I wouldn't be completely surprised by 200 firm orders this year, though it would be a formidable challenge.
has already committed to 50, with a contract to be finalized once an engine supplier is chosen (strong odds are on GE
is strongly rumored to be close to an order for the six 'majors.' Word is that this order has the possibility of being larger than the ANA order, which is not surprising when one considers it will be spread among 6 different airlines.
is widely expected to order the aircraft before Farnborough. Although I have not heard a definite size of the order, I would assume @ 20-25.
Either one of the leasing companies, ILFC
could quite possibly order the aircraft this year. However, both have adopted the policy in recent years to only order aircraft they have customers lined up for, so I still have some hesitation about listing them as initial launch customers.
Ideally, Boeing would also want an early European launch customer. Lufthansa
seems the most likely. Alitalia has been publically after the 7E7 for over a year now, while Lufthansa seems interested, but appears to be holding their cards close to their chest. I would consider Air Berlin
a long-shot, though I do expect a large narrowbody order this year, probably more 737NGs.
Air New Zealand
has made headlines recently for their ongoing campaign for a 767-300ER replacement. Though the order has been delayed in order to consider Boeing's 7E7 offer, price appears to be an issue. Perhaps in conjunction with one of the leasors mentioned above?
Finally, perhaps the two airlines most mentioned here and elsewhere: JAL
. Personally, I don't expect either to announce an order this year. JAL have publically said they are not looking at ordering anymore aircraft anytime soon. Though I am 100% confident they will order the aircraft eventually, it won't be this year. Emirates seems very keen on the 7E7-9 to replace their A330-200 fleet starting @ 2010. However, there doesn't appear to be an rush at the airline to place an order, especially considering that, even a year's delay, would still put them in prime position to be the -9's launch customer.
In conclusion, 200 by year's end might be pushing it, but is possible. 500 by 2008? That would definitely entail one or more of the U.S. majors getting strongly behind the program, with their finances firmly behind them. The timing of the latter point is wide open to debate. . .
Honor the warriors, not the war.