* Engine for re-engined 737 to have 68-inch fan
* 777 orders seen strong
* Dubai Aerospace converts five 747-8 Freighter orders
* Shares up 2.8 pct
Nov 3 (Reuters) - Boeing Co said on Thursday it now has more than 600 order commitments from eight airlines for its 737 MAX, which it plans to offer with a new fuel-efficient engine.
“On the 737 MAX, we have north of 600 commitments and we also have quite a number of ongoing discussions with customers,” Jim Albaugh, chief executive of the company’s commercial airplanes division, told the Goldman Sachs Global Industrials conference, which was broadcast over the Internet.
In August, the plane maker cited 496 commitments from five customers for the 737 MAX, a version of the company’s best-selling 737 narrowbody with new engines that will compete with the re-engined A320neo family from EADS’ Airbus.
Albaugh added that once the company finalizes what the guarantees of the new 737 plane will be, it will work on getting definitive agreements in place with customers.
He also said the company has decided on a 68-inch fan diameter for the engine on the 737 MAX, which will be supplied by CFM International, a venture between General Electric Co of the United States and France’s Safran .
The 68-inch fan is the largest that could be placed on the engine without forcing Boeing to embark on costly further development to raise the plane higher off the ground, which would necessitate a longer landing gear and adjustments to the underbelly of the aircraft.
The fan decision is a key milestone in the design of the jet. Boeing said firm configuration of the plane is scheduled for 2013, first flight is set for 2016 and deliveries are to begin in 2017.
Albaugh also said he is driving toward an earlier service entry date than 2017.
“One of the things that I want to do on this program is I want to underpromise and ... overdeliver,” Albaugh said. “I think we learned our lesson on the 747 and the 787: Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”
Albaugh said orders for the 777 widebody, which currently stand at 132 (net) year-to-date as of this week, are looking strong. “The most we’ve ever sold in a year is 154 and I feel pretty good about the chances of ... getting orders for more than that this year,” Albaugh said.
Separately, Boeing said Dubai Aerospace agreed to convert five of the 15 747-8 Freighter planes it had on order to five 777 Freighter planes to be operated by Emirates Airline. Its order update for the week ended Nov. 1 also noted two new orders for the 777 by unidentified customers.
The 747-8 Freighter program was dealt a setback in September when Boeing was forced to postpone first delivery of the plane to Luxembourg-based Cargoluxamid a dispute. The freight carrier took delivery of Boeing’s first 747-8 Freighter last month.
Shares of Boeing, a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average , were up 2.8 percent, or $1.82, to $66.22.