Boeing admits that as Airbus firms up the A350-1000 specification it could be forced into examining how to position its long-range 777 to compete against that aircraft before it considers a 737 narrowbody replacement.
Chief executive Jim McNerney says that if the 350-seat A350-1000 reaches what Airbus has characterised "in terms of its performance", the aircraft "would put some pressure on our longer-range 777 fleet and we would have to answer the question of what we would do about that".
Speaking during Boeing's first-quarter earnings briefing on 23 April, McNerney said that the driver on a 777 decision would be the "real performance" of the A350-1000 that is not likely to be introduced until around 2016, so he believes there is plenty of time to decide on the upgrade required if the Airbus rival's performance "does threaten" the 777.
However, McNerney says that given the 777 order rates, he does not believe concern at the moment over a 777 response is strong, "but it will be an issue we have to address". He is aware of potential overlap in a 777 refinement and the introduction of a 737 replacement.
Although he points out Boeing is looking at each situation independently, "you could paint a scenario where some work on the 777 would be done before the majority of the work on the next-generation 737. But we don't know that either."
In the near term Boeing is also scrutinising output levels for the 737. McNerney believes there "would be upside there" after 2008 if the current economic situation does not cause an unanticipated shift.
Source: Flight International