Boeing has started discussions with airline and leasing customers about technical, pricing and schedule aspects of the proposed 777X widebody, the company confirmed last week. It said it will decide whether or not to formally launch the program based on the market’s response.
Boeing’s board of directors authorized starting the customer discussions last Monday, during a meeting at the company’s Chicago headquarters that coincided with its annual shareholders meeting. The board’s approval to proceed followed Airbus’s announcement on April 22 that British Airways plans to buy 18 Airbus A350-1000s. Widely considered the main competition for a new 777X, the A350-1000 will enter service in 2017 if all goes according to plan.
The 777X would likely feature composite wings, drawing from Boeing’s experience with the 787 Dreamliner, as well as new engines and possibly an extended fuselage. In March, Boeing identified GE as its sole engine partner for the 777X development study. GE said it plans to spend $200 million this year on further developing the technology of its next-generation GE90 engine–the GE9X–under study for the new 777. According to the engine maker, the GE9X would generate approximately 100,000 pounds of thrust and burn 10 percent less fuel than the engine that powers the 777-300ER, the GE90-115B.
As it indicated in previous pronouncements, Boeing continues to cite a service-entry target of the end of the decade for the new 777. “We are aggressively moving forward per our plan and customers are happy with our progress,” it said. “We are confident that, when the market demands it, we will develop and deliver a superior airplane that ensures the 777 remains the unequivocal long-haul leader.”