Boeing cites high stakes for first narrowbody replacement on market

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Boeing believes that the 20,000 aircraft replacement opportunity for the next generation narrowbody aircraft has enormous stakes for the airframer that brings the aircraft first to market.

Managing director of Boeing Capital Corporation Kostya Zolotusky explains that the airframer proved successful as a first mover with the 787, but tells ATI at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Aviation Symposium that it took a different approach with the 777.

The manufacturer opted to wait two years after the debut of the four-engine Airbus A340 to offer the two-engine 777 with the same technology, explains Zolotusky. "What happens is the A340 doesn't exist today."

Using developing widebody technology also poses problems as Zolotusky says the logic of paying for more expensive composite materials to achieve weight savings on a larger aircraft like the 787 does not translate to a smaller narrowbody aircraft.

Likewise, using the larger generators of the all-electric 787 to replace pneumatic systems on narrowbody aircraft is not a workable solution as scaling those generators down is difficult.

Boeing is interested in observing how the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan operates once it accumulates thousands of hours on the Bombardier CSeries. He believes the GTF could supply an "economic jump", but a geared architecture on a high cycle aircraft could require a higher level of maintenance and parts.

Boeing rival Airbus admits that attention on a narrowbody replacement "was much greater six months ago", says Airbus Americas VP marketing North America Mary Prettyman.

Recognizing that customers are looking for significant cost improvements Prettyman explains the work Airbus has done with the advisory council for aeronautics research in Europe (ACARE) points to 50% reduction in fuel burn and efficiency.

Admitting those targets are "challenging" Prettyman says it is unclear if they can be met. However, she says the airframer has every intention of meeting those goals.