Obtaining approval to launch the 787-10X is Boeing's top product development priority, as the timing for a go-ahead decision on the 777X has become less certain.
"The big decisions ahead of us from the perspective of where we're going to be investing start with the 787-10x as a complementary 787 family member," says Nicole Piasecki, Boeing's vice-president of business development and strategic integration.
The 787-10X is set up as a medium-range derivative of the 787-9, stretching the fuselage to add more payload capacity. The aircraft is aimed at key growth markets on dense trunk routes that include connecting city-pairs within China, from the Middle East to Europe and between Europe and North America, Piasecki says.
Boeing's preliminary performance targets for the new variant exceed even the initial 20% margin of fuel efficiency initially promoted for the 787-8.
"The seat mile economics of this airplane is unbelievable - 25-30% better than the [Airbus] A330," Piasecki says. "It will [make the A330] completely obsolete."
Boeing is refining details of all of the changes to the engineering and production system that are required to accommodate the 787-10X, but the emphasis is on maintaining as much commonality as possible with the 787-9's lay-out and infrastructure. "Minimal change is the best," Piasecki notes.
Any engineering changes are being kept to a minimum, except to add the required fuselage stretch, larger engines and strengthened structures to support the extra weight and aerodynamic loads.
The emphasis on minimising change also extends to the 787's stabilising production system. The Boeing Dreamlifter, which ships fuselage barrels from sub-assembly to final assembly stages, was designed to accommodate the dimensions of a theoretical 787-10X, Piasecki says.