US manufacturer launches recovery mission as it pushes to end twinjet's order drought and boost backlog

Boeing has launched an aggressive sales push in both China and at FedEx Express for its 757-200 twinjet, in an effort to bolster the aircraft's rapidly dwindling orderbook. There are now 26 aircraft on the company's backlog, three fewer than the total number of 757-200s and -300s delivered last year.

Boeing has tabled at least two proposals in China totalling 12 aircraft. This includes a "highly attractive" pricing offer made to the Chinese government for seven aircraft for allocation to state controlled carriers and a proposal for five more aircraft for independently run Shanghai Airlines.

Five Chinese airlines operate just over 50 757-200s, namely China Southern Airlines, China Southwest Airlines, China Xinjiang Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Xiamen Airlines. Xinjiang is now part of the China Southern group while Southwest is part of the Air China group. The sources say that while some 757 operators have expressed interest, others are wary of being forced to take aircraft as part of a government-supported deal.

Boeing's other major unsolicited push is with FedEx, with an offer of a large batch of standard-configuration 757-200 Package Freighters built to FedEx specification. The US freight carrier concluded a similar deal in the 1980s for the last 15 727s from the Renton production line.

David Sutton, general manager, aircraft acquisitions and sales for FedEx, confirms that new and used 757-200s have been studied as replacements for the 727-200F fleet, as well as for additional growth, but no decisions have been made. New aircraft could feature a series of Boeing-developed flightdeck improvements, including an enhanced visual system combining infrared and possibly millimetre wave radar, and a head-up-display.

Boeing delivered 29 757s in 2002, but with the firm backlog having fallen to 26 aircraft, new orders must be secured or the company faces the possibility of having to shut the line in Renton by late 2004. "We're continuing to look at opportunities and our sales organisation is working with potential customers in China, Russia and Europe," says Boeing.

The only near-term prospect is Rashid Engineering, which is looking at single corporate transport. The Saudi Arabian-based hadj tent supplier operates two Gulfstreams - a GIV and a GV.


Source: Flight International