The biggest cat and mouse game since Tom met Jerry is being played out in Toulouse and Seattle, as the world's major airframers try to second-guess their rival's next move in the battle to create the best widebody twinjet.

Airbus says it has the advantage as its "competitive challenge is defined".

But it is not that simple. Boeing is not alone in doubting that Airbus can take on both the 787 and 777 market segments with a single family of aircraft. The US manufacturer tried such a move with the 767-400ER double-stretch, creating what one airline chief executive called the "donkey that went nowhere" and which achieved little success in the market.

This recent memory may have prompted Boeing to consider the 777 as an alternative starting point to the proposed 787-10 from which to tackle the larger A350 models.

But while Boeing has confirmed long-running industry speculation that it is evaluating a re-invigorated 777, it still has to decide how it will do it. ILFC boss Steve Udvar-Hazy wants another stretch, but Emirates president Tim Clark does not want a repeat of the 767-400ER and says increased range should be the goal.

So Airbus is chasing a moving target after all - as it comes under increasing pressure to commit to a firm specification for its largest A350 variant, the -1000. Next month's Paris air show should be compulsive viewing.


Source: Flight International