Paul Lewis/TAIPEI

BOEING HAS TOLD Taiwanese carrier EVA Air that it could have a combi version of the new 777-200 available for delivery as early as 1997.

The proposed combi aircraft would accommodate 220 passengers in a two-class configuration, together with up to 38,000kg of freight, or a maximum of seven cargo pallets, says EVA Air vice-president Daniel Wu.

Boeing's combi offer forms the basis of a letter of intent (LoI) for four 777s. The LoI was signed by EVA Air, during Taiwanese president, Lee Teng-hui's highly politicised visit to the USA, earlier this year. China Airlines (CAL) also signed a similar LoI for four 777s.

It is understood that the company is undecided about whether to manufacture the combi as a new-build aircraft, or modify a standard-post-production 777-200 passenger airliner, to the combi configuration. The decision will probably be determined by market demand.

EVA Air has traditionally favoured combi aircraft to give it added flexibility. Ten of the airline's existing fleet of 12 Boeing 747-400s, are configured as combis.

A new, smaller, combi aircraft for use on Asian regional routes forms part of EVA Air's phase-two fleet plan for 1996-8. Despite signing a LoI to buy the 777, the airline has not yet made a final type selection.

CAL remains equally uncommitted to the 777, despite having also signed a LoI. "It means nothing, there is no obligation at all," says CAL corporate planning deputy director Sherman Yeng. "We're simply catering to Boeing's goodwill."

The Taiwan national carrier has a requirement for around ten 300 to 350-seat-capacity aircraft to operate high-density regional routes and long-haul destinations.

The aircraft are needed to replace 747-200s and 747SPs and form part of the airline's ambitious expansion plan through to the year 2003.

The 777 is being evaluated with the Airbus A330 and A340, but only one type will be selected. An alternative plan under consideration is to replace the four 747SPs with additional MD-11s, followed by the 747-200s with either the 777 or A330/340, says Yeng.

Source: Flight International