Boeing needs to sell 1,500 787s to break even: Udvar-Hazy

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Industry icon Steven Udvar-Hazy has given his assessment of the profitability potential for Boeing's 787, saying the US airframer will need to sell at least 1,500 twinjets to break even after more than three years of delays.

"The breakeven point for the 787 has moved far, far to the right," the Air Lease chairman and chief executive said during the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading conference in Scottsdale, Arizona earlier this month. "You can imagine their [research and development] cost has skyrocketed compared to the original projection."

Boeing has earned 843 orders for the new majority composite twinjet, although the programme has struggled with supply chain and design issues.

"This means the number of aircraft they'll have to sell will be significant and my guess is at least 1,500. But then again, that's a 30- to 40-year production cycle," says Udvar-Hazy. Boeing estimates the market for 787-sized aircraft is more than 3,300 units, with an expectation to capture at least half of the market over 29 years.

That target for 787 profitability sets a high bar, given that the company sold 1,525 of its original 747 widebodies in more than a 40-year production run, making it the most popular twin-aisle jet in commercial aviation history.