Here's two completely opposing press reports, released the same day..TODAY!!
TOKYO - Struggling US aircraft maker Boeing Co. will announce in January plans for a high-speed Sonic Cruiser commercial plane currently set to be rolled out in 2008, Boeing Japan's president said Thursday.
The introduction of the 250-passenger aircraft - designed to fly 15 to 20% faster than regular planes - was delayed for modifications to help airlines hit hard by the terrorist attacks in September 2001, said Boeing Japan president Robert Orr.
"In the post 9-11 atmosphere, these guys were hit big time by cost challenges," Orr said at a reception marking the company's 50th anniversary in Japan.
"There are some of our customers who've talked to us about, ‘How can we increase fuel efficiency?" Orr said.
"And that may result in a different kind of answer than purely a speed one in the near term."
The Sonic Cruiser's roll-out has already been delayed two years from 2006 to put more technology and more efficient engines into the plane.
Boeing has said it expected to know by the end of 2002 about how many clients would commit to buying the plane, which is designed to fly at just below the speed of sound.
The aircraft, with a distinctive pair of small wings at its front accompanying a fan-shaped wingspan at its rear, would carry passengers at between 1,150-1,186 kilometres an hour.
Business & Technology: Thursday, December 19, 2002
Boeing to scrap Sonic Cruiser in shift from faster to cheaper
By David Bowermaster
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
For the second time in less than two years, Boeing plans to radically alter its product development efforts as it struggles to come up with a new jet that will appeal to the world's airlines and slow the growth of rival Airbus.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Alan Mulally will announce tomorrow that Boeing will cease work on its proposed high-speed Sonic Cruiser and instead develop a conventional airplane that will use lightweight materials and other technologies to operate at significantly lower costs than today's commercial jets.
Mulally is expected to deliver the news at a year-end press luncheon at Seattle's Bell Harbor Conference Center, according to an airline industry executive familiar with Boeing's plans.
A Boeing spokeswoman declined to comment.
Prior to stunning the aerospace world with futuristic images of the Sonic Cruiser on March 29, 2001, Boeing had spent several years developing a stretched version of the 747 that could compete with the 555-seat Airbus A380 due to enter service in 2006.
Boeing canceled the 747X the same day it launched the Sonic Cruiser.
A similar swap will occur tomorrow, as Mulally is expected to talk up the new "super-efficient" aircraft's ability to help financially foundering airlines improve their balance sheets by reducing operating costs 15 to 20 percent.
"There are still doubts about the (Sonic Cruiser) technology, but more importantly its economics have been overtaken by events," said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with the Teal Group, a consulting firm. "Airlines are looking for a bus with wings."
Like the Sonic Cruiser, the new plane is expected to eventually replace Boeing's slow-selling 757 and 767 models, which carry 200 to 250 passengers.
Delivery date uncertain
It is not clear when the new jet would enter service. The projected delivery date for the Sonic Cruiser was 2008, but Boeing had cautioned the date could slip to 2010 depending on the pace of the airline industry recovery.
It is also not clear what level of resources Boeing can commit to any new product in the near term. On a conference call with analysts and reporters to discuss the company's third-quarter earnings, Boeing Chairman Phil Condit said the company would not have a full-fledged launch of any airplane project until late 2003 at the earliest.
Condit also has pledged to hold research and development expenditures at 3 to 3.5 percent of revenues, even as revenues go down, so Boeing can maintain its profitability during the current down cycle. That will mean a shrinking pool of money for new projects. A new airplane model could cost upwards of $10 billion to develop.
The reluctance to bet big on new projects during a downturn runs contrary to Boeing's history and could hurt the company when the economy eventually revives, according to some observers.
"The 777 came at exactly the low point of the last cycle," said Aboulafia, noting that Boeing was recruiting launch customers for the 777 during the recession of the early 1990s. "It was just perfectly positioned for the late 1990s upturn."
Boeing has been cautiously backing away from the Sonic Cruiser business model for several months, saying it will listen to customers and deliver whatever new airplane meets their needs.
When cost controls became paramount as airlines struggled to avert bankruptcy in the spring and summer, Boeing signaled that it was contemplating an alternative to the Sonic Cruiser that would travel at the same speeds as today's aircraft, but with a lower price tag and lower fuel burn.
Additionally, Walt Gillette, the Sonic Cruiser program manager, has stated repeatedly the past six months that any new plane Boeing pursues will leverage breakthroughs in materials and production processes that have come out of Sonic Cruiser research.
Nearly all of the nine Sonic Cruiser supplier partnerships Boeing had announced are with companies that have expertise developing lightweight composite materials, for instance.
Those materials are expected to play a key role in the "super-efficient" aircraft.
"The focus will be getting the weight out of the airplane, which is everything," said the airline industry executive.
Steep airline losses
The demise of the Sonic Cruiser has been anticipated by many in the aerospace industry since last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The subsequent economic downturn, which triggered more than $7 billion in losses at U.S. airlines in 2001, only heightened pessimism about the project.
Airline chiefs such as Gordon Bethune of Continental Airlines and Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic initially gushed about the Sonic Cruiser's promise to cut travel times 15 to 20 percent. By offering such speeds at costs roughly equivalent to today's 767, the Sonic Cruiser would allow airlines to make more money by charging frequent business travelers an even greater premium over coach passengers.
That was the idea, at least. But since the dot-com bust, business travelers have stayed in their offices more and, when they travel, are paying cut-rate prices. Against that backdrop, a premium product such as the Sonic Cruiser lost much of its appeal.
United Airlines is looking for ways to cut $5.2 billion from its annual budget to emerge from bankruptcy, and American Airlines CEO Donald Carty has said his airline must cut up to $4 billion per year if it hopes to survive
Faire du ciel le plus bel endroit de la terre c'est impossible sans Concorde!