By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — The signals that Boeing Co. executives have sent about the timing of the 777X program have been concerning to one of the world’s most-influential aerospace analysts, though he might find the latest word from the company to be encouraging.
Key 777 customers want the updated version to enter the market by 2019 or earlier. But Boeing’s chief executive in Chicago, Jim McNerney, has indicated the company won’t introduce the 777X until sometime in the next decade.
“That’s not the message you want to send to the market,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group who is one of the most-quoted in the business. He addressed about 400 people Wednesday at the annual Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference in here.
As if to answer Aboulafia’s worry, later a Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president told the group that the company expects the 777X “to enter market late in the decade” — contradicting the CEO.
Randy Tinseth also said he and other Boeing executives “really like what we’re doing” with widebody jet development programs like the 777X and 787-10X.
Tinseth’s timeline resembles a recent prediction by the president of Emirates, a key 777 customer, who earlier this week said he expects Boeing to launch the 777X program within six to nine months.
Tinseth said the new 777X family of aircraft will be slightly larger than existing 777s. Boeing is seeing a growing number of 777s configured to seat 10 passengers across. The company is keeping that in mind, Tinseth said.
The 777X will have a range of 5,000 miles and will be more efficient than the existing version or similar jets, he said.
Tinseth also was upbeat on the 787-10X, which will seat 323 passengers and have a range of 6,800 nautical miles.
“It will be the most fuel-efficient aircraft we have built,” he said.
Together, the 777X and 787-10X “really put pressure on our competition,” Tinseth said. “We essentially push the (Airbus) A330 out of the market.”
As for the Airbus A350, Tinseth believes the long term viability of that jet “is really in question.”
Analyst Aboulafia said the A350 is “gaining some traction” in terms of orders, stealing longtime loyal 777 customer Cathay Pacific, due to Boeing’s sluggishness in responding.
While disappointed by Boeing’s apparently slow approach to development programs, Aboulafia was optimistic that the company would resolve recent troubles with the 787-8. Federal regulators grounded the jet on Jan. 16 after batteries failed in two Dreamliner aircraft.
“In the long run, I think they’ll get it right,” Aboulafia said.
Tinseth declined to give new information on the 787’s woes, citing an ongoing federal investigation. The Boeing executive said the company is working “24/7” to get the mostly composite jet back in the air.
Leeham Co. analyst Scott Hamilton, who also spoke at the conference, estimated the 787 will be grounded for 90 to 120 days. He noted, though, that Boeing hopes to have the Dreamliner up before then.
The PNAA conference continues Thursday in Lynnwood.
Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org.