Boeing acknowledges that it could face pressure to improve the specification of its proposed 787-10 stretch due to the emergence of a -900 XWB variant of the A350, but is sceptical whether the rival will be able to achieve the performance claims that Airbus has made for it.
As currently proposed, the 787-10 studies continue to be a centre around a 310-seat “simple stretch” of the 787-9, with the same weights and engines and would be available for delivery “not before 2012”, says Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice-president marketing Randy Baseler. “We’ve traded payload for range which falls off from around 8,300nm [15,400km] to 7,200-7,500nm,” he adds.
After the A350 XWB revamp last year, Airbus says that the A350-900 will enter service in mid-2013 offering a range of 15,540km with 314 passengers. Baseler admits that with potential 787-10 customers evaluating this rival aircraft, Boeing “could have more pressure” to improve the specification of the 787-10 “if Airbus can achieve the capability it says it will” with the A350.
But Baseler says that based the information published so far, he is sceptical whether Airbus “can deliver” the claimed performance for the A350-900: “Airbus has not given airlines enough information yet on the specification of the A350 for them to be sure whether the performance claims are achievable,” he says. “But from what we can tell, the A350-900’s range is probably more likely to be around 7,300nm [13,500km].”
Baseler says that taking the 787-10 from the “low 7,000nm range category to the low 8,000nm category is a step-change” which means it will take longer to develop. He adds that it will require increased weights, more powerful engines, stronger landing gear and wing changes.