Boeing may build larger 787 to beat rival Airbus
Published 21/06/2011 | 05:00
Boeing is leaning towards a bigger version of the 787 Dreamliner as the US company seeks to outmanoeuvre Airbus SAS in a widebody jetliner market it reckons will be worth almost $2trillion (€1.39tn) over the next 20 years.
The 787-10 could enter service by 2016, Jim Albaugh, Boeing's commercial airplanes chief, said yesterday ahead of the Paris Air Show. That would provide competition for Airbus's A350-900 and steal a march on the larger A350-1000, which won't be ready until 2017, according to a schedule announced 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 is dominant, providing a breathing space to upgrade a design that debuted in the 1990s.
The largest Dreamliner would seat upwards of 300 people, versus 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."
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 would fill a "high-capacity, shorter- range niche" and may appeal to carriers that have already signed up for the two smaller variants.
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.
"If we were thinking tactically it might drive us in that direction, but I think we're thinking more strategically and long-term," he said, adding that a new single-aisle plane should last 50 years. "We will have an answer on the 777; whether increments or a significant derivative remains to be seen."
A decision on whether to offer an all-new narrow body or opt to re-engine will be made "probably by the end of the year", he said. Boeing will evaluate the timetable and performance of the A350-1000 before reaching a conclusion regarding the 777.
"The issue is whether they decide to respond with a 777 upgrade or replacement," said Mr Cunningham.
"They won't do two programmes at the same time."
Meanwhile, Boeing won't be rushed into a decision to re-engine its 737 single-aisle aircraft, which is sold out until 2016. Boeing will have a "good" air show, and Albaugh predicted a "flurry of activity" following the company's decision, which is likely by the end of the year. (Bloomberg)