BOEING is turning a corporate stone face to reports that Airbus is out to win customers away from its new 7E7 Dreamliner. Due to come into service in 2008, this is Boeing's first new aircraft model in 15 years. The US manufacturer has put ”4.5 billion in the aircraft after Airbus overtook it for the first time in global sales last year.
Airbus is thought likely to announce shortly the development of the A350, a new twin-aisle, medium-sized aircraft which could have its inaugural flight in 2008. It is based on the existing A330 but would be built with more lightweight materials which would aid fuel efficiency, a key 7E7 selling point. Boeing claims the 7E7 will be 20% more fuel-efficient and 10% cheaper to operate overall than similar-sized aircraft currently operating.
Mike Bair, Boeing vice president in charge of the 7E7, has said, however, that his company reckons Airbus will have difficulty getting a significant share of the market "unless they do something which is all new, and that will take time".
Boeing is hoping to win orders for at least 200 7E7s by the end of the year and claims that reports that Airbus was developing a rival had not put off customers. The tally for firm orders for the 7E7 to date is 52 from ANA and Air New Zealand, while First Choice Airways and Italian private carrier Blue Panorama have signed letters of intent. During the third quarter of 2004, Boeing delivered a total of 67 aircraft of all types, up from 65 last year. It needs another 67 deliveries in the fourth quarter to meet its 2004 estimate of 285 aircraft, but that would still leave Airbus ahead.