SINGAPORE 2010: 757 replacement gets new focus as 787-3 dwindles

Singapore
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With the apparent demise of the short-range 787-3 looming large, Boeing says a medium-range Dreamliner is not on the cards, but it envisages its future 737 successor plans to include a replacement for the 757.

"Let's just be blunt," says Boeing Commercial Airplanes' vice-president marketing Randy Tinseth, at the Singapore air show. "We have no orders for [787-3] today, it was an airplane that was designed for the Japanese market."

privatair boeing 757-200 privatair 
 Boeing 757-200

The Singapore air show marked the rhetorical end of the line for the high-density, short-range 787 as its two customers, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, have converted their respective orders to the long-range -8 variant, which has eliminated the order backlog.

"I don't think we've made a final decision, but I would be hard pressed to tell you that it would be a part of the family going forward," says Tinseth.

Tinseth says that compared with the 787-3, the 787-8 is more efficient on stages of more than 370km (200nm), which is attributable to the -8's longer wingspan, which was not designed to fit in a 767 footprint, unlike the -3.

The closure of one door on the development of the 787-3, an aircraft that was meant to fly 330 passengers 4,630-5,650km, frees up resources for near-term derivatives, yet Tinseth says that it is "not in the plans" for Boeing to develop a medium-range 787 with an equivalent payload and range of a 201-seat 757-200 and 7,600km.

Tinseth says that instead of adapting a 787 to a 757 mission, examining a formal 757 replacement is part of the mandate provided to Mike Bair, who has been tasked with leading the company's newly formed 737 Advanced Product-Development programme.

Both Boeing and Airbus have attempted to fill a hole left by the 757-200, the last delivery of which was in 2005 to Shanghai Airlines, although neither airframer has been able to build an adequate replacement.

Boeing developed the longer-range 737-900ER from the -900. This can carry up to 180 passengers in a two-class configuration 5,925km.

"Randy [Tinseth] doesn't know it yet, but there is a competitor to the 757 replacement, it's called A321. It does a very good job," says Airbus chief operating officer, customers, John Leahy.

But the A321, which carries 185 passengers 5,600km in a two-class configuration, falls short, as does the 737-900ER, in comparison to the 757, which is capable of transcontinental and transatlantic routes.

"Do we have customers that are interested in an airplane that has the same capacity and range as a 757?" asks Tinseth. "Yes. We sold 1,000 of them. There is some need out there. The question is when do we build that, can we build that, does it make economic sense for us and for our customers?"