Boeing is studying a "new middle market aircraft" that could provide the basis for a combined 757/767 replacement as part of its new product development strategy for the 21st century.


Revealing the initiative at the 2000 annual results press conference, Boeing chairman and chief executive Phil Condit said the "20XX" project is part of wider studies to evaluate the future direction of the company's development for the next decade and beyond. "We are going to look at where the market is," said Condit. He added that the growth of fragmentation and "point-to-point" routes will play a large part in the studies.

Boeing's Product Strategy and Development (PS&D) organisation is known to have been working on long-term successor concepts to replace the 20-year old 757/767 designs. The organisation is thought to have been studying a common airframe "family" as a spin-off of work on various cost-reduction initiatives.

The "20XX" study is thought to be looking generally at the 180- to 300-seat size category, and at versatile performance covering everything from 1,850km to 11,100km (1,000nm to 6,000nm). The study aircraft fits in below the 777 and above the Next Generation 737 families, though a long term successor to the latter is also thought to be under study by PS&D. Press reports in the USA said that one of the options being considered is a 250-seat aircraft capable of transonic speeds, cruising at Mach 0.95.

Looking at research and development spending overall, Condit said that planned spending on projects like the 747X, the Delta IV launch vehicle and Connexion by Boeing for 2001 and 2002 will amount to between 3% and 3.5% of total company sales, although this "assumes a launch of the 747X in the first half of this year."

Boeing's performance last year has been generally well received in financial markets. The company achieved company-wide operating margins for 2000 of 7.4%, a 25% increase over 1999, resulting in net earnings of $2.1 billion after non-recurring items.

Recent company acquisitions, which include Hughes Space and Communications, Jeppesen and Continental Graphics amongst others, put a slight dent in net earnings compared with the $2.3 billion in 1999. Total revenues also fell to $51.3 billion against $57.9 billion in 1999.

Despite a drop in aircraft deliveries from a record 620 in 1999 to 489 last year, Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCAG) operating earnings rose to $2.7 billion from $2.08 billion in 1999. Increased productivity, reduced costs and savings of $68 million related to the termination of the MD-80/90 and MD-11 lines helped the performance of BCAG, which had operating margins of 8.7%, versus 5.4% in 1999.

Military Aircraft and Missiles turned in earnings of $1.27 billion on revenues of $12.2 billion, though operating margins fell 1.6% to 10.4% for the year. The drop is attributed to cost growth on "certain services and helicopter programmes." Space and Communications showed operating earnings of $260 million against $320 million in 1999 (excluding non-recurring items), despite a rise in revenues to $8 billion versus $6.8 billion the previous year.

• Boeing unions in Seattle say the company is negotiating a deal with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to develop and assemble wings for the planned 747X. Reports from Japan put MHI's likely investment in the programme at $874 million. The unions are mounting a campaign to block the move.

Source: Flight International