Airbus and Boeing have exchanged shots in what is likely to be a long-running war of words over the expected operational cost benefits of the 7E7 compared with the performance of its nearest Airbus rival, the A330-200.

The debate centres on the baseline model of the 7E7, which Boeing plans to launch later this year for service entry in 2008 alongside the short-range 7E7SR variant. Airbus argues that after maintenance, landing and navigation and flightcrew costs are taken into account, the baseline 7E7 will have a 2.2% higher cash operating cost (COC) per seat than the A330-200. It also estimates direct operating costs (DOC) per seat will be around 1% more than the A330-200. The claim, made by Airbus marketing vice-president Colin Stuart at the Speednews annual suppliers conference in Los Angeles, is naturally being disputed by Boeing, which predicts up to 10% lower operating costs compared with the 767 and A330-200.

For its assessment, Airbus assumes a base comparison of a 214-seat 7E7 on a 7,400km (4,000nm) mission against a 240-seat A330-200. "We give them a 20% per trip fuel advantage over the A330-200, which translates into a fuel saving per seat of around 10.9%, or a -3.9% advantage as a percentage of COC, or -2.4% as a percentage of overall DOCs," says Stuart. He adds, however, that the acknowledged savings from the more advanced, bleedless engines will be offset by higher maintenance costs of the airframe, systems and powerplant, which it estimates at around 10.9% more than the A330. "The engine manufacturers have told us the maintenance costs of the 7E7 engines are likely to be higher than those for the current A330 engines," he adds.

Boeing product marketing regional director Jim Haas dismisses the claims as being "quite different because we both have different assumptions", and says the 7E7 is expected to have a fuel burn per passenger of around 20% less than the 767 or A330-200. Haas adds that the low-cost performance claims for the 7E7 will be driven by the wider use of advanced technology than ever before on a Boeing product, as well as the impacts of standardisation and commonality. "Only 40% of the improvement comes from the [higher bypass ratio] engines," he says.

Boeing has acknowledged that the economics of the 7E7 will be improved in the Stretch version. The recent increase in the baseline 7E7's range with its associated improvement in cargo capability reflects efforts to boost the attractiveness of the initial model.


Source: Flight International