Airbus's war of words with Boeing is being cranked up a notch as they prepare to do battle in the changing market for single-aisle airliners.

On the basis that the breakthrough technology needed to give the size of step demanded by airlines to justify the development of an all-new single-aisle will not be available for at least a decade, Airbus looks close to pressing the launch button for its re-engined A320, the so-called "new engine option". Powered by advanced turbofans currently in development, this upgraded family could be in service within five years.

But Boeing, which faces more challenges to perform this trick with the 737, is hinting that it may sidestep an interim development in favour of an early move to an all-new design, for service entry within the decade.

Airbus executives have been quick to highlight previous Boeing broken promises. Super salesman John Leahy points to the "7J7" of the 1980s - an all-new propfan-powered Boeing designed to kill off the then-embryonic A320 - and the Sonic Cruiser - which was Boeing's high-speed answer to the A380 - as stillborn examples of its rival's empty gestures.

But Airbus could be playing a dangerous game trying to second guess whether Boeing is bluffing. It will not need reminding how it was wrong-footed when Boeing turned two project studies - the 767-X and 7E7 - into all-new realities as the 777 and Dreamliner.

Source: Flight International