Air Transport World

Range wars. (transport aircraft range)

Trip length is overtaking capacity as the prime airline concern in new transports. All three manufacturers are facing up to it

Manufacturers of large transports are stressing the distance their latest and future offerings will travel, rather than the number of seats they will carry. Airlines are still concerned about their high-yield, long-haul, international business traffic and the airplane builders are trying to answer their needs.

The next competitive battle among the three large-transport manufacturers, Airbus Industrie, Boeing Commercial Airplane Group and McDonnell Douglas, in the high-capacity, widebody market still is cloudy but all three appear to feel that range capability might win out over capacity as the main selling point in the future.

In the view of many observers, the most recent round of competition took place in the Pacific. Last year, the major airlines of the region bought heavily, chiefly from Boeing. In the years just prior to 1995, Airbus was the big seller. Both companies are claiming major victories in the region. But most of the buying there is believed to be over, for awhile.

By the end of 1995, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Thai Airways International, Malaysia Airlines, China Southern and Japan Air System had bought 142 Boeing 777s, most of them during the year. Meanwhile, Airbus had sold 105 of its A330/340 combination to 15 airlines, including the 12 ordered by Philippine Airlines in January. Seven of the Airbus customers also bought 777s. Going into this competitive round, Boeing's 747/777 line, as usual, held the edge in capacity. Airbus held the edge in range capability; its A340-200 can do about 7,500 nm with a full passenger load, at least 1,000 nm more than a Boeing 747-400 or 777-200, but with fewer seats. …

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