A future for 787-3? Boeing says that’s ‘far fetched’

Boeing is about to pull the plug on its short-range 787-3, which — as we discussed previously — has no buyers now that launch customers All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have opted for longer-range 787-8s instead.

“The 787-3 that had a shorter wingspan was designed for Japan and now there are no customers,” said Boeing Blogger-in-Chief Randy Tinseth, who briefed reporters this morning at the Singapore Air Show. “It will be far fetched to say that we will proceed with the 787-3.”

“It’s my guess that it won’t be part of our product offering in the future,” he added.

As we discussed last month, the 787-3 could end up being one of the most-important airplanes never built. It was a key to launching the program; without it, ANA and JAL weren’t all that interested the Dreamliner, Boeing executives said at the time. The Japanese airlines were the two biggest buyers in the first year of the 787 program, placing orders for 80 of the first 110 planes sold — and of those, 43 were for Dash Threes.

But no other orders followed, which led Boeing to put the variant on the backburner. With ANA and JAL switching to 787-8s, it’s likely never to get off it.

Among the other highlights from Tinseth’s press briefing:

  • Boeing won’t announce any commercial jet orders at Singapore, although there’s speculation Boeing could land an order to sell fighters to India. Tinseth said the company believes we’re reaching the bottom of the cycle, in that fewer airlines want to cancel or defer orders. It’ll be awhile before new orders pick up, however.
  • The company reaffirmed its commercial jet production plans for 2010 — 737 staying at its current record rate of 31-a-month, 777 rates slowing down mid-year from seven to five a month, and planned increases on the 747-8 and 767 lines on hold for now.
  • Boeing is seriously investigating new 737 engines, and is beginning a hard look at ways to update the 777.

Tinseth went out of his way to downplay reports of tension between the U.S. and Chinese governments over proposed arms sales to Taiwan; China has threated to levy sanctions on Boeing should the deal go through.

Tinseth called it “a government-to-government issue … and we cannot control them.” He added that “it’s too early to speculate on what the impact might be to the industry and to us.”

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