Boeing has plans for a 650-seat version of the 747, dubbed the 700X, it was revealed at Farnborough yesterday.

Although the company says it does not expect to build the aircraft, it is clearly gearing up to take on Airbus Industrie if it launches its 555-800 seat A3XX double-decker aircraft.

Boeing is "designing in" the capability of such an aircraft as it develops its two growth versions of the 747 - the 500X and 600X models.

The 700X would be a "re-bodied" 600X with wider fuselage but the same wing, systems, struts and engines.

"I want to make it clear, however, that we do not see a market requirement that would permit a financially-viable airplane programme for an airplane this size," says Ron Woodard, president of Boeing Commercial Airplane Group.

Meanwhile, Boeing's plans for two growth versions of the 747 - the 500X and 600X models - have met with a "positive response" from airlines and decisions are expected "very soon", the company said at the show yesterday.

It is an open secret that Boeing hopes to announce launch customers for the growth derivatives of the 747 at Farnborough. Development work continues, talks are going on with key potential airline customers and the aircraft are "for sale", says Woodard. The programme will cost about $5 billion.

Talks have been under way with airlines for a year. "An outcome of this working group was the decision to develop derivatives of the 747-400 with 777 systems, which will expand the 747 family and extend our product line even further," he says.

The 500X, with an advanced technology wing and more fuel-efficient engines, will carry 460 passengers up to 14,000km (8,700nm). It will also offer ten tonnes additional cargo carrying capacity. The 600X would have the same new wing and engines but would carry about 550 passengers and have a range of 12,500km. Woodard says that the derivative route is a better way than building new aircraft models to deliver value to airlines. He questions Airbus Industrie's estimates of $8 billion for the A3XX programme.

"A few years ago, when we looked at the superjumbo called the Very Large Commercial Transport, we estimated the non-recurring cost to be anywhere from $12 billion to $15 billion. We concluded there wasn't a large enough market to justify that size of investment," he says.






Source: Flight Daily News