PARIS -- The show has been a buzz with talk of Boeing's next move on the 737, yet the airframer has provided some clarity on near term and longer term 777 improvements, including the 777+ and conceptual studies for aircraft it has dubbed the 777-8X and 777-9X, intended as a possible response to the updated A350-1000 now available in 2017.
"We're taking the -1000 very seriously," said Albaugh, "We're going to put our assessment on when that plane can be available. We'll take a hard look on how long it will take them to go up in rate. Whether or not that is incremental improvements or a significant derivative [for the 777] it remains to be seen."
In the near-term, said Boeing vice president of business development, Nicole Piasecki, the airframer is evaluating a series of incremental updates dubbed the 777+, which include extending the wingspan of the 777, along with adding avionics enhancements, similar to that of the 747-8, providing additional capability to the flight deck for the crew without changing the display area.
The 777+ marks a return to the forefront of the extended wingspan option after being shelved in 2010 as the company explored other options for the long-range widebody. At the time of its evaluation, the extended wing could have been available as early as the fourth quarter of 2012, said company sources.
Industry and company sources also indicate structural modifications are being evaluated to more comfortably accommodate 10-abreast seating in economy class.
Further, Boeing and General Electric are exploring ways to introduce GEnx engine technology into the GE90, which is exclusively available on the 777 family.
"What we'll do on the 777 is continue to improve airplane we have," said James Albaugh, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO, "But we also have some major upgrades we could do in the event that we have to respond to a move by the competition."
In the longer term, Boeing vice president of sales Marlin Dailey, says longer-term improvements to the 777 including examining the "up-gauging" or stretching the fuselage, though the conceptual 777-9X and 777-8X, available early next decade.
Industry sources said the -9X would be an additional stretch to the 777-300ER, while the -8X would be an shrink of the 365-seat jet.
Conceptually the 777-8X and -9X would allow Boeing to span the products between the conceptual 290 to 330-seat 787-10X and 467-seat 747-8.