Air Transport World

Boeing's large airplane options: the giant manufacturer is keeping mum but success of current programs places it in commanding position.

The giant manufacturer is keeping mum but success of current programs places it in commanding position

RENTON/EVERETT, Wash.--Boeing Commercial Airplane Group has just finished one of its best years, the prosperity continuing through the first quarter and probably the first half of this year. Yet, at the same time, Boeing is facing new challenges to its supremacy in the airline-transport field from its two traditional rivals, Europe's Airbus Industrie and McDonnell Douglas, down the Pacific Coast and points farther west. The threats from these two manufacturer have been coming for years. But now, both rivals are taking serious shots at the 747, the program that everybody except Boeing refers to as "the cash cow." MacDac and Airbus each is putting out proposals for a new transport, larger than the 747, that could challenge Boeing's monopoly at that end of the airline range/payload scale (See related articles, pages 48 and 67).

Whenever a rival has challenged that part of the market in the past, Boeing has done dramatic things. During the 1970s, MacDac threatened the 747 with its stretched DC-10 and Boeing produced the 747SP, a program that many insiders admit never really had a chance of breaking even--only 45 were built. But it could be called profitable, because it helped to shoot down the competitive stretched DC-10.

This time, the threats are coming from not one but both other builders, and Boeing is facing some perplexing decisions, the kind that involve lots of money. Boeing is taking the threats seriously. Last August, it formed a new organization called Large Airplane Development, headed by John B. Hayhurst, a BCAG vice president. Following some articles in the aviation press that it didn't like, Boeing has put the lid on discussions about a new large transport. …

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