Boeing and Air China on Monday signed an agreement for the purchase of five 747-8 Intercontinental jetliners[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Air China is the first Chinese carrier and third airline overall (joining Lufthansa and Korean Air) to contract the passenger version of the new, fuel-efficient 747-8, which carries 467 passengers in a three-class configuration.
The airplane features a new wing design and an upgraded flight deck. The airplane interior also incorporates features from the 787 Dreamliner including a new curved, upswept architecture that will give passengers a greater sense of space and comfort, while adding more room for personal belongings.
Furthermore, using 787-technology GEnx-2B engines, the airplane will be quieter, produce lower emissions and achieve better fuel economy than any competing jetliner. It also increases cargo volume by 26 percent.
“Air China has been operating 747s since the 1980s,” said He Li, vice president of Air China. “The new, high capacity Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental will deliver exceptional economics and a great flying experience to our customers.”
The agreement requires Chinese government approval.
In November 2010, Boeing projected that China is expected to become the world’s number two plane market over the next 20 years. The company noted a strong Chinese demand for single-aisle planes and expects the Asian country will require 4,330 new commercial airplanes valued at $480 billion over the next two decades.
China is also working on its own competitor for the single-aisle plane market, the Comac C919 from Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (Comac), designed to compete directly against the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320.
Comac previously said, during the Airshow China 2010, that it has already finalized orders for 100 150-seat C919 jets. The agreements were reached with Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, CDB Leasing and GE Capital Aviation Services.
Boeing has said the company may decide to redesign the 737 aircraft to compete with the C919, but a formal decision on whether to build a new 737 or update the plane with new engines is not near to be taken.
Today’s 737s are five percent more fuel-efficient than the first Next-Generation 737s delivered in 1998. With continued instability in fuel prices and a growing demand for large aircraft, pressure is growing on Boeing to update its planes.