McNerney sees potential for new 747 orders in 2010

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Boeing CEO James McNerney says that while the recession has not helped the marketing of the 747-8, he expects to see some orders for the jumbo in the second half of the year.

"I think you're going to see some thaw in this market this year toward the second half of this year, I think you'll see some orders that are in the midst of discussions right now," said McNerney during the 11 February Cowen and Company Aerospace/Defence Conference.

McNerney appeared to signal that the 747-8F, which flew for the first time on 8 February, was the likely candidate for more orders.

"[Freight operators] have been focused wholly on getting capacity out for the last 18 months, now they realize they may be short. So we're getting pickup on discussions on the freighter side," says McNerney.

Boeing holds orders for 76 747-8Fs, with the first delivery scheduled during the fourth quarter of 2010 to Luxembourg-based Cargolux.

On the passenger side, the 747-8I which has earned 20 orders from Lufthansa, five from Korean Air and seven from VIP customers, remains stalled by cautious buying in the face of the global recession.

"We've kept a lot of passenger discussions warm on this side, but no one is buying $250 million machines. We're hopeful that some things could pop, we had a nice order at the end of last year from Korean Air to join Lufthansa as launch customer on the passenger side. So we've always had faith in this airplane, the recession has not helped its marketing," adds McNerney.

The large aircraft market has been the hardest hit by the recession with just a combined total of nine aircraft ordered between Boeing and Airbus in 2009. Boeing earned an order for five 747-8Is from Korean Air, while Airbus booked four A380 orders, split evenly between Korean Air and Air Austral.