Paul Lewis and Guy Norris/ SEATTLE

BOEING IS considering launching a short-bodied ultra-long-range variant of the 777, which would be capable of carrying around 250 passengers on routes up to 16,650km (9,000nm). Airlines are already being briefed on the aircraft

The 777-100X or "Shrink" as it is known within Boeing, is being studied principally at the request of American Airlines, but is believed to be attracting interest from other operators such as Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Singapore Airlines.

The aircraft would be offered in competition, mainly against the Airbus Industrie A340-8000, although, it is similar in principle to the A330 "Shrink", recently revealed by Airbus (Flight International, 10-16 May).

The -100X study is "customer driven", say company sources and is aimed at the 13,000-16,700 km market niche, covering routes such as Dallas-Tokyo or Hong Kong-New York. The study aircraft would seat 255 in a typical three-class arrangement and, if adopted, would probably end prospects for any ultra-long-range 767 derivatives.

The study involves shortening the structurally heavier B-market 777-200 fuselage by between nine and 14 frames. "It will trade the B fuselage for fuel" say the sources. Indications are that the current configuration is focused on a fuselage reduction of ten frames, or 5.3m.

The -100X would have a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) close to the 287,150kg upper limits now being defined for the B-market aircraft.

This would enable the -100X to be powered by the same 400kN (90,000lb)-thrust-class B-market engine types as used on the sister aircraft. As well as trading fuselage weight for fuel, additional fuel volume may also be created by extending the aircraft's wing cheek-tanks.

The plan would also take advantage of the development of the stretch A or 777-300X as it is now known. The -100X would be developed after the -300X, which, if launched within the next 12 months, could enter service as early as May 1998 with Cathay Pacific. The -100X would have the structurally reinforced wing developed for the 777-300X, which may have a MTOW in the region of 299,600kg.

Boeing says: "It's a natural evolution of our product-development studies to look at a smaller version of the 777 as well."

Source: Flight International