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Sun, Feb 22, 2004

Hey, Fellas, Take It Outside

Boeing, Airbus Trade Allegations In Hong Kong

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 better?

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 century."

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.

FMI: www.boeing.com, www.airbus.com

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