Boeing is again reviewing the future direction of its proposed 777-200X/300X derivative programme, following Singapore Airline's (SIA) decision to order the competing Airbus Industrie A340-500 ultra long haul aircraft.

The loss of the Singapore campaign to the European consortium represents a major setback for the Seattle manufacturer, which first sold the 777 to SIA in 1996 as the start of a family of aircraft. As a result, Boeing is conducting an across the board review of the 777-200X and stretched -300X products, the planned development schedule and its remaining international market opportunities.

It is understood from Seattle sources that, with still no launch date in sight, the earliest planned delivery has slipped a further six months, to mid-2002.

The 777-200X had been scheduled to enter service in September 2000, but this latest delay effectively destroys any delivery advantage the aircraft once had over the A340-500.

Boeing may use the additional time to look at further performance improvements to the 777-200/300X, as attention now begins to switch to two US launch hopefuls American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

The company simultaneously appears to be stepping up efforts to promote the proposed long range 747-400LRX derivative to counter the A340-500/600, particularly with carriers that are still wavering, such as EVA Air.

SIA is expected formally to announce its A340-500 order after its 15 May board meeting. The airline is believed already to have signed a letter of intent for five aircraft, plus a further five options, for delivery from 2002 onwards.

Contrary to earlier reports, the deal involves incremental aircraft rather than conversion of any of the carrier's diminishing number of A340-300 options. The A340-500s are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 500s.

Source: Flight International