VLCT study identifies 1,000-strong market

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Guy Norris/SEATTLE

EARLY RESULTS of the study into the very-large commercial transport (VLCT) being run by Boeing and the Airbus partners, indicate a possible market for up to 500 aircraft of more than 500 seats by the year 2010. As many as 1,000 could be needed by 2020.

"These numbers show there is enough of a market for such an aircraft, but it's not a large market," says Boeing large-airplane-development joint programme, development senior manager, Deborah Dollard.

The market probe is the focus of the joint VLCT study by Aerospatiale, Boeing, British Aerospace, CASA and Daimler-Benz Aerospace (formerly Deutsche Aerospace). The study was extended in March 1994.

If all sides agree that the market is large enough, and elect to continue the effort at the end of the study phase in mid-July, the team will begin evaluation of a common configuration later this year. The two groups are already looking at early configurations, as part of preliminary exercises to see how common standards could be developed if the project goes ahead.

"Each has put a different configuration on the table, but for study purposes only," says Dollard. Boeing's VLCT is based around a 600-seater developed from studies by its own in-house New Large Airplane (NLA) study (Flight International, 21 December, 1994-3 January 1995).

The European version is a 500-seater based largely on the A3XX outlined in some detail by Airbus at the 1994 Farnborough air show.

Some 38 individual teams within the VLCT study meet "at least once a month", while team leaders, Boeing's John Hayhurst and DASA's Jurgen Thomas, are briefed on progress at similar intervals. Airbus Industrie, which is acting as advisor to its partners, attends all the European planning meetings and representatives sit on the study's steering committee.

The main efforts of the team are focused on:

preliminary agreement on all business matters. "We have not yet resolved launch criteria, how we could go about putting the joint venture together or how it would be incorporated and taxed," says Dollard;

programme viability. A financial viability study is under way using data from all sources, mainly that of the market forecast. "We won't be sharing cost information, but we have to have some basic assumptions so that when we come together we'll have some common ground if we get started," Dollard says.

product development. The process of developing common standards for the VLCT;

programme planning. Development of key milestones;

anti-trust issues. "We had to clear this study with anti-trust agencies. The different working groups have attorneys at all meetings and everyone involved has had training in anti-trust law," Dollard says;

valuation. "We are developing processes for the valuation of work packages if we proceed," says Dollard;

programme integration. Sorting out the basic logistics of how to transfer relevant data between various work teams.