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World’s Longest-Range Passenger Jet
Experts say ultra-long range planes deliver mixed benefits to airlines...
May 5, 2013 10:55 by Reuters
Boeing has shown airlines a blueprint for the world’s longest-range passenger jet, adding spice to a long-awaited revamp of its 777 wide-body jet, people familiar with the matter said.
Boeing on Wednesday launched a race against Airbus for sales of the newest long-haul jets by announcing it had begun selling an upgraded aircraft family code-named 777X.
First seen in the 1990s, the 777 cornered the market for large twin-engine aircraft able to fly routes previously only possible with four engines, earning it the nickname “mini-jumbo.”
Analysts say the 777 is Boeing’s most profitable plane, thanks largely to the 777-300ER, a 365-seat version that began operations in 2004.
Most of the industry’s attention is now focused on a future 400-seat version known as the 777-9X, which is Boeing Co’s response to a growing challenge from the largest version of Europe’s newest aircraft, the Airbus A350-1000.
But talks between Boeing and potential buyers have also generated interest in a 777-8X that would be a successor to the 777-200LR, the industry’s current distance champion, with a range of more than 9,300 nautical miles (17,200 km), people briefed on the talks said.
The 777-8X, boasting a range of 9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km), would be designed for some of the world’s longest trips such as from the Middle East to South America.
“They are offering an ultra-long range aircraft in the 777-8X,” said an industry source briefed on the plans. “It’ll be the longest range aircraft in the business.”
Boeing declined to comment on specifics, but spokeswoman Karen Crabtree said the company is working with customers to fine tune the details.
Experts say ultra-long range planes deliver mixed benefits to airlines and so far the market for them remains a niche, overshadowed by the juggernauts designed for trunk routes.
That is because when modern aircraft fly the longest 15-hour flights, the first few hours are spent mostly burning the fuel needed to carry even more fuel for the rest of the flight.
These aircraft “carry more fuel to carry more fuel,” said consultant Richard Aboulafia of Virginia-basedTeal Group.
“They need a very big wing with lots of (fuel storage) capacity, which means lots of structure and weight.”
Fuel is not the only source of extra weight. The long journey times also mean loading extra meals and a reserve crew, so that the fuel burned per hour – a measure of efficiency – can end up greater than if the plane simply stopped en route.
Airlines must balance this against any extra revenue they can charge for a direct flight and the ability to eliminate the fuel wasted in climbing and descending twice, as well as en-route landing fees and other costs linked to a stopover.
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