International Lease Finance boss Steven Udvar-Hazy believes the development of the Airbus A350-1000 could prompt Boeing to respond with one last 777 variant, particularly if General Electric decides to develop an engine for the new European twinjet.

GE is yet to commit to power any of the A350 XWB variants, but the ILFC chairman and chief executive believes the US engine manufacturer's involvement in the twinjet is "critical". Speaking at the Speednews supplier conference in Los Angeles, Udvar-Hazy added that the development of a GE-powered -1000 will have a pivotal effect not only on the future of the proposed 787-10 "double stretch", but also the 777.

"You might have noticed that over the past few months there's been a lack of new information on the A350-1000 and 787-10. Both are waiting to see what the other does first. The 777 question will remain open until they resolve the question of whether GE will figure on the A350," says Udvar-Hazy.

GE says it is evaluating the A350 "to see if we can come up with a suitable new engine. These are technology studies at this stage, and right now there is no formal contract".

Udvar-Hazy adds that "if the XWB goes forward Boeing could move out with one more iteration of the 777 - say a 777-400ER. They could improve the economics a little bit more, but it very much depends on what will happen to the 787-10 and A350-1000."

A stretched "-400ER" derivative would potentially plug the gap in the US airframer's product line-up between the 365-seat 777-300ER and 467-seat 747-8.

Airbus, meanwhile, maintains the A350 project is firmer than ILFC suggests, with Airbus vice-president marketing Colin Stuart saying the -1000 is outlined with a maximum take-off weight of 295t at the top end of the range. "It's our belief we have this aircraft absolutely right for when it comes on line in 2013," he says, adding that "we are looking for another powerplant manufacturer, so if anyone has any ideas we'd be happy to hear their views".

Air Canada  
© Joe Walker    

The 777-300ER could be joined by a larger "-400ER" variant, says Udvar-Hazy. Air Canada's first 777-300ER is pictured during a test flight last week


Source: Flight International