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Pressure mounts for Boeing 787-10 decision as Airbus A350 comes into frame at Qantas

Boeing 787 launch customer Qantas is pushing the airframer to commit to the development of a long-range -10 stretch and is considering the largest A350 XWB model as an alternative to satisfy its requirement for a 350-seat transpacific aircraft.

Boeing has been studying a "double-stretch" 787-10 variant for several years, which is timed to enter service after 2013. It has been offering the larger aircraft to customers but needs to secure commitments before approaching its board for launch approval.

"We are looking to Boeing to commit to a -10 aircraft with a longer range but with the same technology as the 787 aircraft," says Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon.

Qantas, which has 45 General Electric GEnx-powered 787s on order, is interested in an aircraft with 350 seats that can reach the US West Coast from Sydney nonstop with a full load of passengers and cargo, he adds.

Although the airline rejected the original A350 when it selected the 787 back in 2005, it is interested in evaluating the 350-seat -1000 version of the revamped A350 XWB.

"We are looking very, very carefully at the A350," Dixon said during the 787's roll-out in Everett near Seattle last week, adding: "There is no doubt the A350 now is a very, very good aircraft."

Qantas plans to put the baseline -8 model into service next July, with its low-cost operator JetStar Airways taking the first 15 aircraft to launch its international operations.

The mainline carrier will accept the next batch of aircraft, which are notionally to be 787-9s, although Qantas has the flexibility to switch to other models of the 787, to include the potential -10 model, says Dixon.

The airline will finalise a deal before the end of this month for 20 more 787s and convert an additional 20 purchase rights into options.


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