New Boeing Moves to Production Phase
Mon Jun 10, 7:45 PM ET
By HELEN JUNG, AP Business Writer
SEATTLE (AP) - Design work on Boeing's newest long-range airplane, the 777-300ER, is nearly complete and major assembly will begin at the aerospace company's Everett, Wash., plant on June 20, the Boeing Co. announced Monday.
With 90 percent of design work completed, suppliers have already begun manufacturing some parts, said Lars Andersen, program manager of the Boeing 777 Longer Range program. Many of the parts are being built outside the United States and will be shipped to the aerospace company's Everett plant for assembly.
The remainder of design work involves plans for installing and assembling the larger parts, such as components for the fuselage, Andersen said.
The announcement comes as Chicago-based Boeing's biggest competitor in commercial aviation, Airbus Industrie of France, prepares to deliver its first A340-600, a long-haul, 319-seat plane, to Virgin Atlantic Airways in July.
Boeing considers planes that fly 6,000 nautical miles or more as part of its "longer-range" fleet. With a longer wing span than current 777 models and other design features, a Boeing 777-300ER can fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo carrying 365 passengers and 45,500 pounds of cargo — 43,500 pounds more than the 777-300 model.
The company has orders from six customers for 46 of the twin-aisle airplanes, Andersen said.
Boeing expects to roll out the first plane in November, run flight tests and deliver the first plane in March 2004. The delivery date is about six months later than originally forecast, due to requests from customers who are facing a slowdown hitting the airline industry since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Debbie Heathers, a Boeing spokeswoman. The planes cost between $201.5 million and $231.5 million, she said.
The six customers are All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, EVA Air, Air France, GE Capital Aviation Services and International Lease Finance Corp.
Despite the slowdown since Sept. 11, "there is an emerging market," said Richard Aboulafia, director of aviation at Teal Group, an aerospace and defense consulting firm, particularly among Asian carriers. "It has been slow, but there's no denying it will pick up and there will be fierce competition."
The Boeing Co. estimates a market demand for more than 500 of its 777-300ER and a fifth 777 model, the 777-200LR. Boeing previously announced that the 777-200LR would be delayed as a result of economic problems since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Design for that airplane won't begin until the first part of 2003, Andersen said.