Scott Carson has signalled that Boeing's product development strategy to counter the Airbus A350-1000 may exclude major new derivatives of the 777, with the airframer not planning to develop an all-new large widebody twinjet for another decade.
The Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive made the revelation during an address to Wall Street analysts on 6 February, when he proposed a possible two-tiered strategy involving the 787-10 stretch and a refreshed 777-300ER development to address the emerging threat of the 350-seat A350-1000.
The absence of a major 777 development in the company's near-term product line-up would disappoint some major customers, such as International Lease Finance chief Steven Udvar-Hazy and Emirates Airline boss Tim Clark who have both urged Boeing to develop a 777-300ER-sized A350-1000 challenger with 787 technology. British Airways has also been pushing for a competitive offering in the large twinjet market to counter the A350-1000 in its current campaign.
BA has been pushing Boeing to launch a rival to the A350-1000 (above)
Carson also emphasises that Boeing believes the basic 777 airframe can remain competitive through the next decade with perhaps a "modest" refresh, focusing on engine and airframe technologies.
"There comes a time when you think about what you're going to do with the upper-end of that marketplace," he says. "We'll make some decisions about what to do with a major refresh, but we're not in any panic about that. We think its doing incredibly well in the marketplace right now."
Rather, Boeing still plans to hold off developing a new widebody in the 380-seat-and-above class market for at least 10 years, he said, adding such an aircraft would feature an all-composite airframe like the 787.
Carson's remarks came against the backdrop of a nine-month flight test delay for the 787 programme. The extra effort has forced Boeing to keep research and development expenditures flat in 2008 at between $3.2 billion and $3.4 billion. Previously, the company had hoped to reduce such costs to $2.8 billion by end-year, meaning the cost of the 787 delay may erode Boeing's war chest for launching new development programmes.