Boeing hopes to launch the MD-17 Commercial Globemaster by the end of 1998 and has begun briefing airlines, cargo specialists and handling agents for the first time after receiving the go-ahead from the Commercial Airplane Group.

The company kicked off its marketing effort at Asian Aerospace and predicts an initial demand for around 30 aircraft. Pending a formal launch by the end of 1998, Boeing plans a two year certification effort, culminating with first deliveries in 2001. The civil certification programme involves "de-militarising" the C-17 by removing military specific systems such as the in-flight refuelling equipment, and adding commercial features including a 9g cargo barrier and enhanced fire detection and suppression.

Boeing is "looking at several different options" to support sales of the MD-17, which, in its military C-17 guise, is priced at around $175 million. One option includes a fractional ownership scheme similar to the one entered into by Boeing Business Jets for the corporate Next Generation 737. "The MD-17 team is beginning to develop some creative ownership concepts," says airlift and tanker programme business development vice-president, Stuart Thomson.

The initial marketing effort is aimed at gauging market interest to support the launch and is not yet considered a full-blown sales campaign, says MD-17 programme manager David Bowman. "The research data is quite appealing, but the real proof is in how the customers react to being offered the actual aircraft," he says. Research into the requirements of shipping companies shows a growth potential of "more than $8 billion in untapped cargo revenue" by using a fleet of up to 32 aircraft over the first decade of the 21st century.

Source: Flight International