Boeing expects Qatar to announce “within a few days” an order for two C-17s plus two purchase options, in a deal that will mark the first sale of the military transport aircraft to a Middle Eastern customer.
If Qatar confirms the purchase, it will receive its two firm aircraft in August 2009, says Boeing’s C-17 business development director Dan Page. The manufacturer has delivered 174 of the 190 aircraft ordered by the US Air Force, will hand over a sixth aircraft to the UK Royal Air Force this week, and has also delivered four aircraft each to Canada and Australia.
Boeing urgently needs more orders to keep the production line open. It is already having to purchase long-lead items for unsold production slots in the hope of winning further export orders, including a three-aircraft deal for NATO, plus a potential contract for 30 more transports in two tranches for the US Air Force.
If the production line can be sustained Page still sees potential demand for a commercial C-17 variant.
“I think the customers would be there if the aircraft continues in production long enough for [civil] certification,” says Page.