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World’s Longest-Range Passenger Jet

Boeing 777

Experts say ultra-long range planes deliver mixed benefits to airlines...

May 5, 2013 10:55 by


Proof that ultra-long haul is not for everyone is contained in a quick comparison of sales for comparable existing models.

Boeing has sold 59 of its 777-200LR endurance jet, which entered service in 2007, compared with 687 of the shorter-range but highly popular 777-300ER.

Air India has announced plans to sell 5 777-200LR’s and one industry source said some or all could end up being acquired by the government for VIP transport. Air India declined comment.

Before the 777-200LR, the industry’s previous long-distance record-holder, the Airbus A340-500, was capable of flying 9,000 nautical mile on polar routes yet notched up fewer than 40 sales.

Production was halted in 2011, driven also by a wider slowdown in sales for all but the largest four-engine aircraft.

Reflecting thinner demand for super-long haul, the 777-8X is expected to take a backseat to the 777-9X, which is seen as the main weapon in an all-out defence of Boeing’s mini-jumbo franchise. The main model is slated to enter service at the end of the decade.

Nonetheless, recent public presentations suggest Boeing is confident the significantly enlarged wing and more powerful engines designed for the main 777-9X model will give airlines the flexibility to use the 777-8X spin-off more efficiently.

Randy Tinseth, vice president of Boeing marketing, told financiers in January the 777X would have “significantly lower operating cost” and greater payload and range ability. Airbus says its 350-seater is the right size and costs less to run.

As both sides trot out competing claims, the 777 vs A350 contest is likely to spark a fierce debate on technology – just as the industry digests the lessons of recent technical troubles on the 787 Dreamlinerand, before that, the A380 superjumbo.

Boeing is expected to argue that its decision to keep the 777’s metal fuselage and focus on new carbon-fiber wings will marry increased performance with a proven record of reliability.

Airbus argues its A350-1000, the largest variant of its A350 family, will be cheaper to run because the whole plane, not just the wings, will be mainly built of lightweight carbon fibre.

Ironically, the two rivals are taking roughly opposite positions at the smaller end of the market for wide-bodied jets, where Boeing is pushing a possible all-composite stretched version of its 787 Dreamlineragainst the traditional A330, an older plane marketed on reliability and availability.

Both the 777 and A330 are important cash cows, helping to produce the funds needed to pay for ground-breaking developments such as the 787 and A350.

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