Boeing expected to increase 737 production

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Boeing Co. is expected to increase production targets for its popular 737 jets.

The Chicago-based airplane maker is churning out 42 of its 737s a month now and already planned to boost production to 47 a month in 2017. Now the company is expected to increase production even more, possibly to 52 planes per month beginning in 2018.

The speculation was fueled by chief financial officer Greg Smith’s comments at an investors conference last week and the company’s growing backlog.

“We continue to see very strong demand,” Smith said, according to Reuters. “In particular on the 737 there is more pressure on the upside, and we will address that in the months to come.”

The backlog of 737s is at a record 3,952 aircraft, or nearly eight years of work, a level executives worry might discourage future orders, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports. Any increase in output would likely mean more hiring in the Puget Sound region, where much of the work on 737 is done.

Boeing completed its 8,000th 737 airplane, the best-selling jet of all time. The milestone jet was delivered to United Airlines in April.

The company’s next generation of the aircraft is called the 737 MAX, which will be available in 2017 and come in three versions. Southwest Airlines, which flies an all-737 fleet, is the MAX launch customer, with 200 firm orders and options for 191 more.

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