Boeing Co. said yesterday that it will delay introduction of a new commercial airplane to the early 1990s to take advantage of expected advances in aircraft technology.
The Seattle-based aerospace giant had considered developing a 150-seat aircraft for delivery in the late 1980s. The company said yesterday that it "probably" will develop such an aircraft, but not for delivery until the next decade.
"This is the direction we're headed," said Boeing spokesman Jim Boynton, calling the decision "pretty firm" but not definite.
The new Boeing airplane would compete with the Airbus Industrie A320, a 150-seat commercial aircraft being marketed for delivery in 1986. Airbus, a consortium of European companies, said it has 16 orders for the A320 from Pan American World Airways, its only U.S. customer so far. Pan Am has options to purchase 34 additional A320s.
Boeing has decided to "wait a little while" for a superior product rather than compete directly with the A320, a Boeing spokesman said.
Technical breakthroughs in aircraft engine and body design are expected to lower fuel consumption and operating costs sufficiently to justify the delay, Boeing said. Among the technical developments predicted are lighter flight control systems, compact flight deck electronics and increased use of lighter structural materials.
Boeing said it had polled its commercial customers and that they agree an improved product will be worth the wait.
Industry analysts said they were not surprised by the announcement, noting that Boeing has been studying the 150-seat niche for some time and would be hard-pressed to develop such an aircraft before the next decade.
Boeing also can afford to wait for the best technology because it now offers the 140-seat 737-300 airplane and the 175-seat 757 airplanes, said George D. Shapiro, an analyst with Salomon Brothers Inc.
"It's a smart business decision," Shapiro said. "They figure they can wait another three years and have a plane with all new technology, with much higher efficiencies than an A320 . . . and Boeing believes the airlines will sit and wait for a better aircraft."
Boeing said it is holding discussions with Japanese industry representatives "concerning joint efforts to develop and market such an all-new airplane design."
The company projects a commercial jet transport market of $139 billion in 1985 dollars over the next 10 years, as airlines expand their operations and replace older aircraft.
To meet this demand, Boeing also is working to develop new models of its older airplanes, including an advanced 747, a smaller 737 and small package freight versions of the 757 and the 767.