Still larger BBJs are on Boeing drawing boards

 - November 28, 2006, 5:30 AM

Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) has been sending out initial proposals for “green” corporate versions of the proposed 747-8 jetliner, for which parent company Boeing still seeks a launch customer. Here at EBACE 2006 yesterday, BBJ president Steve Hill said that a first buyer could be identified within about two months.

Uncompleted “green” examples of corporate variants of the new 787 jetliner (dubbed 787 VIP) will be available from August 2012, said Hill. The 787 VIP is nominally priced at around $140 million, but this 2005 value will escalate by the time deliveries begin in 2012.

The new design, which is being offered in both -8 and -9 versions, is a candidate to launch additional BBJ designations should Boeing extend the now-established brand for non-commercial/military jetliner sales. Hill explained that, unusually, the longer -9 model offered essentially the same range as the -8 and that the prospective launch customer has become more attracted by the former’s 360-sq-ft larger cabin.

He confirmed that a possible larger 787-10 jetliner currently being studied would have a shorter range. All 787 cabins are at least as large as the 767-400 and offer more than twice the floor area of the BBJ 3.

With a 75-passenger load, a 787-based BBJ could reach “anywhere but New Zealand” from London, according to Hill. The rear section is likely to be outfitted with typical airliner-style side-panels, ceilings and overhead bins, with forward overhead flight-crew and rear cabin-crew rest areas.

According to BBJ cabin area/ range briefing notes seen by EBACE Convention News, the 747-8, 787-8 and -9, and the 777-200LR all could offer corporate operators about 9,250 to 9,400 nm of range.

Hill conceded that if an existing 787 customer had ordered an aircraft with a view to selling it before delivery, such an airframe could be available to a noncommercial buyer before other 787 VIP deliveries. He explained that for basic “green” aircraft BBJ had made certain choices–such as adoption of the large transverse galley. Production considerations mean that aircraft would be subject to buyer-furnished equipment definitions early in manufacture.

Jet Aviation is leading proposals for potential 787 VIP cabin interiors, but Hill hopes all six approved BBJ completion centers would become involved.

The company has sold a 737-700C with an obligation to fit additional tanks once an auxiliary fuel system is certified. Hill said this means that a convertible cargo variant already is “on the way” to becoming a fourth member of the BBJ family. “It is a natural progression to market it as the BBJ C.”

With six auxiliary fuel tanks, the model would offer about a 5,000-nm range in passenger mode, or about 4,400 nm in typical freight configuration. The cabin could be completely reconfigured from a 126-seat passenger layout to eight-pallet cargo interior in about six hours.

The first available production line slot for a BBJ C is in mid-2008, preceded next year by the ordered 737-700C. Questioned about a cargo door for BBJ 2- and BBJ 3-based convertible freighters, Hill pointed out that the door has not been certified on the basic 737-800 and -900 models.

Hill said the BBJ 3, a 737-900ER-based model given the go-ahead almost 12 months ago and announced at last November’s Dubai Air Show, would be available for delivery from the middle of 2008.

Orders for BBJs now total 108, including 13 larger BBJ 2 models, said Hill. Recent new business–11 orders since EBACE 2005–has been running at the rate of about one aircraft a month since the joint venture with engine manufacturer General Electric was launched almost 10 years ago.

By region, about a third of the BBJ market is centered on North America, with Middle East customers taking one aircraft in four.