Clark: 777-300ER responsible for sparse 747-8I sales

Washington DC
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Emirates president Tim Clark believes the success of the Boeing 777-300ER is behind the lack of success so far for the 747-8I, which has only secured 25 orders from two airline customers since its launch in 2006.

"What Boeing is up against is not the A380, it is their own machine - the 777-300ER," Clark told reporters on 9 February in Washington DC. "The ER has proven to be one of the most popular aircraft ever produced, which is why we bought 100 of them. Even American is buying them. Not many but ,when they start flying it, they will realise how good it is."

Clark points out that Emirates carries 420 passengers on its 777-300ERs in a two-class configuration. He believes the 747-8I will only be able to carry slightly more passengers.

"Now look at the economics. We can get the ER to operate 17.5h with that kind of payload. It's cheap to operate. The engines are hugely fuel efficient," he says. "You've got an amazing capability."

He also thinks the 747-8I will be "a fuel-efficient machine" as it has new wings and a new propulsion system. However, Emirates has absolutely no interest in the aircraft and Clark does not see how many carriers can justify acquiring the 747-8I given the operating economics of the 777-300ER.

But he adds: "I hope they get it out the door because there are so many difficulties at the moment now with the manufacturing fraternity - with the 787, the 747-8, the A380 trying to get that out the door four or five years ago and then the A400M programme. So they have all been up against it."

Emirates also has been noticeably absent on Boeing's 787 order book. Clark continues to maintain the 787-8 and 787-9 are simply too small for Emirates.

He says a few years ago ex-Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Alan Mulally had an opportunity to secure Emirates as the launch customer for the proposed 787-10 stretch but decided against signing the 50-aircraft order. Given the subsequent problems and delays with development of the 787-8 and -9, it seems in hindsight Mulally made the right move.

"This was Alan Mulally the aeronautical engineer. He wouldn't sign it," Clark recalls. "He must have had not misgivings but concerns the bigger the aircraft you got the more you were going to have to rely on the analytical work that was going onto a new aircraft with new materials, new composites on a scale you had never seen before."