Boeing 7E7 prompts A330-200 retool plan
PARIS, Dec 17 (AFP) – Boeing’s planned fuel-saving 7E7 passenger jet could inspire European arch-rival Airbus to modify some of its own aircraft instead of developing an entirely new plane, experts say.
“Airbus could minimize its response by optimizing the A300-600 and continuing to develop the A330-200,” two aircraft that correspond in seat and flight capacity with the positioning of the future 7E7, Jean-Paul Herteman, chief executive of French aero-engine manufacturer Snecma, said Tuesday.
Speaking the same day Boeing announced it was offering its new 7E7 Dreamliner for sale, the chief of the state-owned Snecma suggested Airbus would swap engines on some of its planes.
“Airbus has the A330-200 which fits very well into the 7E7’s niche … I wouldn’t be surprised if they reacted by trying to retool the A330-200 with the Dreamliner’s engines,” said Herteman, who next year will head the propulsion division of Snecma, a major partner in the Airbus consortium.
The 7E7 engine was expected to contribute half of Boeing’s projected 20-percent fuel savings for the future twin-aisle aircraft, in comparison with similar mid-sized jets.
However, Herteman emphasized, Airbus is “not under pressure.”
Officially, the European aircraft manufacturer plans no response to the Boeing company’s new project, considered a mere patch to the aging product range of the Chicago-based group.
“No response is needed,” said an official of the Toulouse, France-based Airbus.
“There are those (Boeing) who are responding to our A330-200 market domination, which is a plane launched five years ago and which incorporates at a technological level practically everything that the 7E7 is expected to have.”
Mathieu Blondel, a consultant at Arthur D. Little, suggested that Airbus could meet the latest challenge through its customization services.
“Airbus could continue to work from a common platform on ‘customized’ versions,” adapted to the specific needs of certain clients,” Blondel said.
“That’s been the case recently with the A340-600, with a flight range extended from that of the A340,” notably developed for airlines in Asia and the Gulf, he said.
The A340-600, which allows non-stop transpacific flights from Asia to the east coast of the United States, “is currently a competitor of the 7E7 which also has a long-haul strategy,” he added.
By contrast, “the 7E7 won’t lead Airbus to launch a new type of aircraft,” he said.
“This airplane is not expected to lead Airbus to radically change its vision of long-haul aviation,” based on a network of major hubs, compared with Boeing’s point-to-point strategy.
Besides, said an analyst who asked not to be named, “Airbus doesn’t have the means today to respond to the 7E7 because of its development of the A380,” its new superjumbo aircraft.
The A380, which is expected to enter service in 2005-2006, two years ahead of the 7E7, has cost more than EUR 10 billion to develop.
“Once the A380 is finished and flying, perhaps Airbus will consider a new version of the A330,” the analyst said. “But I don’t see today a short-term response” to the 7E7.
“If one looks at the history of aeronautics, there is always a gap between the product range of the two major rivals,” he said.
“New aircraft always seek to fill a lack in the other’s line. Two competing aircraft are never faced off because there’s no room in the market,” he added.
Subject: France news