Air Transport World

Paris sizzles. (Paris Air Show)

PARIS--The all-but-formal launch of the 777-300X on the basis of 31 commitments from major Asian airlines allowed Boeing to steal a march on its rivals here. The announcement had been expected but the manufacturer let tension build over the first few days of the salon before announcing on June 14 that--subject to approval by its board of directors--which was expected by the end of June, the 777-300X "would be launched into production."

The show itself was notable for a resurgence in aircraft orders (see box, page 40), and although some of these had been announced previously, the result was to cast an upbeat tone on proceedings at Le Bourget Airport.

Customers for the 777-300X include All Nippon Airways, which ordered 10 of the new aircraft in addition to existing orders for 18 777-200s. Cathay Pacific, a longtime proponent of the aircraft as an inter-theater replacement for its 747 "classics," will swap seven of 11 existing orders for the A-model into orders for the dash 300X. Korean Air intends to order four and will convert an additional four of its existing orders for eight 777-200s to dash 300Xs. Thai will purchase six dash 300Xs in addition to eight 777-200s already on order.

Boeing Commercial Airplane Group President Ronald B. Woodard said the 777-200's fuselage will be extended 10m (33 ft.) to a total of 73.8m (242 ft. 4 in.). Capacity is increased to 368 in a 3-class configuration or 451 in 2-class. In all-economy, the aircraft can seat up to 550. Woodard said it will be capable of serving routes up to 10,500 km (5,700 nm). First delivery is to Cathay in spring, 1998, with deliveries following to ANA, Korean and Thai.

The 777-300X will have a 660,000-lb. maximum taxi weight and essentially the load and range capabilities of a 747-200, all with 90,000-lb.-thrust engines. Another Boeing official said the dash 300 would be able do the work of the 747-200, with a 40% fuel saving.

Pratt & Whitney, selected by Korean Air to power its eight 777-300Xs, launched the PW4098 rated at 98,000 lb. thrust. Actually, the order/thrust selection cast light on a disagreement between the manufacturer and Korean, with Boeing saying 90,000 lb. would be adequate, while Korean wants a 98,000-lb.-thrust engine.

In an all-economy configuration such as those favored for domestic operation by Japan's three customers, the dash 300 could carry 550 passengers, a load similar to Japan Airlines' and ANA's 747SRs.

The dash 300X is not the only 777 follow-on under consideration. Woodard also said Boeing is working on a reducedsize version but with the same 660,000-lb. taxi weight of the dash 300--optimized for range--that would carry 259 passengers in a fuselage shortened 21 ft. from the dash 200 but with a range of 8,600 nm, an obvious shot at Airbus's A340 claims. This airplane, the 777-100X, would be available a year after the dash 300X, with which it would have much in common.

The launch is sure to inflame debate between Airbus Industrie and Boeing over which has the better aircraft and more impressive Asian customer list. Neither could be accused of generosity toward the other.

Already, the two were acting like boxers weary of sparring, the established heavyweight, Boeing, and the young pretender, Airbus, laying into each other's products, matching one family against the other.

The attack on Boeing was led by Adam Brown, Airbus VP-forecasting and strategic planning: "To listen to them, you might think they've only just become aware of listening to the customer." He said this has been one of Airbus's fundamental elements from the start. …

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