Boeing and Air France Romance, Another Suitor Lurks

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A distinctly American product appears to be making additional inroads in Europe. Boeing's new 777 freighter is being mentioned as the heir apparent to the Boeing 747-200s currently in use by Air France. The 777 freighter is the load-hauling version -- 222,000 pounds up to 6,500 miles -- of the long-range 777-200LR (long range) passenger jet, which is scheduled to enter service in early 2006. The freighter would be ready to fly about two years later. But it is said that timing is everything, and the timing in this multinational couple's relationship may be off. Unless Boeing can land customers for the cargo hauler, there is no sense in building it (if they do, will they come?) and the French are being coy on their status as the American company's launch customer. Air France was not willing to confirm it to The Associated Press, but the French newspaper La Tribune says Air France will indeed be the launch customer, and plans to order seven of the new cargo planes. Boeing competitor Airbus SAS is waiting for the relationship to go sour. Its new bigger-than-jumbo A380 freighter will ALSO be flying in 2008 and will be able to carry 50 percent more cargo than the 777 over the same distance. However, with four engines versus two, it will be a costlier plane to operate. UPS and FedEx have already placed orders for the A380.