Boeing has revealed new details of its Sonic Cruiser product development strategy and, at the same time, denied using the abandoned 747X as a stalking horse to force Airbus to cut the price of the competing A380.

Boeing chairman Phil Condit says the Sonic Cruiser is "not single model dependent" and can be grown or shrunk to between 100 and 300 seats. The key, he says, is the configuration which, for the first time on any Boeing aircraft, combines a constant body section and aft-mounted delta-wing. Boeing is initially targeting the 767-300 size with a 225-seat variant, but airlines are believed to be pushing for a 300 seater.

Condit describes the possibility of the Sonic Cruiser going into commercial production before the end of the decade as "very high, otherwise we wouldn't have done it", but adds airlines will determine whether the idea is viable. "Sonic Cruiser has to go through the discipline of the market," he says.

Condit meanwhile denies claims that Boeing floated the concept of a larger 747 merely as a spoiling tactic for the A380, to force Airbus to offer lower prices to initial customers. "We would never put something in the marketplace that we didn't intend to do. Misleading the customer in that way would be wrong," he says.

Despite abandoning the 747X, Condit refuses to rule out a return to the super jumbo sector - it is "currently examining" a low-cost, higher capacity 747 freighter. He says Boeing has no definite proposals for a 500 seat -plus competitor for the A380. "I will leave the door open that we might be wrong, but are we hiding something? The answer is no," he says.

Source: Flight International