CEO: Boeing is ‘way ahead’ of Airbus with 777X

The 787 and 777 jet programs are helping distance Boeing from rival Airbus, the company’s chief executive said Wednesday.

Boeing is “five years ahead” of Airbus in new technology, CEO Jim McNerney said during the company’s annual investor conference. The conference, which is webcast live, is being held near Boeing’s North Charleston, S.C., site.

The jet maker honed new technology, such as use of composites, with the 787 program.

Boeing will use that capability in future Dreamliner derivatives as well as new variants of the 777, McNerney said.

Customer interest in the 787-10, a larger version of the Dreamliner, is “high and growing,” he said. Boeing intends to launch both the 787-10 and the 777X this year, McNerney said.

The updated 777X will have a fourth-generation composite wing. It will seat 40 to 50 passengers more than the existing 777-300 ER, which seats 386 passengers. The new jet will fly farther and use smaller engines, he said.

Airbus doesn’t have an airplane that will compete with the 777X, McNerney said.

“We’re way ahead of them and it’s going to be fun,” he said.

Airbus’ closest competitor to the new 777X would be the A350-1000, which seats 350 passengers.

McNerney also spoke passionately about the company’s “partnering for success” initiative, a company-wide effort to cut costs.

If a supplier isn’t cooperating with Boeing’s new program, it won’t be invited to bid on new programs in either commercial airplanes or defense and space. Boeing already sent letters to some suppliers telling them not to bid on 777X work.

“We told them: don’t bet against Boeing,” he said.

“I’m sounding like Darth Vader here,” McNerney said, with a laugh.

McNerney insinuated that the supplier initiative isn’t limited to external partners. Asked about where Boeing will place future jet assembly, McNerney said, “now that we have internal competition (between Puget Sound region and South Carolina), we’re going to get much better deals.”

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