Qatar Airways is turning its attention to the replacement of its narrowbody fleet after finally announcing its long-held orders for Boeing 777s and 787s.

Firm orders were confirmed for 27 777s and 30 787s worth $13.5 billion, with options for five more 777s and 30 787s. The deal - that has been previously undisclosed for some time - adds to the $17 billion order announced at the Paris air show for 80 A350 XWBs and five A380s, which puts the airline's firm backlog at over 140 aircraft.

Qatar Airways currently operates 58 aircraft - the majority A330s that have been delivered over the past five years. The carrier's stated goal is to operate 110 aircraft by 2015, but chief executive Akbar Al Baker says the new aircraft will not all be used entirely to address growth, as some are destined to replace A330s. "We don't plan to keep aircraft for more than five to six years," he says.

Qatar Airways also operates 15 A320/A321s with three more on order and has begun evaluating its replacement strategy, but is not limiting itself to just Airbus and Boeing aircraft. "We may consider 80- to 100-seat aircraft - there are other new single-aisle aircraft at play," says Al Baker, indicating that he has broadened his evaluation to include the Bombardier CSeries and Embraer E-Jet family.

With the availability of new engine technology driving the development of next-generation narrowbody offerings, Qatar Airways is understood to have begin discussions with each of the engine manufacturers about their plans.

Meanwhile Qatar Airways signed a letter of intent at the show to participate in a project team investigating the benefits of using gas-to-liquid (GTL) kerosene to power jet engines.

GTL is clean burning - it produces fewer particulates, thereby reducing sulphur and nitrate emissions - and provides up to 5% higher energy density per weight. Flight testing using a development aircraft is likely to begin within 12 months, followed by some in-service trials with one of Qatar's A340-600s.

Qatar Narrowbody
 Boeing won orders for 57 787s and 777s with optionds for 35 more

Source: Flight International