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Boeing Mulls Stretching 777 to Knock Out Airbus A380

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Boeing Mulls Stretching 777 to Knock Out Airbus A380

Old 7th Jul 2016, 16:45
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Boeing Mulls Stretching 777 to Knock Out Airbus A380

Boeing Co. is proposing to stretch its largest 777 model to create a twin-engine behemoth aimed at delivering a knock-out blow to Airbus Group SE's struggling A380 superjumbo, said people familiar with its plans.

The U.S. planemaker has approached several carriers about the plane it calls the 777-10X, including Dubai-based Emirates, the world's largest operator of both Boeing's 777 and Airbus' double-decker aircraft, said the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are private.

The proposed model would carry about 450 travelers, sharpening its rivalry with the A380, two of the people said. To do so, Boeing would stretch the frame of its 777-9 to squeeze in about four extra rows of seats. The -9, whose debut is slated for decade's end, will be the first twin-engine model to encroach on jumbo territory by hauling more than 400 passengers.

"We are always evaluating technologies, airplane configurations and market needs," said Doug Alder, a Boeing spokesman. "While no decisions have been made, we will continue to study 777X derivatives and seek customer input to develop products that provide the most value for customers."

An Emirates spokeswoman said that the world's biggest international airline is in "regular contact" with both Boeing and Airbus about current and future fleet requirements.

A380 Uncertainty

While Emirates has reviewed the new 777 variant, it isn't sold on the concept, said a person familiar with the talks. The carrier has ordered 289 jets from Boeing's 777 family, including 150 of the upgraded versions known as the 777X. Boeing unsuccessfully pitched Emirates on its 747-8 jumbo two years ago as a potential A380 replacement.

The U.S. manufacturer is angling to take advantage of uncertainty over the future of the A380, and any strain in Airbus' relationship with Emirates.

While the Gulf carrier, which has taken 80 A380s and last month ordered two more, lifting its backlog to 64, has been pressing the European planemaker to upgrade the model to bolster fuel savings, Airbus has been reluctant to make the multibillion-dollar investment for essentially one customer.

Tim Clark, president of Emirates, told Bloomberg earlier this month that talks with Airbus to enhance the A380 with new engines had lapsed. "My main concern is that they stop producing the plane," he said. The airline's A380s seat between 489 and 615 passengers, according to its website.

Boeing is exploring ways to expand its current product line-up into new market niches as it battles Airbus for supremacy in the wide-body market and staves off new competitive threats to its best-selling 737 narrow-body jets. Also on its drawing board: a potential redesign of the smallest 737 Max and a stretch of the largest plane in that family.

Enlarging the 777-9, which is already designed to seat more than 400 people, would give Boeing another way to woo jumbo-jet operators as sales of the four-engine A380 and 747 falter. Boeing's large twin-engine jets have hastened their demise by offering similar range and seating, ample cargo capacity and greater savings on fuel and maintenance.

Boeing's proposed plane could also help the U.S. planemaker counter a new stretched version of the A350 wide-body jetliner that Airbus has been discussing with prospective customers who don't need the engine thrust or the range of the 777-9.

Most Expensive

The -9, the best-selling member of the 777X family, seats between 400 and 425 passengers and has the range to fly 7,600 nautical miles (14,075 kilometers). It is the most expensive Boeing jetliner, and the first to bear a US$400 million price tag.

Sales of the 777X have slowed since Boeing unveiled the plane amid a blitz for 235 orders at the Dubai Airshow in November 2013. The upgraded planes will feature Boeing's largest-ever wingspan, complete with tips that fold up while the plane taxis around airports.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and All Nippon Airways Co. are customers, along with the three-largest Persian Gulf carriers. Boeing's last sale came more than a year ago, when an unidentified customer ordered 10 of the planes.
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 04:37
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Hmm, I guess that the operative word is "squeeze". Emirates and the other operators of the A380 have been successful largely because it doesn't squeeze in passengers, it's actually the complete opposite. Quiet too.

I think that there's every chance of an A380neo and stretch at some point, which Airbus can trot out at almost any time they like.

Airlines that have built up a large and loyal customer base won't be keen to risk losing that by squeezing them into a cramped 777 tube. A shiny new 777 would be expensive indeed if it results in 10% of the customer base choosing a different airline.

So I think that we'll see A380 struggle on as airlines decide to buy whilst they still can, and maybe buy a lot more if Airbus do a neo or stretch.
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 11:04
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I hope not. Boeing should develop ability to learn from others and its own mistakes. Cannot have too many money pit projects.

Most airlines cannot fill VLAs without offering heavily discounted tickets. So unless manufacturer sells the plane at 65% discount, VLA is not worth it.

779 is best selling There are only 300 total 77X orders. There is no evidence others are ready to buy in 100s.
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 11:27
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We have been here before... a few times... Boeing have a habit of popping out these projects with no real intention of building them, simply to head off a customer who might he thinking of an Airbus - anyone else remember the one and a half decked 767 project, dubbed by the late Peter Sutch of CX "The hunchback of Washington State"?
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 12:26
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Surely there's more to making a large capacity aeroplane than just aiming for capacity? The A-380 is popular as it can be loaded in an efficient way as well as having a large seating area meaning that SLF are looked after in a comfortable way. My first thought is that a stretched 777 is more likely to finally kill off the 747 than the A-380.
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 15:06
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My first thought is that a stretched 777 is more likely to finally kill off the 747 than the A-380.
Wot he said.
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 15:14
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That's like beating two dead horses.
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 16:04
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I don't know, this sounds like more of a competitor for the A350-1000 than the A380. The -900 is on target for 370 min ETOPS certification this year (says Airbus), the -1000 is due this year. So unless Boeing is about to bolt a couple more fans on to the 777, I don't think the A380 is the one Boeing to be concerned about.
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 16:33
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What on earth is the point of, and who would want to fly, a widebody with 300+ pax on one engine for 370 minutes? Well perhaps an accountant might think that completing a flight to destination on one engine without dumping fuel and diverting might be economical but, if that is the case, those enforcing such nonsense should have to endure such a flight every six months.
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 17:37
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ETOPS is about landing at the nearest suitable airport, not about continuing the flight to the destination.
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 19:06
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I am well aware of the raison d'etre for ETOPs. Apart from perhaps some southern routings between South Africa and Australia and the potential for trans Antarctic services, just where on the current route network around the world would 370 minutes be needed? It seems to me that the further ETOPS times are stretched, the greater the temptation for ops departments to be put under pressureto encourage crews to "press on". We have already had an example of an airline crew being instructed to divert because the aircraft's computers rejected a runway/weather combination that the type regularly deals with at the destination involved for that carrier. Whilst that cost the airline money, who's to say that an engine out on a trans Pacific sector operated by a 370 minutes certified carrier wouldn't tempt an airline's ops department to "encourage" a crew to press on to a destination, on the basis that the the rules say the aircraft is safe to continue. There is a growing tendency in many fields of commerce and industry to rely on the dictats of computerised systems and to work to the defined edges of systems and equipment limits on the grounds of economy. In aviation in particular this can quickly conflict with safety.
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 21:13
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Originally Posted by msbbarratt View Post
I think that there's every chance of an A380neo and stretch at some point, which Airbus can trot out at almost any time they like.
You clearly missed the bit which said:

Airbus has been reluctant to make the multibillion-dollar investment for essentially one customer.
Also......

Originally Posted by msbbarratt View Post
Airlines that have built up a large and loyal customer base won't be keen to risk losing that by squeezing them into a cramped 777 tube. A shiny new 777 would be expensive indeed if it results in 10% of the customer base choosing a different airline.
You do realise that Emirates operate more 777 than A380, right? 10 across seating as well.
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 21:32
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Originally Posted by philbky View Post
who's to say that an engine out on a trans Pacific sector operated by a 370 minutes certified carrier wouldn't tempt an airline's ops department to "encourage" a crew to press on to a destination, on the basis that the the rules say the aircraft is safe to continue.
Well the FAA, for a start ...
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Old 8th Jul 2016, 22:20
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Strangely, the FAA doesn't have total control over all airlines operating on the multitude of routes across the Pacific, especially ones operated by non US airlines operating flights not touching US territory. History, especially aviation history, tells us that if the envelope can be pushed, one day it will be and that isn't limited to test pilots.

But I'm still waiting to hear where the need is for a 370 minute ETOPS. Even Boeing admits that the majority of airlines need only 240 minutes and the 330 minutes pioneered by Air New Zealand between Auckland and North and South America is probably exceptional, the other possibilities being trans North Pole flights when Siberian airports are socked in and trans Antarctic flights.

Of course any ETOPS flight only operates at maximum range from its nearest diversion point for a small percentage of the journey but Sods Law says that one day a shut down will occur at the furthest point and how many on here would sit happily in their seat, either at the pointy end or down the back, on a single engined 300 plus seater, for six hours and ten minutes over open ocean or uninhabited wastes. Squeaky bum time springs to mind.

Last edited by philbky; 8th Jul 2016 at 22:23. Reason: additional phrase
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Old 9th Jul 2016, 01:07
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The normalization of deviance is defined as:

“The gradual process through which unacceptable practice or standards become acceptable. As the deviant behavior is repeated without catastrophic results, it becomes the social norm for the organization.”

It's not just NASA who learnt this painful lesson but healthcare services and numerous places where repetitive process' are dealt with. There are many examples.

Since someone set the bar at 330 minutes another company will see it as a big 'win' if they can get 370 minutes. After all, if we get 40 minutes more than the other guy - surely we must be better? So the ratchet continues. (and stop calling me ...)
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Old 9th Jul 2016, 05:23
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The big carrot for ETOPS/EROPS was 180 minutes - with that you could go pretty much anywhere in the world (the most limiting case being US mainland to Hawaii), although the routing might not be optimum. At 210 minutes, few routes became sub-optimum. When you start talking above 300 minutes, it's basically a very small number of south pole polar routes - and becomes something of a 'mine's bigger than yours' exercise.
While overall shutdown rate clearly comes into play, a large part of the ETOPS equation is that most engine failures occur during takeoff/climb, not during cruise.
All that being said, those of us who put passenger comfort above price are clearly in the minority. If the average punter can save $100 suffering in a 777-10 instead of a relatively comfy A380 or 747-8i, they'll jump at the chance.
Boeing clearly recognizes that the future of the 747-8 is the freighter, not passenger. The 747-400 has proved to be hugely popular as a freighter - but most of the -400s are getting seriously long in the tooth (100k+ hour -400s are becoming the norm). Those 747-400s are not going to last forever, and Boeing is betting pretty serious money that eventually 747-8F are going to be needed as replacements.
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Old 9th Jul 2016, 05:41
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Irrelavant to the discussion here but when I read the number 370 I felt a bit unease due to the famous MH370.

As the ETOPS 370 will be used fairly marginal (we have not identified any routes that can be used) there are considerable more chances for a bad outcome on the shorter ETOPS segments. So a question - given most airlines use bi-engine aircraft for long range flights would a crash of such aircraft would impact the sector or the public will only register just as an accident and will rapidly forget?


And for the issue at hand: I have not flown on an A380 but I thought a major plus for the aircraft is the space it can and does provide to premium pax something 777 can't do while maintaining capacity.
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Old 9th Jul 2016, 09:23
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I suppose that was my point - the A380 has 4 engines and much more space than even a stretched 777 will have, so the idea of those two competing is a bit weird IMHO. But then I suppose airlines are looking more at cost per passenger per mile, and all that, and two engines are cheaper than four.

That's also why I mentioned the race for ETOPS bragging rights - "my ETOPS is bigger than yours!" - since I was wondering how much need there still is for 4 engines. The Great Circle Mapper lets you see the effect of ETOPS up to 330 min, and once you get past 180 minutes it only seems to matter if you're trying to cross the South Pacific e.g. 180 min up north vs 240 min down south. (Using the "777" glide speed settings of 410 kts.)
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Old 9th Jul 2016, 11:09
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Originally Posted by bnt View Post
I suppose that was my point - the A380 has 4 engines and much more space than even a stretched 777 will have, so the idea of those two competing is a bit weird IMHO. But then I suppose airlines are looking more at cost per passenger per mile, and all that, and two engines are cheaper than four.
It is a little more complex than that. An A380 can carry 600+ pax on a route as one flight in the day. But the demand may be for different times of day either for connections from feeder aircraft or because business travelers want to travel at different times dependent on what meetings they need to get to. So is it better to operate two 777 or even four 767 rather than one A380. This is a business decision by the airline. The bucket and spades tourists will go for the cheap and live with the time of departure/arrival. Business travelers are more likely to want specific departure times and connections. So what market is the airline trying to satisfy?
This was the initial reason for the A380 vs B787 approaches - thick routes vs thin routes. Subsequently both A and B have hedged their bets with A350 and B747/8. It is notable though that both the 380 and the 747/8 are not selling as well as expected whereas 787 and 350 are selling well.
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Old 9th Jul 2016, 12:02
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I might rejig the sentence to say the A380 is not selling as well as expected and, freighters apart, the 747-8 has almost no appeal for the airlines. It is a tad ironic that, in what will be its final iteration, the 747 has pretty much reverted to the role for which Boeing designed its first wide body and, having lost out to the C-5, was supposedly destined for the cargo role in civilian service after a short life as a passenger hauler until the expected adoption of SSTs by the world's major airlines.

Manufacturers may propose but the airlines make the decisions.
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