Air Transport World

Chasing the 747.

The king of widebodies is under attack from above and below

Airbus Industrie and Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, the two remaining makers of large airline transports outside Russia, are still jockeying for position in the projected airline market beyond the early versions of the Boeing 747. Both manufacturers are busy attempting to define programs to serve high-capacity and long-range needs well into the next century.

Interviews with manufacturer officials at Farnborough and after reveal differing approaches to answering these airline needs. The task is not being made easier by the economic troubles in Asia, which is acknowledged to be a key market for these types of transports.

Airbus, buoyed by recent successes coupled with Boeing's difficulties, appears determined to build its double-deck A3XX as the 21st century arrives based on projections for airline requirements over the next 30-50 years. This is coupled in part with the apparent belief among Airbus officials that the consortium never will really be the equal of its Seattle nemesis unless it has an airplane bigger than the venerable 747, which Airbus officials believe is Boeing's "cash cow."

Airline growth forecasts emanating from Toulouse predict a market for 1,332 large transports of 400 seats (the average size of a 747) or larger through 2017. Boeing, meanwhile, having what Airbus calls a virtual monopoly on this market, is predicting more modest airline needs, 1,030 through 2017 and only 390 through 2007. Airbus is not predicting needs for the next 10 years. Its A3XX is not slated to enter airline service until September/October, 2004, at the earliest--nearly six years from now. …

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