Boeing boss wants board approval to offer A380 spoiler

The Boeing board is expected to decide this week whether to grant authority to offer the 747 Advanced after company president and chief executive Harry Stonecipher personally backed the plan.

Stonecipher is understood to have taken the eleventh-hour decision to seek board approval within 48h of the Airbus A380 roll-out, and made the move following calls from 747 operators for Boeing to make a firm go/no-go commitment to the stretched double-derivative programme (Flight International, 7-13 December 2004). He also signalled renewed interest in the 747-400X at the company's annual leadership meeting in Palm Springs, California.

The decision, if approved, would take the 747 Advanced beyond any previous stretch proposals. The latest plan, which now appears more realistic than the 747-500X/600X effort shelved in the mid-1990s, is also likely to be Boeing's last opportunity to sustain the famous product through the rest of the decade.

A leading launch candidate for the freighter version is Cargolux, which has been given formal presentations, while Cathay Pacific Airways is believed to have expressed interest in the 450-seat stretch. Other candidates historically linked to the project, British Airways and Lufthansa (for the freighter version), are said to have backed off from being involved as potential launch customers.

Boeing declines to comment on any board decision, but says it is "still in detailed discussions with the customers". The aircraft is aimed at a relatively small "200-seat gap" market niche between the 350-seat Airbus A340-600/Boeing 777-300ER and the 555-seat A380. Boeing predicts there could be 400-500 sales in this category over the next 20 years and recently admitted these could be lost to the A380. If Boeing is to offer the stretch, the programme could be formally launched by the end of the year. With this timescale, Boeing will be expected to go for first flight in 2008 for entry-into-service late in 2009.

A key element will be the willingness of General Electric and Rolls-Royce to develop versions of the 7E7 engines, the GEnx and Trent 1000, respectively.

The passenger version will be a stretched variant of the -400ER with a 2.03m (6.6ft) -long plug insert in the double deck forward Section 42 and a 1.53m plug close to the wing trailing edge, increasing length to 74.2m compared with 70.6m for the -400ER production model. The freighter will also be stretched in the same mid-to-aft fuselage position as the passenger model, and incorporate a 3.56m stretch forward of the wing-body join.


Source: Flight International