Max Kingsley-Jones/WASHINGTON DC

Boeing is considering adopting the freighter version of the Boeing 747X Stretch as the first of the new 747 models to enter service. A decision in its favour would give the US manufacturer a lead of up to 18 months over the rival A3XX freighter.

Boeing says that, if customer demand is such, the 150t all-cargo model could lead the programme, enabling it to enter service in late 2005. "If the market wants a freighter first, we'll do it," Boeing regional director marketing James Edgar told Flight International at the Air Cargo Forum 2000 in Washington DC, 28-29 September.

He adds that the second 747X Stretch model to be developed would follow 12-18 months later.

If the freighter is the launch aircraft, service entry of the passenger model would be at least a year later than the A3XX passenger variant, which is due in late 2005. The A3XXF is due two years later.

"We can't do passenger and freighter models simultaneously, so we'll have to decide which comes first," Edgar adds. "I would expect that by early next year we will have a better idea on what the customers are telling us."

Edgar claims that the 747-400F's 11 operators will be interested in the Stretch freighter, as the aircraft offers much better interlining ability with the current model than the A3XX. "The Airbus can't carry 10ft (3m) high pallets - only 8ft on its main deck," he says.

Boeing is targeting a launch decision some time during the first half of next year, to enable the aircraft to enter service in late 2005. "This would give us a lead of around a year to 18 months over the A3XXF if we do the freighter first," says Edgar.

As proposed, the 747X Stretch Freighter would use the same baseline configuration as the passenger model, with a maximum take-off weight of 473,100kg (1,043,000lb) and a range with 150t payload of 8,100km (3,400nm).

While this range is similar to the 747-400F, Boeing says that the aircraft offers 23% more volume and 14% lower cost per tonne-km than the current aircraft.

Although the range projection for the new model is 2,200km less than the A3XXF, Edgar says that "the A3XX's upper cargo deck has a penalty of around 100,000lb OEW [operating empty weight], making its tonne/mile direct operating costs 12% greater than the 747X Stretch Freighter."

Source: Flight International