|Quoting FlyCaledonian (Thread starter):|
I was pondering one of those what if questions. What if Boeing hd got enough interest from airlines in the late 1990s and had been able to launch the 747-500X and 747-600X? (I'm assuming here that Beoing was able to price it in such a way that the airlines were happy to buy it)
* Would there have been incentive for Boeing to launch the 77W if it had an improved 747 with a 777 type wing?
* Would a 747-500X/747-600X platform have given an improved platform from which a 747-8 could be an effective challanger to the A380?
Most likely scenario is the 777-300ER would still have been launched. Airlines would have demanded it. It may not have been launched quite as soon, but it would still exist (and if it was launched later, then that only means Airbus would have won more orders for the A340-600).
The 747-500/600 may have sold a little bit, but unless we're assuming some significant alternate course of economic history, sales probably would have stalled out. Airbus would have gone ahead with the A380 anyway, and while the newer 747s may have taken some of the orders, I don't think it would have done all that much damage.
Ultimately, they probably would have been relative duds, maybe not quite as bad as the 747SP and 767-400ER were, and the 747-8 will be (because they also would have taken sales away from the 747-400, and the 747-400ER probably wouldn't have been developed), but they wouldn't set the market on fire.
If you think about it, if the 747-8, with all the various design advancements included that became available, can't compete against the A380 or 777, a plane with technology that is 12 or so years older would be at an even greater disadvantage. And if Boeing was still reeling from the costs of developing a 747-500 and/or -600, they probably wouldn't be all that interested in spending even more money on the -8, so at best you might have a slightly upgraded 747-600, which in today's market would fare even worse than the -8.
The biggest reason the 747-500 and 600 didn't get built is because airlines didn't want to order them. To change that fact, you'd have to change the underlying economic forces that caused that condition. You can "assume" that they were able to price it at a level where airlines could buy it, but what does that mean? Wave a magic wand and build them for free? Find efficient production techniques that made the planes cheaper to build (yet somehow didn't make 777s equally cheaper to build, so airlines wouldn't still want the 777)? Or, they could just price them below cost and take a loss on the sales in order to sell the planes. The flip side is to assume that airlines in the late 1990s were in a healthier financial position (which means things like SARS or the Asian Financial Crisis never happened) and could afford the higher prices. But if you make that assumption, then lots and lots of history changes, and who knows what would have happened even two years later, let alone 15.
The fact is that fuel prices have gone up, and the global economy has had some turbulent times over the past decade and a half. Those two factors have pushed airlines to demand fuel efficiency, which the 747 simply can't offer. Therefore, it's really hard to see any scenario that would put us in a significantly different position than we are in today.
I've always been struck by the fact that after a successful 777 launch, then the update and launch of the 737NG, Boeing seemed to struggle to do a similar update of the 747, 757 and 767.
It's not so much that Boeing has "struggled" to update the planes (though Boeing never even tried to update the 757, so I don't think that counts as a struggle if they don't even attempt). It's that the planes just weren't right for the market of the 2000s. The 747 doesn't offer airlines much that the 777-300ER can't already do, and that fact won't change no matter what Boeing does (it's a matter of physics). Since Boeing scrapped the 747-500 and -600 in the late 1990s, they haven't really put much effort into the VLA market because they simply don't believe there is enough of a market to make investment worthwhile. Once Airbus got into the game with the A380, which has the advantage of having been designed from scratch three-plus decades after the 747, the best Boeing could seriously do is keep them in check with the 747 to prevent Airbus from making runaway profits on sales. The only way Boeing could seriously compete in that size range is with an all-new design, which they simply aren't willing to do.
The 767 had the stillborn -400ERX, but Boeing ultimately realized they needed a new design, which, after they aborted the Sonic Cruiser, is where the 787 came from. If not for the military contracts, the 767 line would have been shut down a couple years ago.
The 757 just became redundant once the 737 grew enough in capabilities to do the vast majority of the 757's missions at a much lower cost.
So really, except for the 500+ seat market, Boeing has already updated those product lines. They're just not called 747, 757 or 767 anymore.
The plural of Airbus is Airbuses. Airbii is not a word, and doesn't even make sense.