Air Transport World

Boeing declines to challenge Airbus A320 in 150-seat market; manufacturer is concentrating on longer term program promising lower cost, improved performance with increased technology.

Renton, Wash.--A few Paris Air Shows ago when interest in the 150 twin-engined transport was beginning to intensify, Bob Withington, VP-engineering with the Boeing Company, told this writer in front of the Boeing chalet, "I sure with they would wait a few years on this one. We could build this airplane now, but we could really do something in the early '90s." It appears that Withington, now retired from Boeing, will get his wish.

The Boeing Company has decided not to launch its 7-7 entry in the 150-seat twin market thus avoiding a direct confrontation with Airbus Industrie and its A320 program already in progress. Instead Boeing has announced it will concentrate its efforts toward a later major program to incorporate many of the new technologies not currently available. These include the new propfan and unducted fan propulsion systems, aluminium lithium, advanced avionics systems, fiber optics for control systems and others. A new transport in the 150-seat capacity range could be available early in the next decade, possibly 1992, according to Boeing officials.

The news was greeted with unabashed enthusiasm by Airbus Industrie. Adam Brown, Airbus' VP for sales said, "The general mood here (Toulouse) is one of delight and astonishment. We are all enormously encouraged because it seems to us to amount to a recognition by those guys in Seattle of what we have been saying for a long time, that the 320 cannot be matched by a 737 or a 757 derivative approach." He went on to say, "We have found that comparing such an airplane delivered in 1993-1994 (the Boeing proposals) and a 320 delivered in 1994 you may get a propfan with marginally lower operating costs. But," he said, "the 320 is for delivery in 1988, and if you take into account all the savings that will flow to airlines in the interim period, the 320 wins it hands down."

No enthusiasm

Boeing has long been working on a 150-seat twin program of its own although its officials have never been ecstatic about launching a program for an all-new design for delivery in the 1988-89 timeframe to compete with the A320. Its latest proposal, which it began to show airlines last August, was a scaled down version of the 185-seat 757. The transport would have had a new wing, the same fuselage and cross-section of the 757, but shorter, the same cockpit as the 757, slightly smaller tail surfaces, and would probably have been powered by the International Aero Engines V2500. The V2500, however, would not have been available for deliveries before 1989.

Airlines, according to Boeing officials, were not enthused about the smaller 757 which Joseph Sutter, Boeing executive VP, says would have been about one-half (of the effort and cost) of a new program. Delta Air Lines has been the most intense customer wanting a new 150-seat twin, but Delta also wanted one with as much new technology as possible. Delta was not enthused. Boeing officials report that other airlines were also unimpressed. In any case no one was beating down the door with orders. …

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