DERIVATIVES OF the 747, and not a new design, are emerging as the leading options from Boeing's New Large Airplane (NLA) initiative. Meanwhile, studies of a Very Large Commercial Transport (VLCT) with the Airbus partners appear to be reaching a hiatus.
President of Boeing Commercial Airplane Group Ron Woodard says: "We remain convinced that there is only room for one aircraft the size of a VLCT, and we will pursue this development only if it makes economic sense. At the moment, we continue to assess the market for this kind of aircraft." He adds: "Airbus is eager to go it alone and launch the A3XX."
The VLCT market studies hinge on the Asia-Pacific route network. "The challenge is: will the Pacific marketplace fragment? History has shown that the Atlantic fragmented when twinjets appeared - nearly all of them 767s," says Woodard. He warns that "...we are convinced a company the size of Boeing would be threatened, even if we were in a partnership, if the marketplace wasn't there".
Commenting on "possible derivatives," Woodard says: "Clearly, the 747 will have a long and substantial future." Boeing is studying -500 and -600 versions of the 747 which are stretched derivatives of the current 747 fuselage, but with a new wing based on 777-type design technology. The -500 would accommodate 500-600 passengers, while the larger -600 would be capable of carrying nearly 800.
By developing 747 derivatives, rather than an NLA, Boeing is expected to capitalise on the existing 747 market base.