Boeing chief executive James McNerney on 24 October extended the length of the timing range for introducing a new version of the Boeing 777 by at least a year.

The timeframe for entry into service of a re-engined 777 has been described as "end of this decade" previously by Boeing officials. But, McNerney, speaking on a conference call, suggested the schedule could be even longer.

"We are looking at the end of the decade, beginning of the next decade, kind of [entry into service], but that's the assumption we're working with," says McNerney, also chairman and president of Boeing. "Our customers would like it then or sooner."

The exact timing of the 777X's introduction has been a concern for some customers. Emirates chief executive Tim Clark has criticised Boeing for not moving fast enough on the new model. At the same time, Steven Udvar-Hazy, chief executive of Air Lease, has urged a more patient strategy on 777X.

Boeing started developing the update to the 777 about two years ago, as the final configuration of the Airbus A350-900 and A350-1000 became clearer.

Jim Albaugh wanted to move quickly on the 777X before he stepped down as president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes in June. Albaugh's successor, Ray Conner, almost immediately made it clear that Boeing would not make any launch decisions on the 777X this year.

Instead, the airframer is still in discussions with airlines about defining the final configuration of the 777X. McNerney says discussions include the possibility of replacing the 777's metallic wing with a composite structure.

"The kind of performance improvements that can be generated by the composite wing and new engines are pretty eye-watering," McNerney says. "Building a composite wing of this size, an airfoil of this size, would not have been thinkable a decade ago... We now know how to do that and I can't think of anyone else who does."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news