Manufacturer seeks to win key orders from Emirates and Qantas with lengthened and higher-weight -9 variants

Boeing is studying new stretch and heavier-weight versions of the 787 in an effort to secure key strategic customers, as it evaluates ways to dramatically ramp up the twinjet’s planned production rate.

The manufacturer is looking at a further stretch of the 787-9, dubbed the -10, to try to win business from Emirates, which has been discussing a large order for the competing Airbus A350. The -9 is an enlarged version of the -8 baseline long-haul 787 variant.

The Dubai-based operator has consistently asked Boeing to study higher-capacity versions of the -9, but the manufacturer has been reluctant to extend its new twin much beyond a tri-class, 259-passenger configuration for fear of encroaching on the 777-200ER.

Boeing declines to comment on the existence of the -10 study, which is believed to extend overall length to almost 68m (223ft), or well beyond the 62m currently outlined for the -9 stretch. This is expected to allow tri-class layouts of almost 290 passengers, although it would entail a range penalty, with a resulting performance below the 15,400km (8,300nm) envisioned for the 787-9.

The relatively simple stretch option is considered feasible from a production standpoint because of the inherent flexibility of the composite fuselage design.

Boeing also declines to comment on a proposed 247.5t (545,000lb) maximum take-off weight variant of the -9 thought to have been proposed to Qantas, which has issued a request for proposals for a 767-300 replacement.

The higher gross-weight variant proposal, if confirmed, takes it well beyond the 226.8t limit originally outlined for the -9 variant, and brings it close to the theoretical 255t MTOW design limit of the baseline structural configuration.

Meanwhile, Boeing confirms studies of a radical production ramp-up that could see up to 14 aircraft a month rolling out of the Everett site by 2011. The current plan would see the rate peak at seven a month by mid-2009. The new plan is to cope with orders and commitments for the new twinjet that are now said to exceed 850.

“It is a study – nothing is decided yet,” says Boeing, adding that the company “has a long history of not managing rate changes well, and we don’t intend for it to happen again”.

- Indonesian flag-carrier Garuda Indonesia has agreed to acquire 10 787-8s and 18 737-800s, coinciding with a state visit to the USA by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Garuda says the agreement is a “further elaboration” of a long-deferred contract for 777-200ERs.


Source: Flight International