Plans for a proposed 75/80-seat version of the Boeing 717 may be abandoned, warns the manufacturer, despite market interest in the study, particularly among European airlines.

"Right now, we can't make much of a business case for the 717-100, although that might change," says Joe Ozimek, director of product marketing. "The Boeing company does not know what it will sell that aircraft for. There is a huge raft of competing aircraft and it is a highly subsidised market. You don't know really what price you can capture," he says.

Ozimek adds, however, that more interest exists in the 717-200 and proposed -300X-size market, suggesting that studies of the stretched version are more likely to continue.

Boeing, the acknowledged inventor of the airline "family" concept, is aware of the appeal of similar models with varying configurations and capacities, but faces several problems in launching stablemates to the 717-200.

The company is still seeking more orders for the basic -200 model and, given the recent edict from chief financial officer Debby Hopkins to eliminate "value-destroying" products, it is anxious to establish confidence in the long-term future of the Long Beach twinjet production line.

Also, the growing number of new generation 90/110-seat competitors proposed by Bombardier, Embraer and Fairchild Aerospace are making the marketplace crowded.

The 717-100 move, however, would firmly differentiate the Boeing twin from the Airbus A318.

The -100X, as now configured, would be shortened with a four-frame shrink to seat between 75 and 80. The -100X would be 35.9m (118ft) long compared with the 37.8m of the -200. The stretched -300X would be increased in length by up to five frames to 40.2m.

The -300X would seat 125-130 passengers, and is attracting "considerable" interest, mostly from US airlines, says Boeing.

Source: Flight International