VIDEO: Boeing to firm 747-8I MoUs and secure incremental sales soon

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Boeing is confident it will convert the 30 commitments it has for the 747-8I passenger variant into firm orders, and also expects to secure near-term incremental sales for the stretched Jumbo.

The orderbook for the 747-8 stands at 106 aircraft, the bulk of which (70) are for the -8F freighter variant. Airline sales of the 747-8I have been sluggish, with only three firm customers secured to date - Lufthansa (20), Korean Air (five) and Arik Air (two). Boeing also holds memorandums of understanding (MoUs) for some 30 747-8Is from a mix of announced and undisclosed customers which include Air China (five), Transaero (four) and an undisclosed customer (15).

Speaking on board the 747-8I's first passenger service, flown by Lufthansa between Frankfurt and Washington Dulles on 1 June, 747 programme manager Elizabeth Lund was upbeat about the near-term order prospects for the aircraft: "I think we'll see more sales in 2012. It will come in two versions: we hope to get confirmation of some of the MoUs that are not in our firm backlog and I believe we will see additional 747-8 sales as well.

"We're in active sales campaigns for the passenger variant. I would like to announce some orders this summer, but I don't know if it will be before or after Farnborough."

Lund expects that in the longer term, the sales lead that the freighter variant has enjoyed will be redressed and the order book will eventually become a 50/50 split between the passenger and freighter.

The next 747-8I airline delivery is still being finalised, says Lund, but is likely to be either Korean Air or Air China - the latter customer was announced in March last year but the deal awaits government approval. "We're operating on the premise that approval will come," says Lund, adding that delivery is likely in 2014.

Another significant yet-to-be-confirmed order was the deal for 15 aircraft from an undisclosed customer announced at the 2011 Paris air show. This MoU, which is understood to have been placed by China' HNA Group (which is parent of Hainan Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines), still stands, says Lund: "This is still going through the formalisation and approval process."