Boeing Co. has shelved a plan to offer the airlines the option of retrofitting their 727 aircraft instead of buying new-generation aircraft, a Boeing official, H.C. Munson, said yesterday.
For a time, American Airlines and others had expressed some interest in Boeing replacing the engines and cockpits of older 727s, considered the workhorse of the industry, with new-generation engines and new cockpits with the latest avionics equipment.
In comments after a speech to the International Aviation Club, Munson, vice president of strategic planning for Boeing Commercial Airplane Co., said the company's studies had determined the project is technically feasible.
But there is "no way to launch it in today's environment," he said. The airlines currently don't have the profits necessary to make commitments on ventures that would entail significant development costs such as the retrofitting project, he said.
"It's been deferred, postponed," he said. "There's a possibility that it will be reactivated, but not a probability." If the economy picks up and profits return to the industry, airlines likely would choose instead to order Boeing's new line of aircraft, the 757 and 767, he said.
American, which had expressed the most interest in the retrofitting project, recently canceled its orders for Boeing's 757, saying it didn't have adequate profits to acquire the new equipment.
American President Robert Crandall has said that moderating fuel prices contributed to its 757 decision and also to defeating the alternate plan to put redesigned engines in 727s.
Munson said yesterday he doesn't know exactly what it would have cost to retrofit each 727, but said that two planes could have been retrofitted for the price of a single new-generation aircraft. A 757 costs about $34 million.