Industry wants MoU with Boeing that could lead to a 25% risk-sharing stake in high-speed airliner programme

A consortium of Japan's major aircraft manufacturers wants to participate in Boeing's sonic cruiser engineering feasibility studies.

They are seeking a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the US manufacturer that could lead to Japanese industry eventually taking a risk-sharing stake of up to 25% in the proposed transonic airliner programme, say sources close to the discussions. However, the talks between Japanese Aircraft Industry (JAI) and Boeing are at an early stage and the MoU is likely to take several more months to negotiate, sources add.

The sonic cruiser family is planned to carry 100-300 passengers over very long ranges at speeds of Mach 0.95-0.98.

The JAI consortium includes Fuji Heavy Industries, Kawasaki and Mitsubishi, ShinMaywa Industries and Japan Aircraft Manufacturing. It has a 15% stake in the Boeing 767 programme and 21% of the Boeing 777. "We would like to sign the MoU as soon as possible," says a Japanese industry source, adding that options under discussion include sending a team of engineers to Boeing's design offices in Seattle or transferring some of the feasibility work to Japan. Others are more cautious, describing the Japanese proposals as a "wishlist".

Boeing Japan president Rick Martin says the US company is "in discussions with Japan and others around the world" over the sonic cruiser, but declines further comment. In early July, Boeing confirmed it had invited Mitsubishi and Kawasaki to become sonic cruiser risk-sharing partners.

Japanese industry's interest in the sonic cruiser follows its rejection of Airbus' offer of a significant risk-sharing stake in the A380 airliner. The companies are expected to be sub-contractors.

Source: Flight International