Boeing Co has committed to building a longer version of its fuel-efficient 787 jet to meet demand from several airlines, the head of the new airplane program said yesterday.
"It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when, and finalizing some details around configuration," Mike Bair, vice president and general manager of the 787 program, said in a conference call with reporters.
The 787-10 will carry approximately 300 passengers, about 50 more than the largest of three models the company had previously said it would build.
While some details of the design have yet to be completed, such as the precise seating capacity and how far the plane will fly, Bair said Boeing expects to begin delivering it in the final quarter of 2012.
Bair said "about a dozen" differnet carriers have expressed serious interest in a stretch version of the 787, but the only one that he mentioned by name was Emirates Airlines, a growing carrier based in the United Arab Emirates.
Initially, Boeing had resisted the call for a larger 787, fearing it might steal sales from an extended-range version of its 777. Then more airlines started clamoring for it.
"Early on, Emirates was pretty much a lone wolf in their interest in the airplane," Bair said. "But as time has marched on, and we've talked to other carriers, it's become pretty clear that the interest is more widespread than just Emirates."
Qantas Airways Ltd of Australia has also said it would be interested in a larger 787 if Boeing built it.
Chicago-based Boeing, which assembles most of its commercial airliners in the Seattle area, has said that its twin-engine 787s will be more fuel-efficient than any other plane flying today, in part because the planes will be made largely from composite materials, which are a lot lighter and far more durable than aluminum.
The 787-8 will be the first model that airlines will fly. It's scheduled to enter service in 2008, followed by the shorter-range version 787-3 the following year.
The largest of those three, the 787-9, will carry about 250 passengers just over 16,000km when it enters service in 2010.
Adding more seats to the 787-10 will mean it won't fly quite as far as the 787-9, but will have as much, if not more, cargo space, Bair said.
Industry analysts have said that it's smart for Boeing to offer a larger 787, since its chief rival, Airbus SAS, is designing its A350-900 to compete with both the 787-9 and the 777-200ER.
European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company is the majority shareholder of Airbus, which is based in Toulouse, France.
To date, Boeing has received 298 firm orders and 88 commitments from a total of 28 airlines for 787 models.
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