Not that long ago, the Boeing (NYSE: BA ) story was all about the 787. "The most successful launch of a new commercial airplane in Boeing's history" was going to transform Boeing, leapfrog Airbus and its dratted A380 flying elephant, and secure decades of growth for America's premier airplane maker.
That may still be the case (despite a few, ahem, setbacks). But lately, it's been looking like Boeing's real ace in the hole is 50 clicks lower on the altimeter. Specifically, at the 737 level. Last week, Boeing announced a blockbuster sales week -- seven days, 104 new aircraft sold. Not content to coast, Boeing followed that announcement with an even better one yesterday. Penciling in 30 new 737s on its order book, Boeing has now sold more planes in the last two weeks -- 134 total, with all disclosed orders being 737s -- than it sold in all of last quarter (124).
Boeing's playing coy on who ordered the latest batch of planes (worth as much as $2.6 billion at list prices), but whoever's fronting the cash, one thing is clear: Boeing's 737 has become a major success story. And once more, General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , United Technologies (NYSE: UTX ) , and Honeywell (NYSE: HON ) owe Boeing a thank-you note for all the new business they'll be doing, providing plane parts.
Bigger and better
Investors have already lifted Boeing stock 6% since the start of last week. But fasten your seat belts, folks, because peering out the porthole, I see more good news coming down the runway. Three times in the past five months, Boeing has upped the production rate on its 737, either in response to or in anticipation of new orders (and perhaps a little of both).
With Southwest (NYSE: LUV ) airlines doing its part to shore up domestic demand by buying AirTran (NYSE: AAI ) , a second all-Boeing flier, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see Boeing try to capitalize on all the new production scale it's amassed to go after its long-sought Ryanair (Nasdaq: RYAAY ) contract with seriously aggressive pricing. Should Boeing win that 200-plane tranche, it would more than double the orders it's already booked this month. This would almost certainly compel Boeing to announce another increase in its production rate.
When and if that's the way things play out, I expect a lot of investors will sit up and take notice: Boeing is going gangbusters.