By Guy Norris in Los Angeles

First two customers sign up for executive version of long-range widebody twinjet

Boeing has signalled the launch of the corporate version of its new 787 widebody twin after taking orders for two aircraft from unnamed customers through its executive sales division, Boeing Business Jets (BBJ).

The new 787 variant will be dubbed the 787 VIP. The orders are listed in Boeing's backlog through BBJ, which was established as a joint venture in mid-1996 with General Electric to sell business jet versions of Next Generation 737s.

Boeing says the initial 787 VIP versions will be based on the stretched 63m (206ft)-long 787-9, rather than the standard 55.5m-long 787-3/8 variant. Since first deliveries of the -9 are not due until 2010, it is thought the initial 787 VIP variant will not be handed over until around 2011 at the earliest.

Although Boeing declines to identify either of the 787 VIP customers, one is strongly tipped to be Swiss business-aviation services provider PrivatAir. The operator is believed to be in the final stages of negotiation for at least one aircraft with a view to taking delivery early in the next decade.

The Geneva-based company is witnessing a boom in large- jet transport and, in an effort to exploit the demand, last month acquired a VIP-configured 767 to replace its smaller BBJ. The 56-seat 767 will complement its heavily used 49-seat VIP 757 and will serve as an interim aircraft until its new widebody twinjet enters service.

Source: Flight International