Boeing's 7E7 a jumbo inspiration
By JAMES WALLACE
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER AEROSPACE REPORTER
LE BOURGET, France -- On a day when Dubai-based airline Emirates Airlines announced an eye-popping order for 21 more of the 555-passenger A380 superjumbo jets from Airbus, The Boeing Co. disclosed that it is studying an advanced version of its 747 jumbo that would incorporate technology being developed for its superefficient 7E7.
The 747 Advanced, as the program is known, is only a "concept study" for now, said Randy Baseler, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
And he stressed that even if Boeing decides to eventually go ahead with the project, it would not be until after the 7E7 is finished in 2008. That's because the 747 Advanced would use the new fuel-efficient engines developed for the 7E7.
This is the latest in a long line of 747 derivative studies for Boeing. The only recent one that has turned into a plane is the 747-400ER (extended range) that entered service last year with Qantas and Air France.
The 747X , a much bigger plane that would have competed against the A380, was dropped for lack of airline support. More recently, Boeing studied the 747-800X, which would have been a quieter version of the 747-400ER but with about 20 to 30 more seats.
Baseler said all previous 747 derivative studies have been dropped, and Boeing's focus now is the 747 Advanced.
"We have left the others behind," he said. "We are going to really break from what we have done in the past. What this allows us to do is say we have something that is worth waiting for rather than doing little things to the airplane."
The 747 Advanced would deliver about 5 percent lower operating costs than the 747-400ER, he said.
Boeing will work with airlines over the next couple of years to better define the concept.
The 747 Advanced would carry about 440 passengers, or from 20 to 30 more than today's 747-400. That's about three rows of seats in economy class.
It would have a range of about 8,000 nautical miles, or about 300 nautical miles more than the 747-400ER.
In addition to the 7E7 engines, the 747 Advanced might use some of the composite materials being developed for the superefficient plane, though how much has not been determined.
Baseler said the 747 Advanced is sized to fit airline needs. They want planes that go up in size by increments of about 20 percent, he said. The 747 Advanced would have about 20 percent more seats than the 777-300ER. And it would have about 20 percent fewer seats than the A380.
Boeing and Airbus have long disagreed over the size of the market for planes as large as the 747 or bigger. Boeing believes the industry trend is toward smaller jets and that the market for very large planes is too small to justify development of an all-new plane the size of the 747 or A380.
In Boeing's latest 20-year market forecast that Baseler presented at the Paris Air Show yesterday, it is forecasting that airlines will need 900 planes over the next 20 years the size of the 747 or bigger. Of those, 340 will be in the 400- to 500-seat category. The market for jets bigger than 500 seats is 320 planes, according to the Boeing forecast.
"We have a completely different view of the future," Baseler said of Airbus and its optimistic outlook for the A380.
Airbus is betting that airlines will want bigger planes like the A380 as landing slots become more limited at the world's biggest airports such as Heathrow.
That position was boosted with the huge order announcement from Emirates. It had been expected, but the number of planes ordered was still staggering, given the current industry downturn.
In addition to the 21 superjumbos, Emirates agreed to buy two A340-500 and 18 A340-600 planes from Airbus.
It is also leasing an additional two A340-600s and two A380s from International Lease Finance Corp.
Emirates, which already had an outstanding order for 21 A380s, is now due to receive a total of 45 of the double-decker planes.
Emirates also announced it would take 26 Boeing 777-300ER jets. But all those planes will be leased -- 12 from ILFC and 14 from General Electric Capital Aviation Services.
An ILFC spokesman said the Emirates order would be filled with planes already on order from Boeing.
GECAS said it might need to order an additional four 777-300ERs from Boeing to fill the Emirates requirement for 12 planes. But a source said it is more likely GECAS will swap other 777 models already on order from Boeing and lease those to Emirates.
In that case, Boeing's order book would not have changed despite what Emirates said was a $19 billion order for all the Airbus and Boeing planes -- the biggest single order ever placed for widebody planes.
P-I aerospace reporter James Wallace can be reached at 206-448-8040 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Edited 2003-11-21 20:54:38]