Boeing is focusing on tweaks it may be able to make to the 777-8 to meet Qantas’s requirement for an aircraft that can fly nonstop from Australia’s east coast to Europe.
Boeing’s vice-president and general manager of the 777X programme Eric Lindblad says the 777-8 is the right platform for the Australian carrier, but admits that the manufacturer will have to tweak it to meet the expectation of carrying a full passenger load on nonstop services from Sydney to London and New York.
“Today we have more work to do to make that the right airplane to do that given the Qantas requirements. We also believe that it’s pretty dang close,” he tells reporters in a conference call.
Boeing’s 777X chief project engineer Michael Teal adds that it is looking at ways to achieve additional range from the -8, which is nominally set at 8,700m based on a 352-tonne maximum take-off weight.
“If you look at the exact airplane that we have on paper today - which is not a firm configuration - it falls short of all of their desires, but exceeds many of their desires,” he says.
One option is to increase the MTOW of the aircraft, which would allow it to carry more fuel in the enlarged wing. Teal says however that this would mean some trade-off in the aircraft’s available payload.
“We’ve got to work with them to find what that range balance is,” he adds.
Qantas threw down the gauntlet to Airbus and Boeing in August asking them for an aircraft that would be able to operate nonstop from Australia’s east coast to Europe and the US west coast with a full passenger load.
Airbus is expected to pitch its A350-90ULR to meet the mission requirements, but is also likely to require some modifications to meet Qantas’s needs.
The carrier is looking to launch the extended long-haul flights in 2022-23. More recently, chief executive Alan Joyce has said that the airline could place an order for that aircraft in 2019.
While refusing to talk about timelines on a potential order, Teal was confident that it could accommodate Qantas’s delivery schedule.
“Given the conversations we have had with Qantas, I think our schedule that we have in place today would support the offer we have with Qantas,” he says.