International Lease Finance boss Steven Udvar-Hazy believes Boeing can tackle the threat posed by the Airbus A350 XWB with incremental improvements to the 777 and discounted pricing, endorsing Boeing's view that it does not need an all-new replacement in the near term.

The US airframer's commercial airplanes division chief executive Scott Carson recently ruled out any early launch of a new large widebody (Flight International, 12-18 February).

Udvar-Hazy concurs, believing it is "way too premature to design a successor to the 777, especially with the lack of experience with the 787".

Udvar-Hazy adds: "It would be a lot easier for Boeing to offer discounts on the existing 777 than spend $12-15 billion to develop an all-new airplane prematurely." He believes Boeing "will make some improvements" that are "hopefully retrofitable to the existing 777s".

Areas that Boeing has been evaluating to improve the 777-300ER include "some minor changes in the wingtips, introducing some [lower] weight material into some of the internal components, a restyled interior and avionic improvements from the 787", says Udvar-Hazy.

The airframer could implement "a collage" of airframe and engine improvements to reduce maintenance costs and "another couple of percent in the engine specific fuel consumption", he adds. "If they can get a percent here and two thousand pounds [less] weight there - all those benefits will make the 777 more appealing."

The pricing policy Udvar-Hazy advocates for the 777 is one he says Airbus is already pursing with the A330, which has been "heavily discounted recently to keep the line going until the A350 arrives, as the A340 has petered out".

He says Airbus "is going down the right path now in the sizing and configuration and performance requirements" of the A350, but adds: "Now they have to deliver, but I think Airbus has learned a lot from this A380 experience".

Source: Flight International