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Boeing says commercial freighter market not sufficient to sustain C-17 Globemaster line

Boeing is maintaining its position that the market for a commercial version of its C-17 Globemaster III is alone not adequate enough to warrant continuing the aircraft’s production, despite US firm Global Heavylift Holdings’ publicised interest in acquiring the military cargo aircraft for commercial purposes.

“Boeing believes there is a market for a commercial version of the C-17 [known as the BC-17], but the size and timing of the market is not sufficient, by itself, to sustain the C-17 production line,” says Boeing.

“The viability of the C-17 production line will ultimately depend on commitments from the US government.”

Without any new orders from the US military or international customers, the last C-17 is scheduled to be delivered in mid-2009. “We look forward to continuing to work with Congress and the Air Force to ensure the C-17 remains integral to airlift modernization efforts today and into the future,” says the spokesman.

But at least one non-governmental source has shown a strong interest: Florida-based Global Heavylift co-founder Myron Stokes says the firm has a $10.8 billion letter of intent from Oppenheimer & Company to pursue a consortium/syndicate-based private placement via a simultaneous triple raise in Asia, Europe and the US to support its proposed acquisition of 30 new or 60 used BC-17 aircraft for commercial applications.

A request for proposal (RFP) has been submitted to Boeing with a separate RFP being forwarded to Pratt & Whitney for the engine, says Stokes.

Boeing says it has received “significant interest in the BC-17” but the manufacturer is keeping those discussions confidential.

Nonetheless, it says, “because of the time required to develop, test and certify the aircraft, the BC-17 would not be available until 2010, at the earliest”.

It also notes that “there cannot be a BC-17 without the foundation of a healthy C-17 production line”.

Boeing last week officially confirmed it is stopping procurement of parts for any new C-17s not under contract or firmly commitment due to the lack of US government and new international orders for the aircraft.

“This move is the first step in an orderly shut down of the production supply chain, should no further orders be received from the US government or international customers,” it says.

“Without further aircraft orders, significant workforce reductions will begin in early 2008 as the production line heads toward complete shutdown in mid-2009.”

Stokes says Global Heavylift is confident that Congress “is completely behind this aircraft” and expect it will sanction funding for a further order for 10 to 12 of the type.

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