Boeing Commercial Airplanes has begun to study the possibility of redesigning the wing on the 777 in an effort to more effectively compete against the Airbus A350XWB-1000. Chief executive Scott Carson told a press conference here in Paris yesterday that a re-winged 777 could offer an alternative to the still unlaunched 787-10, the so-called double stretch of the baseline 787-8 that stands ready to fly for the first time by the end of this month.
Although he said any move to re-wing the 777 won’t necessarily spell the end of the 787-10–discussions about which the company continues to hold with potential customers–Carson characterized the notion that the Boeing would most probably pursue one approach or the other as a “fair assessment.” Carson also said that it remained “too early to tell” when such a project would get under way.
“Are we done [with the 777]?” Carson asked rhetorically. “Absolutely not…But it will require the right focus and a close cooperation with our customers…Competition will remain intense, and that’s good.” He cited examples of how Boeing has already developed the 777 product line, such as the 777 Freighter and a 600-nm increase in range for the 777-300ER.
Carson definitively put to rest any thought that the 787 would fly for the first time this week. “If you were expecting the 787 to fly during the airshow, you will be disappointed,” he said. Boeing had previously hoped to have the long-delayed, new widebody airborne by the time the gates opened at Le Bourget this week.
Still, plans call for first flight to happen before the end of this month, and entry into service during next year’s first quarter. “We have chosen not to be driven by airshows,” said Carson. “The 787 will fly when it’s ready.”
Meanwhile, Boeing’s other high-profile development project–the 747-8–has gained momentum and in what is described as “yet one more significant migration” for the so-called Queen of the Skies, will reach its first-flight milestone before the end of this year, Carson confirmed. First deliveries of the cargo version of the airplane–to Luxembourg’s Cargolux–remain on schedule for delivery in the third quarter of 2010. As for the passenger version of the airplane, the Intercontinental, Carson expressed some disappointment over the relative lack of firm customers beyond Lufthansa. “Clearly we would have liked customers last year,” he conceded.
Overall, however, Carson’s tone remained relatively upbeat throughout the proceedings. In fact, he said he senses that the global economy appears nearly ready for its long-awaited rebound. “We may have reached the bottom, both in air freight and passenger traffic…It feels like we’re bouncing off the bottom of the cycle,” concluded Carson.
“It feels to us that by the middle of next year growth will return to the industry,” he said.