Global traveller

The first 777-200LR visited the Middle East last month, as part of a global marketing tour organised by Boeing to drum up interest in the Worldliner.

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By  Laura Barnes Published  August 1, 2005

|~||~||~|Boeing’s latest aircraft, the 777-200LR visited the Middle East last month, as part of a round the world sales and marketing tour. The Worldliner, as the aircraft is known, visited more than 20 cities on its global trip, with the Middle East leg including stops in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Doha. As its name suggest, the Worldliner’s key selling point is its range. The plane can carry 301 passengers in a three-class configuration up to 17,445 km, which is far enough to connect virtually any two cities in the world non-stop. The freighter version, meanwhile, the -200F, can fly 9195 km carrying up to 103 tonnes. Like the Dreamliner, the -200LR is part of Boeing’s strategy of promoting point-to-point networks, which was a key message during the Worldliner’s global sales trip. “We are confident that this tour will help promote the aircraft across the globe as the need for long haul non-stop flights is crucial in this day and age,” says Lars Andersen, vice president & programme manager 777 programme, Boeing. “We also feel there is a strong market for the aircraft, with predictions for total aircraft sales reaching 200 for the passenger version, as well as an extra 200 for the freighter,” he continues. However, despite this confident outlook, the Worldliner had only won five confirmed orders from two customers when it made its maiden flight in March, which was the lowest ever sales figure for a jetliner at the time of its first flight. The launch customer for the aeroplane will be Pakistan International Airlines, which has ordered two -200LRs, with the first due in January. The only other confirmed customer so far is Taiwan’s EVA Airways, which has ordered three Worldliners. In addition to these firm orders, there are also a couple of other deals that are almost confirmed as well as a near miss. Air Canada was the latter customer, as it withdrew an unconfirmed order that included 18 777s of various types, with options for 18 more, when its pilots union rejected a pay deal. Air India, however, is expected to eventually confirm a large order it has announced that includes five Worldliners with options for three more. Qatar Airways also stated its intentions to buy 20 777s, including -300ERs, -200LRs and -200F, at the Paris Air show. Again, however, the deal is yet to be signed. The Qatar order is expected to be confirmed by the end of the year, however, and the airline has already earmarked the Worldliner for its planned services to North America and Australasia. Boeing is also hoping for more -200LR orders from the region in the near future, possibly including Gulf Air; James Hogan, the airline’s CEO & president, toured the aircraft at Le Bourget. “I think Gulf Air will be discussing their future fleet plans with both Boeing and Airbus, so I am sure there will be some kind of competition there at some point,” comments Andersen. The other most likely candidates for the Worldliner in the region are the big spending UAE pair, Emirates and Etihad. Both are building up large fleets of long-range aircraft, but at present they have opted for A340s and 777-300ERs rather than Boeing’s new offering. The Worldliner and the -300ER are largely made from the same design, but the -200LR has a longer range, at the expense of a smaller capacity. It is able to fly 301 passengers 17,445 km, compared to the -300ER’s ability to carry 365 passengers up to 14,595 km. It is worth noting though, that even with its more ‘limited’ range, the -300ER is still able to fly to almost anywhere on Earth from Dubai. ||**|||~||~||~|These differences in capability also reflect wider technological differences between the Worldliner and its predecessors. These changes have helped to improve the plane’s range and fuel efficiency, while, inside the cabin, new features make better use of the available space to create a roomier and more passenger-friendly environment. “Approximately 35% of the Worldliner design has been changed from earlier 777 models, although passengers will not notice many of the changes, as a lot of them are subtle changes to the interior, or technological changes to the exterior of the aircraft,” says Andersen. “For example, each wing has been extended by 2 meters by adding raked wingtips to improve overall aerodynamic and fuel efficiency. The raked wingtips also help reduce takeoff field length, increase climb performance and also reduces fuel burn,” he adds. The wingtip alterations contribute to the Worldliner’s low fuel burn, which Boeing claims is 22-24% lower per seat than the A340-500’s. This also helps the plane achieve a seat-mile cost that Boeing says is 16-20% lower than its rival from Toulouse. Fuel efficiency gains also come from the General Electric GE90-115B engines that power both the Worldliner and the -300ER. “The engines have been doing very well in terms of performance,” says Andersen. “They are even coming out of the factory with better thrust-specific fuel consumption than before, and their performance retention is right on prediction as well,” he adds. Further changes to the -200LR’s exterior include strengthening the body, wing, empennage and nose gear, so as to support the greater fuel load and engine thrust. New wheels and brakes have also been installed, along with a semi-levered landing gear, which reduces the runway length required for take-offs. A further optional design change is the possibility of installing up to three 7000 litre auxiliary fuel tanks in the belly space in order to achieve the maximum range. No customer has requested the tanks so far, but Air India is understood to be examining this option for some of its routes. Within the cabin, Boeing has focused on increasing the space for both passengers and crew, which will be vital for comfort levels on flights of up to 17 hours. For passengers, the plane features a wide cross-section and raised overhead baggage holds, which provide for a more spacious cabin. The onboard storage space can also be increased through the installation of an optional cabinet that can hold up to 20 bags. The Worldliner’s seats are also touted as being the biggest in their class with 21 inch wide seats in first class, 20 inch wide in business and 18.5 inch wide seats in economy in a standard configuration. In a standard configuration, the plane has 16 first class seats, 58 in business and 227 in economy. However, this includes a 2-3-2 arrangement in the business class section, which may not prove popular with all passengers, particularly those seated in the middle. For the crew, the Worldliner, like the -300ER, has two overhead rest areas, which are situated in the fuselage crown above the cabin. This provides a comfortable facility for attendants and pilots, but without taking up space on either the main deck or in the cargo hold that could otherwise be used by revenue-generating customers. However, while the Worldliner offers enhanced comfort levels for passengers and crew alike, airlines will still need to think about how to keep everyone onboard the plane happy, as 17 hours is a very long time to be sat in a plane, no matter how comfortable the seating arrangements are.||**||

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