Scott Carson has signalled that Boeing's product development strategy to counter the Airbus A350-1000 may exclude major new derivatives of the 777, with the airframer not planning to develop an all-new large widebody twinjet for another decade.
The Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive made the revelation during an address to Wall Street analysts on 6 February, when he proposed a possible two-tiered strategy involving the 787-10 stretch and a refreshed 777-300ER development to address the emerging threat of the 350-seat A350-1000.
The absence of a major 777 development in the company's near-term product line-up would disappoint some major customers, such as International Lease Finance chief Steven Udvar-Hazy and Emirates Airline boss Tim Clark who have both urged Boeing to develop a 777-300ER-sized A350-1000 challenger with 787 technology. British Airways has also been pushing for a competitive offering in the large twinjet market to counter the A350-1000 in its current campaign.
BA has been pushing Boeing to launch a rival to the A350-1000 (above)
The proposed 787-10, likely to be a 305-seater, "is a good product against the -200, 200ER-class airframe", says Carson. "The 777-300ER is a little bigger and the 777-200LR
has a little more legs so they could well co-exist. That will be part of the product and market studies that we continue to refine."
Carson also emphasises that Boeing believes the basic 777 airframe can remain competitive through the next decade with perhaps a "modest" refresh, focusing on engine and airframe technologies.
"There comes a time when you think about what you're going to do with the upper-end of that marketplace," he says. "We'll make some decisions about what to do with a major refresh, but we're not in any panic about that. We think its doing incredibly well in the marketplace right now."
Rather, Boeing still plans to hold off developing a new widebody in the 380-seat-and-above class market for at least 10 years, he said, adding such an aircraft would feature an all-composite airframe like the 787.
Carson's remarks came against the backdrop of a nine-month flight test delay for the 787 programme. The extra effort has forced Boeing to keep research and development expenditures flat in 2008 at between $3.2 billion and $3.4 billion. Previously, the company had hoped to reduce such costs to $2.8 billion by end-year, meaning the cost of the 787 delay may erode Boeing's war chest for launching new development programmes.