Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Boeing Considering 787-Size Medium-Range Jetliners

Boeing is Studying the Feasibility of Midrange Jets Similar in Size to Flagship 787. 

The Wall Street Journal
By Jeffrey Ng

Feb. 11, 2014 3:33 a.m. ET

SINGAPORE— Boeing Co. is studying the feasibility of a medium-range jetliner that is similar in size to its flagship 787 long-haul jets because of strong customer interest, its top commercial aircraft salesman said Tuesday.

The U.S. aircraft manufacturing giant hasn't developed a successor to its midrange Boeing 757 jets, which seat up to 230 passengers, since the company stopped production of the popular plane in 2004, though hundreds are still flying today.

Instead, Boeing has in recent years focused more on revamping its highly successful but smaller 737 series jets and on its long-haul widebodies, such as the 787s and the 777s. But some customers are now asking about a possible midrange option.

"There may be a marketplace...in an airplane that doesn't have the range capability of a 787...but in the size category of 200 to 300 seats," said John Wojick, who heads global sales of commercial aircraft at Boeing, at the Singapore Airshow.

Mr. Wojick said there are many markets in Asia with routes between 4,000 and 5,000 miles in length that would suit such a midrange plane. However, he said the aircraft maker remains in "the study phase and the customer requirement phase" and no decisions have been made on whether to proceed.

"We've got an awful lot of discussions to go with our customers on what the size of that market may be and what kind of interest there is," said Mr. Wojick, noting that this is one of many studies Boeing is undertaking on new aircraft.

For now, Boeing is working on boosting the reliability of its technologically-advanced 787 jets following a spate of technical incidents involving the jets. Meanwhile, the plane maker is trying to fill new orders for its recently-launched 777X, the latest variant of its twin-engine long-haul jetliner.

So far, Boeing has secured firm orders from five international airlines for the new jet, and Mr. Wojick says the company is trying to pitch to existing operators of the 777-300 extended range planes for new orders. One airline Boeing is in discussions with is Singapore Airlines Ltd  which is looking to phase some of its older generation 777s that joined its fleet in the 1990s.

"We spent an awful lot of time speaking to (Singapore Airlines) about the 777X," said Mr. Wojick, noting that Boeing is working hard to secure orders from the premium airline. Singapore Airlines said Tuesday that any discussions it has with aircraft manufacturers are kept confidential.

On the production side, Boeing is also busy fulfilling its large production backlog of orders, which stands at 5,080 planes. The company said it expects to deliver a record 715-725 planes this year, up from 638 last year.

Many of Boeing's orders are coming from emerging markets in Southeast Asia, which fueled a proliferation of low-cost airline travel in the region. While some Asian currencies have weakened significantly in recent months, Mr. Wojick said he is "not seeing a whole lot of impact from our customers on that level."

Source:   http://online.wsj.com

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