Jetmakers push cargo ships, 787 timing in the hands of regulators

DUBAI, November 13 (Reuters) – Boeing (BA.N) said on Saturday that it was in advanced talks to sell a cargo version of its future 777X jetliner jet while Airbus predicted an A350 cargo deal soon, while the space giants look at a record -pandemic boom in e-commerce.

Boeing also indicated that it was nearing the end of production problems on the 787 Dreamliner, but said that the time for any return to normal deliveries was strictly in the hands of regulators.

“We are in quite advanced discussions with a number of customers. (777X cargo ship) looks good from a design and a requirements point of view,” said Ihssane Mounir, senior vice president of commercial sales and marketing.

The American aircraft manufacturer is ready to launch what it says would be the world’s largest and most capable new cargo ship, while the European rival Airbus (AIR.PA) is looking for buyers for an A350 cargo version which it describes as lighter and more efficient.

Airbus expects to announce a launch order for the A350 cargo aircraft “soon”, said Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer at a separate press conference at the end of the Dubai Airshow.

“I am quite pleased with the market response around the world and in the region on the A350 cargo ship,” he added.

The 777X cargo ship is expected to be based on the smaller of two versions of the 777X family, known as the 777-8.

It was expected to be launched only after the 777-8 passenger version, but Mounir said it could jump ahead of 777-8, whose sales have been after the main variant 777-9.

Boeing is sticking to plans to deliver 777-9 by 2023, Mounir said. The president of Dubai’s Emirates, the largest customer for the 777X, has sharply criticized Boeing for around three years for delays and lack of security on delivery dates.


Qatar Airways has publicly stated that it is in talks with Boeing about a possible purchase of a 777X cargo ship, while FedEx (FDX.N) is seen as another early challenger. Airbus hopes to land an A350 cargo agreement with Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI).

Freight traffic has increased as passenger planes that usually carry goods in the hold were put on the ground by the pandemic.

Mounir and Scherer, sales managers for the world’s two largest aircraft manufacturers, both said that a market recovery was underway, although there is still doubt about the demand for the largest wide-body jets.

Boeing, meanwhile, is approaching the resumption of deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner, after suspending them to deal with manufacturing defects, and engaging with Chinese regulators on the re-certification of the 737 MAX in China, Mounir said.

But he stressed that Boeing will not anticipate US or Chinese regulators, who make final decisions on timing.

787 has been plagued by production problems that have stopped deliveries since May. In July, the Federal Aviation Administration said that some 787s had problems with production quality.

The 737 MAX was approved by major Western regulators at the end of last year after almost two years of safety grounding, but China has not yet allowed it back into operation.

“Either the FAA or international regulators look at us and ask us questions … we will comply with them,” Mounir said.

Reporting by Tim Hepher Editing by Alexander Smith and Mark Potter

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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