Boeing ponders big dream to outfox Airbus

Updated: 2011-06-22 07:53

By Susanna Ray (China Daily)

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Boeing ponders big dream to outfox Airbus

The Boeing Co 787 assembly line in Everett, Washington. The 787-10 could enter service by 2016, according to the company's commercial airplanes chief. Provided to China Daily

PARIS - Boeing Co is leaning toward a bigger version of the 787 Dreamliner as the US company seeks to out-maneuver Airbus SAS in a widebody jetliner market that it reckons will be worth almost $2 trillion over the next 20 years.

The 787-10 could enter service by 2016, Jim Albaugh, Boeing's commercial airplanes chief, said on Monday ahead of the Paris Air Show. That would provide competition for Airbus' A350-900 and steal a march on the larger A350-1000, which won't be ready until 2017, according to a schedule announced on June 18.

"We have to go through some more analysis and we haven't decided yet if we'll offer it, but it wouldn't surprise me if we did," Albaugh said in an interview in the French capital.

Building the 787-10 would help Boeing counter the A350's threat in markets where the company's 777 - which captured the first widebody orders at the show on Tuesday - is dominant, giving it a breathing space to upgrade a design that debuted in the 1990s. The largest Dreamliner would seat as many as 330 people, against 210 to 250 for the 787-8 variant currently in production and 250 to 290 for the planned 787-9. Airbus's A350-series planes will be able to carry between 250 and 400 passengers.

"The A350-900 is aimed directly at the 777-200ER, and the 787-10 would be a good way of defending that turf," said Richard Aboulafia, vice-president of Teal Group, a Fairfax, Virginia-based consulting company. "It means they can attack the replacement market, which is very important."

Boeing, based in Chicago, received the first major order at the Paris expo with a contract from Qatar Airways Ltd for six 777-300ER long-distance planes worth $1.7 billion at list prices.

Qatar Airways Co, the second-biggest Middle Eastern carrier, has 25 777s with 15 more already due for delivery and regards the model as the "backbone" of its long-haul fleet, Chief Executive Officer Akbar al Baker said.

Albaugh said separately that Boeing will have "a number of announcements" for orders at the Paris show this week, including "a few" for its single-aisle 737, which faces competition from Airbus' re-engined A320neo. Qatar Air could place some orders for the neo, al Baker said.

Boeing is seeking to catch Airbus after its rival remained world No 1 last year, delivering a record 510 planes, 48 more than the US company. Airbus is also top by orders, winning contracts for 644 jets, with 70 cancellations giving a net intake of 574. Boeing won 530 net orders after 95 cancellations. Toulouse, France-based Airbus is delaying introducing the A350-1000 by 18 months to add range and payload. The 787-10 won't match that model for distance, said Nick Cunningham, an aerospace analyst at Agency Partners in London, but will fill a "high-capacity, shorter-range niche" and may appeal to carriers that have already signed up for the two smaller variants.

The 787-10 would be about 15 percent bigger than the 787-9, and seat about 40 more passengers, Boeing executives said. Its operating costs would be 10 percent lower than the A350-900 and 5 percent lower than the A350-1000, said Nicole Piasecki, Boeing's head of business development, in a briefing on Tuesday.

"Our customers are very interested in this airplane, and we're in the process now of deciding when to put it into service," Piasecki said.

Boeing is focused on developing models for the longer term and won't merely react to moves at Airbus, Albaugh said in a briefing. Its rival's decision to build a re-engined A320 narrowbody and the more powerful A350 won't necessarily push Boeing to follow suit with the 737 and 777, he said.

Bloomberg News



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