Air Transport World

The 777: one plane fits all.

Converts often are the most vociferous advocates for their adopted causes, be they in politics, social matters or religion. Based on what has occurred over recent months as Boeing attempts to define its proposed new widebody twin, the 777, one probably should add aircraft manufacturers to the list.

Airbus industrie introduced airlines to the concept of widebody twins with its A300 following its birth in 1970. More recently, however, bowing to the desires of valued customer Lufthansa, the consortium is offering a 4-engine aircraft-the A340-for long, thin routes.

By contrast, Boeing came later to the large-twin concept. But even after it jumped in with the 767, customers said they didn't get the right airplane. As a result, there has been an almost continuous series of improvements in the type. For example, it started as a 2,200-nm airplane and now is capable of 6,700 nm.

Still, the latest 767 leaves customers wanting more. "The 767-300 is a super airplane," says Robert Baker, American Airlines' executive VP-operations. "But it has some problems being a competitor in cargo and fuselage size." Of course, the 767's fuselage cross-section was made narrow to maximize fuel efficiency when fuel prices were high. When prices moderated, airlines were left with an aircraft that is too narrow for comfort in some classes.

As a result, Boeing decided it had no choice. it had to fill the 200-seat gap in its product line between the 260-passenger, 4,500-nm 767 and the 450-passenger, 7,400-nm 747. The gap might not have seemed so wide, had not Airbus and McDonnell Douglas moved into it. But they did, with the A330/340 and MD-1 1. Boeing, which already has its hands full meeting current backlog (see story, page 39), felt that it had to go ahead with a new, big twin. Any medium/long route

The result is an airplane that Boeing is promoting as the answer to just about any medium to long-range route in the world. If an airline wants to replace its aging trijets for domestic U.S. routes, terrific. Boeing has Model A, with a range of 4,500 nm. The A will be certificated first, with deliveries to start in 1995. For customers who want to operate U.S.-Europe, EuropeAfrica/Middle East or within the Asian region, there is the 6,200-nm Model B, coming 12-24 months later. If the customer wants to be very daring and fly U.S.-Asia with a twin, Boeing will have Model C, with range comparable to the 747, at the end of the decade. And oh, by the way, Boeing will stretch A/B and sandwich that in before C.

In other words, Boeing is offering to match or beat Airbus, McDonnell Douglas and its own 767 and 747-1 00, all in one giant program. …

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