Boeing Wants You To Like The 7E7

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Boeing has noticed two annoying things about airliners: one, they all look alike .... borrrring ... and two, they are all actually different in a million little ways, which creates a nightmare for airlines trying to manage large mixed fleets. In moving forward with its 7E7 program for a next-generation, extra-efficient airliner, Boeing is working to address both issues, and in a break from its traditional marketing campaigns, is targeting the masses as well as its airline customers. On Monday, the company released images of its new design concept, which gives the jet a futuristic, distinctive look (if only for its winglets) and launched a major Internet-based marketing campaign to entice the flying public to pay attention. "The basic shape of large commercial jet airplanes has remained essentially unchanged since the introduction of the Boeing 707, nearly 50 years ago," said Mike Bair, senior vice president of Boeing's 7E7 program. "We want to go beyond [our baseline design] to something that people will know by sight -- the way we all know a 747 when we see one."

Bair noted that the pictures released this week reflect a "concept." The airplane configuration won't be finalized till the end of the year. Boeing is promoting the new airliner with a marketing alliance with AOL Time Warner, which includes a "Name Your Plane" Internet survey. You can also enter a sweepstakes to win time in a Boeing flight simulator. The 7E7 is being developed as a 200- to 250-seat airplane that will fly between 7,000 and 8,000 nautical miles at speeds similar to today's fastest twin-aisle commercial airplanes, while burning up to 20 percent less fuel. Boeing plans to implement new technologies and processes in designing and building the plane, with a priority on efficiency, simplicity, and compatibility across the product line. The 7E7 program follows two recent Boeing initiatives that never made it to development: a super-sized 747 and the Sonic Cruiser, a fast but less efficient aircraft that airlines didn't want. The 7E7 is expected to go on the market late this year, and begin service in 2008.