- Double-Stretched 787 Gathers Momentum
- Emirates Undecided Over 787-10X Purchase, Favours 777X
- Boeing Charleston In With A Shout For Assembly
Boeing has probably spent more time this year talking about the planned 777X family than it has done in respect of the 787-10X. But in the background, it’s the stretched 787 that is closer to both definition and launch.
Jim Albaugh has opined about launching the 787-10X first followed later by the 777X family – it’s likely the 787-10X could get ATO around the time the first major components of the 787-9 start arriving in Everett, WA ahead of final assembly later this fall. The 787-10X is poised to be roughly a 6m stretch (est) over the 787-9, taking length beyond that of the 777-200/777-200ER/777-200LR models at some 69m (est) with tri-class seating for around 323 passengers, or a 10% increase over the 787-9.
What is less clear is where Emirates sits on this airplane having pressed Boeing to launch it. Emirates’ eye favours the 777X for a number of reasons.
First off, the airline has no 787s on order and is unlikely to commit to buying any while the backlog is so big and because even the 787-9 doesn’t have enough seats for their liking.
Secondly, Emirates finds there is more commonality to be had with the existing 777 fleet if it commits to the 777X and becomes an early adopter, if not outright launch customer for the 777-8X and 777-9X.
Thirdly, Emirates has effectively placed a cap on its planned widebody variety, focussing the next 15 years around the planned 90 A380s, 70 A350s and the litany of 777s, dominated by the hot-selling 777-300ER. And with the earliest 777-300ER not due to be withdrawn until close to 2018 (based on current projections) Emirates is unlikely to rock-the-boat with a 787 variant and add to its fleet mix.
For Boeing, there are at least two-dozen or more carriers, many comprised from the Asia-Pacific Rim region that are itching to place orders for the 787-10X. Not only would it provide a staggering economic and performance boost in contrast to both A330-300s and 777-300s many currently operate, but it also gives the company a chance to develop its Charleston assembly facility.
Boeing Charleston is due to deliver just 4 787-8s in 2012. As Boeing moves toward its goal of 10 787s a month in 19 months time, Charleston will be producing 787s at a rate of around 3-per-month. Contingency planning has long been in place to support a higher production rate, assuming costs on the 787 program fall away sharper than they did for the 777.
And with the 787-10 fuselage being too big to fit inside the 747-400LCF Dreamlifter, there’s a compelling argument for keeping the entire specialised 787 fabrication and assembly for the double-stretched 787-10X in Charleston.
If Boeing aims to make the 787 cash-rich as well as enhance its portfolio, it has to seriously consider the possibility that the 787-10X won’t be built in Everett, if only because logistics and costs of shipping aerostructures make it more worthwhile and attractive by keeping it in Charleston where the bulk of the fuselage work will be done anyway.
While both Everett and Charleston production lines have the capability to mix-and-match the various 787 models, it makes more sense to keep the South Carolina arm busy with 787-8s and 787-10s, leaving Washington to stick with 787-8s and longer ranged 787-9s.
All of that is still to come. But as I have said before, Charleston is not and will not be allowed to be a one trick pony. Boeing has invested here for the next four or five decades – that does not mean Everett workers lose out. They’re just sharing the spoils of what could arguably be the most profitable widebodied airplane Boeing has ever built and it makes sense to tap into the resources of 787-only capabilities now ripening in Charleston.