It was a little like watching the two biggest kids on the block
warily circling each other with fists balled up, ready for a fight.
Boeing and its arch rival, Airbus, are elbow-to-elbow in advance of
next week's Asian Aerospace 2004 Expo in Hong Kong. They're
sparring over a difference in fundamental philosophy? Is bigger
Airbus is plugging its giant, 550-passenger A380 at the expo.
Boeing is trying to sign on initial customers for its smaller, more
economical 7E7 Dreamliner. The two aircraft are as different as
commercial aircraft can be. At stake is whether the future of
commercial aviation lies in huge aircraft that can travel great
distances, or in smaller aircraft with greater speed?
Airbus is banking on the king-size concept. Airbus commercial
aircraft chief John Leahy told attendees Friday that the A380 is
outselling the 747 at a pace of nine-to-one. "They had the flagship
of the 20th century. We believe we have the flagship of the 21st
But Boeing banks on a different passenger philosophy. The
Chicago-based company's Randy Tinseth told conferees that three
7E7s could take more passengers to the same destination on less
fuel than an A380 -- and get them there faster.
But Leahy countered Boeing would have to fly its 7E7s "wingtip
to wingtip" during peak travel times to fulfill that prediction. He
said air travel is set to boom in coming decades and "we're not
going to do that in little airplanes."
Leahy further charged the 7E7 looks for all the world like a
copycat of the A330. Boeing, however, counters by saying the 7E7 is
more fuel-efficient and more passenger friendly, with bigger
windows, wider aisles and bigger seats.