Buffeted by east winds

THERE was a dazzling array of super-advanced jetliners on display at the Singapore air show last week. Airbus Industrie brought the A3XX, a 550-seat, 80ft-high behemoth with space for a gym, bar and restaurant. The aisles were even wide enough to allow two people to pass each other with ease. Meanwhile, Boeing showed off a new model of its 777 that can fly for 18 hours non-stop, with space for 42 bunks below deck.

The trouble is, neither of these marvels has yet made it out of the briefcases of Boeing and Airbus planners. Locked in a fierce one-on-one struggle for market share, neither company is yet willing to invest billions in risky new planes. Economic turmoil in Asia further clouds the outlook, removing the comfort of a secure, fast-growing market.

"It's not like selling toothpaste. You can't just put the stripe in and then take it out if it doesn't work," said Joe Ozimek, Boeing's director of product marketing. "These are $150m [pounds 94m], $200m aircraft we're talking about."

Just two years ago it seemed that both planemakers were intent on going ahead with giant jetliners. Many observers expected Boeing to launch its own 550-seat "stretch" 747 at the 1996 Farnborough air show. Months later Boeing scrapped its $7bn plan, saying it hadn't yet won enough commitments from airlines. That opened the door to Airbus. But the four-nation European group's commitment to a rapid launch of the $10-$12bn A3XX has gradually appeared to wane; and it seemed even more tenuous at the Singapore air show.

Airbus's managing director Jean Pierson said the company's engineers hadn't met their targets for the superjumbo's operating costs, which is intended to be 15 to 20 per cent cheaper to fly than current jetliners.

While it was once planning to start making deliveries of the jetliners in 2003, Airbus is now pencilling in 2004. But if the engineers don't meet their targets by the end of this year, Mr Pierson said, the project will be delayed again.

Some analysts say a date as late as 2010 is more realistic now that the Asian crisis has raised questions about the project's viability, which depends on convincing governments and outside investors to stump up two- thirds of its costs.

"You just can't see there being a business case for it right now," said Chris Partridge, associate director of aerospace finance at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. "Asian investors are unlikely to be sprinting to the project."

Aside from British Airways, which is based at an already overloaded Heathrow, the superjumbo is intended primarily for super-congested routes across Asia. Carriers such as Japan Airlines System could use a 550-seat plane even on domestic flights, and landing space is scarce at crowded hub airports such as Tokyo's Narita.

But currencies in nations from South Korea to Malaysia plunged late last year, spurring a dramatic drop in tourist travel across the region and downward revisions of growth forecasts.

Once expected to account for 50 per cent of global passenger travel by 2010, surpassing the US as the biggest air market, Asia's share is now forecast to remain at 35 per cent or even fall to 33 per cent by that time, the International Air Transport Association said recently.

Still, even a decade is a short time in the aerospace industry. For all the speed of its products, change comes only incrementally. It's one of the few industries where the typical considerations - costs, the market, and design - intersect with such high stakes.

Copyright: IOS & Bloomberg

News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
arts + entsBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
people
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices