GUY NORRIS / LOS ANGELES & ANDREW DOYLE / SINGAPORE
Boeing is expected to confirm, possibly before the end of this month, the long-expected decision that it has dumped its Sonic Cruiser project and is redirecting studies towards its "Super Efficient Airplane" family. The confirmation will mark a major climbdown for the manufacturer after more than 18 months of high-profile publicity for the transonic airliner project.
The fundamental rethink of Boeing's product-development efforts will kickstart a new round of talks with airlines, some of which appear to be showing significantly more interest in the Super Efficient alternative (Flight International, 12-18 November). The development coincides with the possible re-emergence of Singapore Airlines' (SIA) long-standing 250-seat Airbus A310-300 replacement study - the so-called "W-aircraft" requirement - making the Asian carrier a potential candidate for the similarly sized Super Efficient aircraft.
The revised study is expected to focus on meeting two main airline market requirements with a single design. Boeing's new-aircraft airline study group has defined a requirement for a family of 200- to 300-seat aircraft with two main range targets: 5,550-11,100km (3,000-6,000nm) route lengths and ultra-long ranges of 13,880-14,800km.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Alan Mulally hints at the coming shift, saying: "I think the world is leaning towards efficiency, but we really want to get this right because whatever we do will be in service for 25 to 30 years." Speaking at the Aviation Club in the UK last week, Mulally said airlines have been questioning "the value of being able to go 20% faster" when an alternative could offer a "significant improvement in fuel burn and operational efficiency and emissions" and still leave them with a long-range aircraft that "can go point-to-point and complement the 777".
Although SIA is using 777-200s on short- to medium-haul routes which were ordered to satisfy its "W-aircraft" needs, it is thought to be reviving the A310-300 replacement study to find a smaller alternative. Airbus executive vice-president customer affairs John Leahy says that if the requirement emerges it will bid with the A330-200, although a shortened study variant, the A330-500X, could also be revived in the longer term. In its original 2000 solicitation, SIA asked for bids on seven 250- to 300-seat widebodies and 12 180- to 200-seat narrowbodies.
Source: Flight International