Boeing to take time on B737 options

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US aerospace giant Boeing said Thursday it will take its time before deciding whether to develop a new medium-range aircraft or update its B737, the world's biggest selling commercial plane.

"We're going to take our time, especially in evaluating a new aircraft," said Randy Tinseth, Boeing marketing director, as great rival Airbus won even more orders for its upgraded A320, the main competitor to the B737.

"I expect a lot of announcement(s) by Airbus," Tinseth said ahead of next week's Le Bourget airshow in northern Paris.

Boeing is "looking at two potential options," he said, with one being to upgrade the engines on the B737, just as Airbus has done with the new A320 Neo series, to make it much more economical at a time of soaring fuel costs.

"Our preference would be a new airplane but we have a lot of work to do," Tinseth said.

An upgraded B737 would be cheaper and quicker to bring to market, with the A320 Neo going to customers in 2015, while an entirely new aircraft would take massive investment and likely only enter service in 2019 or 2020.

Competition in this key medium-haul segment of the market is intense and is expected to be a major highlight at next week's airshow, the world's largest, where Airbus looks to have stolen a march already with orders for its plane.

On Thursday, low-cost airlines Cebu Pacific of the Philippines and GoAir of India placed orders for the A320 Neo worth some 10 billion euros ($14 billion) at list prices.

Earlier Thursday, Boeing hiked its long-term forecast for the commercial aircraft market by eight percent, estimating the industry would sell 33,500 planes worth $4.0 trillion (2.8 trillion euros) over the next 20 years.

It said single-aisle aircraft, like the B737 or A320, would account for the majority of deliveries over the next 20 years -- 70 percent of the airplanes and 48 percent of the value.

© 2011 AFP

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