Boeing expects to begin the second phase of windtunnel testing of the 767-400ERX "within the next couple of months" as it works towards a planned May 2000 service-entry for the aircraft, according to programme manager John Quinlivan.

Quinlivan also confirms that the company "-has held discussions "with airlines about integrating the -400ERX's revised wing and higher weights on to the existing 767-300ER, to provide enough range to fly the aircraft between Europe and South-East Asia.

Discussions with potential -400ERX launch customers are continuing, with the estimated 33-34-month development programme requiring a formal go-ahead around the third quarter of this year to comply with the projected first-delivery date. "A significant order will launch the aircraft," says Quinlivan.

Boeing has had "good discussions "with subcontractors during recent weeks, and "-the only thing we haven't placed is the winglets", Quinlivan adds.

One of the major changes included on the -400ERX, compared with earlier 767s, is a taller main undercarriage, to maintain adequate ground clearances during rotation of the stretched aircraft. Boeing will decide in "two to three" weeks whether to select a "shrink design", which would shorten the undercarriage legs upon retraction and use the existing wing-mounted pivot points, or move the pivot points outwards, which, Quinlivan says, would improve the overall performance of the gear, but entail significant design changes to the wing.

BFGoodrich will supply the landing gear, while the auxiliary power unit (APU) choice has been narrowed down to the 430kW (580hp) AlliedSignal 331-200 or 620kW 331-350. AlliedSignal is the only supplier of suitable APUs for the -400ERX.

Quinlivan says that current plans call for the -400ERX to be manufactured on the existing 767 line at Everett, although McDonnell Douglas' (MDC) Long Beach-based Douglas Aircraft division could be brought in at a later stage.

"We intend to assemble the aircraft at Everett," he says. "We're not saying it is not possible that MDC becomes involved."

Meanwhile, it has emerged that UK manufacturer Rolls-Royce is unlikely to offer a more powerful version of the existing 767-300ER's 270kN (60,000lb)-thrust RB.211-524Hto power the -400ERX, because it cannot meet the 276kN thrust requirement without switching to a larger fan to meet Stage 3 noise requirements.

"We're not going to push the -524Hto 276kN," says David Wicks, director of marketing, civil engines, at R-R. "We have the smallest fan of the lot, and there are other technical reasons."

Quinlivan says that the choice is up to the customer, but points out that the -524H is "not as competitive"as the 276kN versions of the CF6 and PW4000 being offered by General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, respectively.

Source: Flight International