plane's return to service.
"When they get comfortable and they are satisfied with all the data we have given them, they will make the announcement," he said. "We are hopeful though that it will be happening here very soon."