Boeing HAS confirmed that the stretched 767-400ERX is on course to be launched this year, but raises further doubts about the timetable for a go-ahead on the proposed stretched 747.

Ron Woodard, president of the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, says that the main board gave its formal approval to start offering the 767-400ERX to airline customers on 6 January (Flight International, 8-14 January, P5). He adds that the project is likely to be launched "by the end of the year".

He remains more cautious on the chances of a go-ahead for the stretched 747-500/600X.

The airframe company has backtracked markedly since its push to sign up customers ahead of the Farnborough air show in September 1996. Woodard now says that he rates the chances of going ahead with the project at only "50:50".

"Our concern is the size of the market, so we're spending a lot of time on the business case. We're working our way through that, but it's a tough case," he adds. Most of the concerns are focused on the continuing impact of "fragmentation" on long-range routes, caused by the growth of direct point-to-point services with smaller, twin-engined, aircraft. "The big question is: will the Pacific fragment in the same way as the Atlantic has?" says Woodard.

Source: Flight International