Air Transport World

Boeing's sound decision: the new QC2 noise standard at London Heathrow has put pressure on Boeing to make the 747 quieter or lose out completely in the battle at the very top of the market. (Airframes).(Statistical Data Included)

The unveiling of the new 747-400 Quiet Long Range at this year's Singapore Air Show was something of a surprise given that it occurred barely two years after an order from Qantas kicked off the 747-400 Extended Range variant. Manufacturers usually let a new top-of-the-line derivative enjoy that position for more than a couple of years, but in Singapore Boeing talked about launching the 747-400QLR in June for service entry in March 2004--a 21-month timetable. Even with a launch now delayed to January, the QLR would be only two years behind the dash 400ER, which rolled out June 17 and will be delivered to Qantas in October.

Another reason for surprise was that Boeing had backed away from a longer-range 747, the 747X, less than a year earlier following an unenthusiastic market response. Particularly in a slumping market, the launch of a new development--with new engine nacelles and the second change to the 747 wing shape in its 35-year history--seemed unusual.

For Boeing, however, the decision to offer the 747-400QLR is a consequence of the withdrawal of the 747X. The 747-400ER had been designed as a bridge to the 74Th rather than a long-term response to the needs of the market. After the demise of the 747X, Boeing launched a study of improvements to the 747 ranging from straightforward range increases to aerodynamic changes that would boost the aircraft's speed. Another option was to offer the upper-deck rest and service area planned for the 74Th, adding up to 20 revenue seats.

According to Jeff Peace, VP and GM of the 747 program, Boeing's customers "told us that the aircraft was the right size but that we needed to improve its environmental characteristics, and that they'd like to serve more demanding markets." As currently proposed, the 747-400QLR offers the customer a choice of environmental improvements or better performance, but not both in the same airplane.

For environmental characteristics read noise, and for lower noise read QC2, or Quota Count 2. …

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