Boeing has intensified sales discussions on the proposed 787-10X ahead of a formal launch, summoning key customers to closed-door meetings in Seattle over the last two weeks to refine the definition and performance of the double-stretch model.
"We've been kicking up the conversation a bit," said Randy Tinseth, vice-president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airlines, in an interview on the sidelines of an Aero Club luncheon in Washington DC.
Tinseth avoided a direct answer to a question on whether Boeing's board of directors had approved the "authority to offer" decision on the 787-10X, but said: "We're engaged with our customers. We continue to move closer and closer to the launch of the airplane."
One issue in the timing of the 787-10X launch is the readiness of Boeing's manufacturing operations, he says. Boeing's commercial division is already working to double 787-8 production to 10 per month by the end of 2013 (see below), while also developing the 787-9 for entry into service in 2014 and the re-engined and updated 737 Max in 2017.
Some of Boeing's most influential customers are clearly preparing for an imminent launch decision. Earlier this week, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker expressed interest in converting a portion of its order backlog of 59 787s to the double-stretched 787-10X.
Meanwhile, Air Lease chairman and chief executive Steven Udvar-Hazy and his purchasing management team have met with Boeing officials on the 787-10X product definition at least twice in Seattle since the last week of October.
Udvar-Hazy, who has been an outspoken proponent of the 787-10X for several months, told financial analysts in a conference call last week that Boeing is working to "get that programme kicked off in a very near future".
Despite his support, Udvar-Hazy still wants Boeing to improve on the 6,900nm (12,800km) range widely described as the 787-10X's limit. Tinseth initially laughed when told that Udvar-Hazy had asked for about 7,000nm, but went on to say Boeing has forecast the 787-10X at between 6,800nm to 7,000nm.
But, he emphasised, Boeing wants to limit the design changes required to develop the 787-10X: "We are focusing on a simple stretch of the airplane and we're going to use the engine technologies that are available at that time."