Boeing continues to study new aircraft concepts such as the Sonic Cruiser, but commercial airplanes president Alan Mulally says Boeing is placing much greater importance on the short-term need to help airlines reduce their costs in today's depressed market.

Boeing's focus is on working with its customers to get them through the current crisis. "You never make a decision about an airplane model in a downturn like we are in now," he says. "What airlines and manufacturers need to do is pull together on working the safety and efficiency of the air transport system."

For Mulally this means working together on air traffic control, security and critically making aspects of aircraft support like maintenance, logistics management and training more efficient. While hardly as sexy as talking about new aircraft models, Mulally's approach is to look at "all parts of the value chain to take-out costs. These are the current drivers for customers".

Despite the short-term problems of the airline business he believes "the long-term market for commercial airplanes is very robust". He says 2003 will be Boeing's "low-point" in production terms, with the level of 275-300 deliveries gradually rising the year after.

Mulally would not be drawn into a launch timetable for the Sonic Cruiser, saying the question Boeing is trying to answer with its customers is whether the value of speed and the ability of operating long-range point-to-point routes is what they really want. If not, the next opportunity to use some of the technology developed as part of the Sonic Cruiser project could be a 757/767-sized aircraft family.

Source: Flight Daily News