While the continued grounding of the 787 is not a positive for Boeing, our industry sources indicate that the next few weeks will bring several other developments that are quite positive news for Boeing.
1. A major order from Ryanair
Ryanair and Boeing are nearing agreement on an order for 200 additional 737NG aircraft, which should ensure a smooth production transition between NG and Max without gaps. This order has been in process for some time, but an announcement deferred as Ryanair was in negotiations to acquire AerLingus. With that transaction thwarted by regulators, we would expect an announcement very soon as business as usual returns.
2. Launch of the 777-X
Industry sources indicate that Boeing’s Board of Directors is expected to provide approval for the authority to offer the new 777-X aircraft to customers at their next meeting. That would formalize the development schedule, which would likely result in a fourth quarter 2019 entry into service for the 777-9X, with the smaller 777-8X entering service 20 months later.
The 777-X program, as we understand it, will include 2 passenger models, the 777-8 and 777-9, seating 350 and 407 in typical three class configurations. The -8 will be roughly the same capacity as the existing -300ER, while the -9 will include a stretch that brings the aircraft over the 400 seat capacity market, the highest for any twin. A -8 freighter version is also expected, entering service after the passenger versions are introduced.
A new wing, made from composites, but a metal wing box, is expected for the 777-X. The aircraft will keep its metal fuselage–and it will be a traditional metal, not aluminum-lithium. While a single or dual source engine has not yet been decided, we believe that GE has the inside track for an exclusive engine arrangement at the present time, based on commercial terms, although that has not been confirmed.
The 777 has often been called Boeing’s best airplane, and the redesign and stretch will result in an aircraft that will be larger than the competing A350-1000, and economically competitive.
3. Refining the 787-10X
Boeing is continuing its work on a second stretch to the 787 that would also compete with the Airbus A350-900. This variant, which seats 320 passengers, will now have additional range from earlier estimates, now 7,100nm from the previously estimated 6,900nm. This should provide airlines sufficient flexibility for most desired routes.
While launch of the 787-10X was initially expected prior to that of the 777-X, the issues with the 787-8 batteries have apparently pushed any official announcement off to the right, engineering efforts at Boeing are continuing for this variant. Once the approval for 787 return to service is secured after modifications and FAA approvals, we would expect an announcement on the 787-10 in short order. This aircraft should have extremely competitive economics, and is aimed squarely at the A350-900.
© 2013, Ernest S. Arvai. All rights reserved.