BOEING'S GROWING family of large wide-bodies will be in competition with the Airbus A3XX in a market, which could be worth as much as $254 billion over the next 20 years, according to the US manufacturer's latest long-term forecasts.

Boeing's 1996 Current Market Outlook divides aircraft with more than 400 seats as a separate category for the first time. To date, that includes only the 747-400 and 777-300, but they are due to be joined by the stretched 747-600X and longer-range 747-500X before the end of the century, as well as by the A3XX, if Airbus opts to launch the programme.

Looking through to the year 2015, Boeing estimates that this market could total 1,588 aircraft, with the emphasis clearly on sales in the fast growing Asia-Pacific market.

Recognition of the new category in the 1996 forecast is being seen as an added sign that Boeing will give the 747-500X and -600X programmes the go-ahead, possibly by the middle of the year.

Growth in these new high-capacity types is not expected to take off in earnest for another decade, however, by which time Boeing calculates that airport capacity constraints and the sheer volume of intercontinental traffic will combine to favour larger aircraft.

In the short term, Boeing sees its existing 400-seat range averaging deliveries of around 55 a year up to the end of the decade, but as demand for the new large-aircraft types grows, that is expected to peak at about 90 a year, around the year 2010.

The total world fleet of 400-plus seaters is expected to more than double, to nearly 2,000 aircraft. That appears to assume replacement of more than 500 of today's 747 fleet.

Boeing sees still faster growth taking place in the crowded 240- to 400-seat "intermediate" aircraft sector. This market, which Boeing expects to be dominated by the new 777 and A330 big twins, is forecast to account for 3,473 deliveries worth $405 billion. Over the next five years, aircraft deliveries are expected to total around 135 aircraft a year, rising to more than 200 in the new century.

Including the sizeable, although less lucrative, narrow-body markets, Boeing forecasts an overall requirement for 15,905 new jet-powered airliners over the next 20 years, worth $1,000 billion. Boeing's target is to take 67% of the market "and stay there", says marketing vice-president, Nancy Bethel. "Its an ambitious goal, but it is achievable," she says.

Source: Flight International