November 19, 2012
Credit: Boeing Concept
Guy Norris Los Angeles
As Boeing moves closer to issuing the go-ahead for the 787-10X, arguably one of the easiest marketing decisions it has faced in a decade, its customers and suppliers alike are still waiting for the other shoe to drop over the launch of the 777X.
Potential buyers of what will be the world's largest twin-engine airliner were briefed by the manufacturer at the start of November, around the same time as Boeing officially began talks about the 787-10X double-stretch derivative with airlines and leasing companies.
This time, Boeing quietly acknowledged it had received board approval to begin talks on the 787-10X without the normal fanfare traditionally associated with “authority to offer” (ATO). The move nonetheless is being widely seen as a clear signal of both Boeing's determination to stave off competition from the Airbus A350 as well as its growing confidence in the improving health of its 787 production system.
The stealthy aspect of the ATO remains equally intriguing, though it is believed to be more closely linked to a desire to firm up a batch of initial launch customers than any last-minute uncertainty over the final configuration. Boeing says clearance to start discussing the 787-10X is “conditioned upon our obtaining final board approval to launch the program at a yet-to-be-determined date.”
The company adds, “The timing of a decision to launch the program will depend on market response during the next phase of our discussions about the airplane.” Given the current schedule, unidentified potential customers say a firm launch decision is not expected from the Boeing board until early next year.
The 787-10X is a 787-9 stretched by 18 ft. to 224 ft. to seat an additional 43 passengers. Although jutting up against the Airbus A350-900 in capacity, the stretch is targeted as an A330 “killer” with exceptionally low seat-mile costs. The 320-seater is expected to be a 6,700-6,750-nm-range aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight slightly less than 7,000 lb. heavier than the 787-9 now in initial assembly.
Boeing adds that it has been “working closely with airline and leasing customers to define the key capabilities and features of the 787-10X, and we anticipate strong market demand for this third and largest member of the 787 family.”