Monday, March 09, 2015

Boeing Boosts 777’s Appeal, Eyes New Midsize Jet • Company aims to boost fuel efficiency, accommodate extra seats

The Wall Street Journal
By Jon Ostrower

Updated March 9, 2015 5:07 p.m. ET

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.— Boeing Co. is improving its existing 777 jetliner with better fuel efficiency and more seats in a bid to boost sales before a revamped version arrives early next decade, a senior executive said Monday.

The package of changes aims to boost the existing jet’s efficiency by 5% per passenger, include a 2% reduction in the amount of fuel needed per flight overall, and can accommodate 14 extra seats for aircraft delivered from the third quarter of next year.

Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president of marketing, outlined five focus areas for the 777. These include incremental changes to the jet’s General Electric Co. engines, a 1,200-pound weight reduction and minor modifications to the aerodynamics of the aircraft, which is the backbone of the company commercial profitability.

Boeing early next decade will transition production of the existing 777 to the heavily-upgraded 777X after 2020 when the upgraded jet begins deliveries. The revamped jet adds new engines and larger carbon-fiber composite wings. Production of the 777X begins in 2017 on a dedicated assembly line, while production of the current generation aircraft continues.

Boeing needs to sell between 40 and 60 existing 777s a year to maintain output at 100 each year. Boeing said last week it had sold half of the jets it will build in 2017, but signaled the company was open to a possible change of production rate if demand doesn’t materialize as expected.

In the longer term, Mr. Tinseth told a conference hosted by the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading that customer feedback is pushing Boeing to evaluate a new product that fits between today’s single-aisle 737 and larger long-range 787. He said airlines and lessors are interested in a jetliner that can fly about 4,800 nautical miles and is larger than its 180 to 240-seat 757, which the company discontinued a decade ago.

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