Boeing Launches 787-10 As A350 Enters Flight Tests

By Jens Flottau
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

There have been concerns that, as a double-stretch of the original design, the -10's range might be insufficient for many carriers. And interestingly, none of the otherwise eagerly investing Persian Gulf carriers is part of the launch group—many of their routes are too long for the aircraft. But the increased range and slightly higher maximum takeoff weight of 553,000 lb. seem to have assuaged concerns. Reinforcements in the wing-to-body attachment area and on the landing gear were needed to accommodate the increased weight. Engine thrust will also be slightly higher than originally planned. “The range covers 97% of the widebody city pairs of the world,” Air Lease Corp. (ALC) Chairman/CEO Steven Udvar-Hazy points out. Its range will be 1,500 nm less than the -9's.

All of the 787-10 customers so far except Gecas have also ordered a version of the A350. United has 25 A350-900s on firm order; BA is taking 18 A350-1000s (plus options for 18 more); Singapore Airlines has firm orders for 40 A350-900s; and ALC has committed to taking 20 A350-900s and five -1000s. “That is a comment about the size of that market segment,” says Jeff Knittel, president of lessor CIT Transportation Finance. “The yields are still better and it is growing faster than short-haul.” Therefore “there is a demand for both aircraft.”

ALC is also working with Boeing on the 777X, but it is still too early for a launch decision, according to Udvar-Hazy. “It is still under design refinement,” he says. However, Boeing's Fancher says the 777X is “very firm in the configuration; the design is very mature.”

Boeing is marketing the 777-8X as a 777-300ER replacement and the longer 9-X to fill the existing capacity gap between the -300ER and the 747-8. Both aircraft will share an almost identical composite wing based on the technology experience gained on the 787. “The wing unlocks the efficiency of the airplane,” Fancher says, and he believes the “sweet spot” of the market will actually move to the 400 seats of the -9X from 300-350. The 777-8X is planned to offer a range of up to 9,400 nm, while the longer version will fly as far as 8,000 nm, the same as the 777-300ER.

Airbus says it is unimpressed with the proposed new competitor. “They will discover that a derivative will not compete with a clean-sheet design,” Leahy asserts. “I doubt that Boeing will ever build the aircraft of today. We don't respond to very heavy paper airplanes.”

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