INTRODUCTION OF the planned -100X "shrink" version of the Boeing 777 will depend on a much greater liberalisation of air rights in the Asia-Pacific region, including the negotiation of new bilateral and overflight agreements, says a senior Boeing executive.

Boeing expects the 777-100X to be launched within the next 15 months and to enter service around 1999. The company has warned, however, that the programme's timing and application could be effected by "factors outside its control".

The 250-seat aircraft will have an estimated maximum range of around 16,000km (8,600nm), further than any existing type of aircraft, including the 747-400 and Airbus A340-300. Several suitable ultra-long-range routes already exist, but "....these are the exception rather than the norm", admits Boeing chief engineer for customer-requirements product- development Jeff VerWey.

Development of the shortened -100X version will open up the possibility of new non-stop routes, such as Hong Kong-New York, Dallas-Tokyo and Singapore-Los Angeles. Additional new transpacific destinations, however, will depend on expanded air-services agreements, and the development of new routes over China and the Russian Far East.

The 777-100X is being designed " response to airlines' interest in providing direct, non-stop service to new destinations", says VerWey. He adds that the -100X could have a similar impact on the Pacific routes as the Boeing 767 twinjet did on transatlantic routes in the 1980s, opening up 20 to 30 different US gates to European traffic.

American Airlines is understood to be the main carrier pushing for development of the -100X, as part of its long-term strategy to expand into the Asia-Pacific region. Other airlines interested in the proposed "shrink" include Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, both of which are looking for new routes into the USA.


Source: Flight International