Boeing sees a future for the 747-8 after the new 777X family arrives in 2020 but is unclear how its large widebody product line-up will evolve from later in that decade.
Firm orders for the 747-8 family stand at 105, and the 50th has just been delivered. Boeing has 40 orders for the -8I passenger model, including several for VIP customers.
"We're committed to both the 747-8I and F for the foreseeable future, certainly well into the next decade, and you'll see more success in the coming months for both versions," says John Wojick, Boeing's senior vice-president global sales. But he concedes that the larger version of the new 777X family will offer very competitive economics with its larger, four-engined stablemate.
"The -9X is a very efficient airplane in terms of fuel burn per seat and economic cost per seat, but the 747-8 and -9X serve different markets because there will be about 50 seats between them," said Wojick at the IATA annual general meeting in Cape Town. "But the 777-9X doesn't enter service until 2020. There's going to be a period of time as we transition in the next decade, and who knows what we'll be building and delivering come 2025 and beyond."
Boeing is in discussions with potential customers as it works towards the 777X launch. The family comprises the 777-300ER-sized 777-8X and the -9X stretch, which has 50 more seats giving it a capacity of around 400 passengers. Both are powered by General Electric GE9X engines in the 100,000lb thrust class.
Confirming that the -9X is envisaged as the lead variant with a 2020 service-entry target, Wojick adds that "there will probably be about nine months to a year between the two variants".