Max Kingsley-Jones/SEATTLE

Board level go-ahead for Boeing's extended range 757-200X could be in place by the end of this year, enabling the company to sign launch orders for the new model next year. Meanwhile, the manufacturer has secured the first commercial orders for the cargo version of the 737-700 developed for the US Navy.

Mike Bair, 757 programme general manager, says product development studies for the increased range 757-200X are being finalised, with the aircraft using the increased weight and strengthened structure of the stretched -300, combined with auxiliary belly fuel tanks, to boost range to 9,250km (5,000nm). The range increase will enable the 757-200 to operate comfortably to Europe from the US East Coast and the Mid-West. Bair says the aircraft, equipped with a "rich mix" of business to economy seats, would boost further the fragmentation of the North Atlantic market on thin routes by creating new city pairs.

With demand falling for the 757-200, and the -300 so far failing to sell in large numbers, Boeing is under pressure to boost the twinjet's flagging fortunes. Its five-a-month production rate may be reduced if sales do not pick up.

Bair expects to be able to decide by the end of the year whether the 757-200X "offers us an opportunity", after which board approval will be sought. Once the aircraft can be offered, Bair says, there will be the usual minimum launch commitment target sought to enable a full go-ahead decision.

Boeing is beginning subassembly of the first of four 737-700C cargo door-equipped variants for the USN, to be delivered from Renton for final fitting out. The company is offering a civil version with a larger forward main deck cargo door for use either as a convertible freighter/ quick change, or as a combi. The latter would accommodate 70 passengers and three cargo pallets.

Source: Flight International