Guy Norris/SEATTLE

Boeing has dispatched a team of senior executives to leading Asian airlines in a bid to derail an Airbus A3XX marketing drive aimed at getting carriers to sign letters of interest for the ultra- large aircraft. Boeing is distributing new performance data to potential 747X Stretch launch candidates which it says confirm that it will beat projected operating costs of the 550-seat A3XX-100.

A team including product strategy and development vice-president John Roundhill and Joe Sutter, the chief designer of the original 747, is touring Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways and others with the data. The visits follow a letter sent to the airlines last week by Boeing chairman and chief executive Phil Condit, exhorting carriers not to commit to the A3XX until the final performance estimates and programme plans for the 747X could be revealed.

SIA and Emirates have already sent non-binding letters of interest to Airbus as part of the European consortium's efforts to obtain authority to offer the A3XX from its owners. At least four other carriers are close to following suit.

Boeing is focusing on a baseline 747-400X which will be available for service in the third quarter of 2002, and the stretched, wing root insert 500-seat 747X Stretch (70m (230ft) wingspan/80m fuselage length) which could be launched early next year for deliveries starting in the second half of 2005.


The aircraft are related, the -400X being a higher gross weight aircraft providing the structural "bridge" to the later stretch. Boeing's weight for the -400X remains at 413,140kg (910,000lb), while the 747X Stretch has stabilised at 473,520kg. Boeing's family plan is for a -400 replacement to "fall out" of the 747X Stretch, along with a freighter, and domestic models.

Boeing has made more changes which it claims give it a "12% to 13% improvement over the -400". Roundhill says "seat/mile costs will be lower than for the A3XX-100, we really believe that."

Latest changes to the stretch configuration include an extension of the 777-style wing root section from the fuselage out to the inboard engine, simpler double-slotted flaps, drooped ailerons for take-off and trailing edge wedge for the outboard wing only. Four main wingtip shapes have been tested, including standard and enlarged winglets, blended winglets and a raked tip. All reduce drag, but a final decision is pending on this and a possible move to single-slotted flaps. Elements of the 747X wing design will be test flown on a 747-200 this year.

Boeing plans to offer a choice of powerplants: the Pratt & Whitney/General Electric Engine Alliance GP7000 and the Rolls-Royce Trent 600. The revised aerodynamics give a slightly higher cruise speed: Mach 0.86, compared to the current -400's M0.85, Boeing says .

An airline meeting at the end of June will "give feedback" to the 747X development team.

Boeing says that while it continues to believe the market for such aircraft is limited, it feels it can make money out of the product even if the A3XX is launched.

Additional reporting Andrzej Jeziorski in Singapore.

Source: Flight International