Farnborough Air Show

Boeing predicts 747-8 freighter preferment

 - November 27, 2006, 12:57 PM

Boeing believes that its latest 747 iteration–the 747-8F–could become the freighter of choice among cargo airlines. This assertion by commercial airplanes division president Alan Mulally is not surprising, given that the launch orders for 10 and six aircraft respectively from Cargolux and Nippon Cargo have now been backed by a Heads of Agreement for 10 aircraft from Emirates.

Of about 330 freighters of 747 size or larger that Boeing predicts airlines will acquire over the next 20 years, Mulally argues that the 747-8F would be “clearly preferred” over the competing Airbus A380F–if only because it is designed to be compatible with current 747 freighters.

Last week the U.S. manufacturer forecast a 2005-2024 demand for near 1,000 aircraft of 747 size or larger (up 25 percent on its 2004 forecast), with Mulally suggesting here yesterday that two-thirds–or 660 machines–would be passenger aircraft. Boeing is continuing to define its latest passenger variant, a slightly shorter aircraft than the -8F that is dubbed the -8I (for “intercontinental”).

Mulally said Boeing has recruited airline assistance to finalize the design. The manufacturer needs potential customers to decide how many passengers should be carried and how much they are prepared to trade between range and payload. Boeing is negotiating with more than 25 potential -8I customers, most (if not all) current 747 operators.

The U.S. company also is talking with a similar number of operators about the 787 twin-aisle twinjet now in development. Boeing has firm orders for about 350 examples, with “commitments” said to cover a further 50 or so with almost 30 airlines signed up overall.