Boeing prepares to firm up configuration as it targets board approval by year-end

Boeing is finalising its projected 7E7 family plan around two main configurations as it prepares to reach the firm concept milestone at the end of this month in order to obtain board authority around year-end.

Under the refined plan, Boeing will first launch a baseline 7E7 and a short-range stablemate, followed by the stretched version. No mid- or short-range 7E7 stretch is now included in the revised scheme that will see the first stretch following a couple of years after the 2008 service entry of the basic model, says 7E7 senior vice president Mike Bair.

The first round of high-speed windtunnel testing for the 7E7 has been completed, with four wing configurations tested. Firm configuration will be achieved in 2005 but the overall performance targets, size, span and weight of the family variants are essentially refined. The biggest changes in the "tweaked" base model are a reduction in design target range from 13,320-14,800km (7,200-8,000nm) to 12,210km, and a reduction in span from 58m (190ft) to 56.7m. The changes reduce the weight penalty of the 7E7 for potential operators interested in using the aircraft on short- and medium-range routes.

Boeing is retaining the concept of replaceable outboard wing sections for the short-range variant of the baseline 7E7. This will be aimed at 5,550km-range sectors to serve the interests of what Boeing says are a growing number of inclusive tour and US domestic carriers as well as Chinese and Japanese airlines.

Agreements between Boeing, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce have been signed to cover the final study phase in the run-up to engine selection, which is expected by early December. "It could be two (manufacturers), maybe one," says Bair.

Boeing will decide on suppliers and final assembly site selection by year-end. Various locations are being studied, including a "green field" site in Everett, Washington.

Source: Flight International