Boeing 7E7 orders top 200 mark

Orders for Boeing's new 250-seater jet, the 7E7, now stand at more than 200 from two dozen airline customers, the US planemaker disclosed yesterday.

Orders for Boeing's new 250-seater jet, the 7E7, now stand at more than 200 from two dozen airline customers, the US planemaker disclosed yesterday.

Boeing said that in addition to the letters of intent for 62 jets from four customers that it has publicly announced, a further 20 airlines have signed up to buy at least another 140 aircraft.

None of the 24 letters of intent has yet been turned into a firm order but all the airlines involved have put down refundable deposits in order to secure delivery slots for when the airliner goes into production.

Boeing released the latest 7E7 order figures in the run up to next week's Farnborough airshow when more airlines may make public their intention of buying the aircraft. The four named customers are All Nippon Airways, which has signed a letter of intent for 50, First Choice Airways, which plans to take six, and Blue Panorama of Italy and Air New Zealand, which have reserved slots for four and two aircraft respectively.

The 7E7 update came as Boeing launched a fresh attack on the Airbus A380 superjumbo, questioning where the market for the 555-seater jet would come from. Boeing's vice-president of marketing Randy Baseler, said that for Airbus to achieve its target of selling 1,500 A380s, it would have to deliver 90 aircraft a year for the next 15 years - more than double the number of 747-400s sold over the past 15 years.

Mr Baseler also claimed that, far from reducing congestion at airports, the A380 would make the situation worse because extra flights would be needed to transport transfer passengers on to their final destinations.

Boeing and Airbus have been engaged in a relentless dogfight over which aircraft will succeed - the US company arguing that what passengers want is more smaller aircraft flying point to point and its European rival arguing that airport congestion and the growth of airline alliances makes the superjumbo a natural progression to the 747.

The Farnborough show could also provide the backdrop for the announcement of an £800m order from the Ministry of Defence for unmanned aerial vehicles. A consortium led by Thales is favoured to win the Watchkeeper programme, as it is known, with an aircraft based on an Israeli design and powered by rotary engines made by the Lichfield-based UAV Engines, originally part of the Norton motorcycle company.

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