Boeing has indicated that the MD-80 and MD-90 assembly lines in Long Beach, California, will eventually be shut down, with priority given to the MD-95 and an 80-seat regional-jet variant, as well as continued MD-11 freighter production .

Although a formal decision on the future of the Douglas Aircraft product line is not due until 1 November, Boeing marketing vice-president Bruce Dennis says that "-further development of the MD-80/90 product line seems very unlikely". He adds, however, that "-we can't just ignore the fact that there are still airlines committed to these aeroplanes". He says that the Chinese-based production of MD-90s (for the TrunkLiner programme) is likely to continue. "We're going to work with the Chinese manufacturers to determine the best future direction for this programme," he adds.

Boeing's plans for the MD-95 seem to hinge on using it as a springboard into the regional-jet market between the 50- to 70-seat competition and the 737 family. "Douglas has created an innovative risk-sharing partnership with a lower production-cost structure. We're encouraged by what we've learned about the MD-95, and hopeful that it could give us entry into the smaller-jet market." The company has plans for a shortened 80-seat version, with a baseline range of 2,775km (1,500nm).

Dennis says that, while demand of the MD-11 passenger model has "all but vanished", he acknowledges that the future of the programme "-may well hinge on whether the demand for main-deck cargo versions can be met by converting passenger tri-jets. We have to evaluate whether the demand can be met by conversions, or if there is ample long-term demand to support continued production of MD-11s with main-deck cargo capability."

Source: Flight International