Basically Airbus and Boeing made different bets. Airbus went for mass hub traffic with its A380 super-jumbo, whereas Boeing went for a fuel-efficient composite plane that could fly people point to point at lower costs. Airbus hastily covered its bet by producing its own part-composite A350XWB. Now Boeing has unveiled its stretch version of the 787, the 787-9, which is 20 feet longer and with space for 40 more passengers, taking the total to 290. It also increases the range by 300 miles, taking it to 8,500 miles. And at the Paris Air Show Boeing announced yet another stretch version, the 787-10, adding a further 18 feet and 40 more seats. The stretch versions use the same wings as the original Dreamliner, but strengthened to take the extra weight.
With the battery issues hopefully behind them, Boeing is doing what an aircraft manufacturer should do: exploit the technology the learning curve has supplied, and use it to develop profitable extra versions rapidly and comparatively cheaply. The best guess is that the 787 family will be a money-spinner for Boeing, whereas the future of the Airbus 380 looks less certain. The tragedy of Concorde was that only 13 were built of the original version, and there never were the stretch and advanced versions that might just have paid off. That tends to be what happens when countries instead of companies specify what planes shall be built.
Filed under: Updates