Boeing has presented 777-200X/300X proposals to four major US and Asian airlines in an effort to launch the planned long-range twin derivatives in time for the Paris air show in June. At the same time Rolls-Royce (R-R) has become the second powerplant manufacturer to sign an agreement to offer a higher-thrust engine for the aircraft.

The US company is in negotiations with American Airlines (AA), Korean Air (KAL), Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and Singapore Airlines (SIA) to firm-up launch commitments for the ultra-long range 777-200X and higher-gross- weight stretched -300X by the second half of May. Talks involve potential orders for approximately 40 aircraft.

Boeing has also been pressing its three 777 engine suppliers to sign memoranda of understanding (MoU) to develop a 445kN (100,000lb)-thrust class turbofan to power the aircraft. R-R is the second manufacturer after General Electric with which it has reached an agreement. Both MoUs are short-lived and expire around mid-May for pricing reasons.

Boeing confirms that the R-R Trent 8100 MoU covers deliveries from September 2001 onwards, a full year behind those offered for the GE90-100B engine. With two of Boeing's four prospective -200X launch customers being existing 777/Trent operators, R-R is facing pressure to advance its development. It faces a hectic schedule, as it also plans to develop a Trent derivative for the planned Airbus A340-500/600.

Of the targeted airlines, AA is believed to be interested in up to 12 777-200Xs for use on ultra-longhaul routes, such as between Dallas-Fort Worth and Tokyo. The airline has already ordered this number of 777s as part of a larger Boeing purchase, but has not yet specified the exact twinjet version required.

KAL is discussing the conversion of six of its outstanding 777 options to the larger 355-seat -300X. The airline has ordered four 777-200IGWs and eight stretch -300s, but is also looking at using the longer-range -300X on services to Honolulu and Europe.

MAS and SIA also hold large numbers of 777 options. MAS has signed a memorandum to order 15 -200Xs, in addition to 15 -200/300s it already has on order. The aircraft would be used to take advantage of a new open skies agreement with the USA.

Singapore has reached a similar bilateral agreement with Washington, and SIA says that it requires at least ten ultra-long-haul jets to open new non-stop routes to the USA. Several other Asian airlines are at an earlier stage of discussions on the -200X/300X, including EVA Airways and Thai Airways International.

With strong sales from Asia-Pacific carriers, Boeing expects to be able to sell "in excess of 200" of the -200X variant, says international sales vice president Seddik Belyamani. "We think the 777 will mirror the role of the 767 in the Atlantic. We believe the -200X will perform the same role in the Pacific," he says.

Source: Flight International