Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) enjoyed a record sales year in Asia Pacific in 2005, and is looking forward to another good year in 2006, according to Larry Dickenson, senior vice-president, Asia Pacific.
He believes that sales of single-aisle aircraft to China in 2006 could equal the 50 Boeing 737s sold in 2005, as Beijing gears up for the 2008 Olympic games.
“We had a phenomenal year in Asia Pacific in 2005, with 77% of the market,” said Dickenson on the eve of Asian Aerospace. “It was a record year for us, in which we sold two and a half times our 15-year annual average for the region.
“However, I think we still have some interesting opportunities and we should have a good year. It will not be a record year, but it will be a very good year.”
He added: “We sold about 50 planes in China last year and I would not be surprised if we sold more than that in China this year. With the Olympics in 2008, they desperately want to expand their flights in the next two years.”
Dickenson said he thought that high fuel prices were also playing a part in creating full orderbooks. “Fuel price is playing a definite part and, fortunately for Boeing, our product lines from the 777ERs to the 737 to the 787 all lend themselves to dealing with high fuel prices.”
The Chinese government has expressed an interest in developing an indigenous 150-seat civil airliner within a 10-year time frame. What is the Boeing view?
Said Dickenson: “China has always wanted to expand its civil aviation industry and they have made several attempts so this not surprising.
“At the moment, China is concentrating on building their own 100-seater regional and, from time to time, we have responded with some technical information to help them in this regard.”
He added that he thought it too early to speculate on a Chinese competitor to the Boeing 737. “Our current challenge is to meet demand for the 737.”
Dickenson dismissed the idea that Boeing would follow Airbus into negotiations with China over creating a final-assembly line for some single-aisle aircraft. Airbus is considering whether to create a final-assembly line in China for the A320 single-aisle aircraft. If such a joint venture was established, it could be in production by the end of next year.
Although McDonnell Douglas (taken over by Boeing) had similar arrangements in place, and Dickenson said “we will continue to work with our Chinese partners on the expansion of programmes”, there were no plans for final assembly.
He added: “I think you will find that this [final assembly idea] was stimulated by Airbus rather than the Chinese.”
Dickenson said that while the delivery of the milestone 5,000th 737 is being treated as a low-key affair, the recently launched 747-8 is expected to be a major talking point at Singapore. With new, quieter engines, more seats and better range, he predicted it would be “very attractive” to airlines in Asia Pacific. “But we will be talking about the 787 and the 777-300ER and we will be talking about the 737NG.”