Boeing has confirmed that it is studying development of a further stretched version of the next-generation 737, but is giving more immediate priority to launching longer-range and higher-capacity versions of the 777-200/300 and possibly the 747-400.

The company is looking at a higher-capacity 737 version, primarily for European airlines which do not need the US transcontinental type of range offered by the new -600/ 700/800. "You would get in more seats and trade-off range," says president Ron Woodard.

Compared to the 189-seat 737-800, the proposed -900X stretch would be able to accommodate an extra three-to-four-seat rows, or about 18-24 more passengers (Flight International, 7-13 May). The aircraft's higher gross weight would cut its range by around 1,110-1,300km (600-700nm) compared with the -800's 5,420km.

Development of the -900X would take between 20 and 24 months to complete, if the programme was given the go-ahead. Woodard, however, cautions that the 900X "-is strictly a what if at the moment-we're going to have to see if it is worth doing or not".

Weighed against committing resources to the 737-900X are a range of other proposed and continuing derivative projects. "We've got seven aircraft in development now and we're looking at the 777-200X and -300X on top of that, as well as looking at the elusive 747-X programme," says Woodard.

Its immediate priority is to launch the ultra-long-haul -200X and higher-gross-weight stretch -300X, possibly in time for the Paris air show. Boeing is also looking at taking advantage of the increased weight of the recently launched 757-300 stretch to offer an extended-range variant of the smaller -200.

Boeing is understood to have targeted at least nine potential launch customers for the 777-200X/300X, but the company refuses to say how many airline orders are required to launch the two aircraft . "We're making proposals to airlines and these programmes will be launched some time this year," says Woodard.

Proposals are understood to include eight 777-200Xs and eight options for EVA Airways for delivery from March 2001, 12 for Singapore Airlines, an initial six for Malaysia Airlines (with deliveries starting in September 2000) and 12, plus 38 options, for American Airlines. Korean Airlines is looking at six -300Xs, while China Airlines of Taiwan is being offered up to 24 777s of any type it chooses.

Other target carriers include Northwest Airlines and Qantas. Boeing continues to study more modest increased-gross-weight developments of the 747-400, despite having shelved the more ambitious -500X and -600X. They include a 550-1,100km extended-range version and an 80- to 100-seat stretch of the -400.

Source: Flight International