Boeing weighs 757 successor

LONDON: Boeing Co is close to announcing a new aircraft to succeed the 757 jetliner that ceased production almost a decade ago, according to the central Asian carrier Air Astana, which is keen to purchase the plane.

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The airline's talks with Boeing at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual meeting in Doha earlier this month suggest the model will be built, Air Astana president Peter Foster said in an interview in London on Friday.

Boeing is gauging the appetite of airlines for a new medium-size jet for transcontinental travel within the United States, executives said at the Singapore Air Show in February. A plane seating 180 people in two classes able to fly as many as nine hours also would meet requirements from Almaty, Kazakhstan-based Air Astana on so-called long, thin routes, Foster said.

"They made absolutely clear that this is now firming up and that they’ll be making an announcement soon," Foster said of the Doha discussions. "That for us is very interesting."

The new aircraft would help fill the gap in Boeing’s roster of new jets between the largest 737 Max, set to debut late in this decade, and the smallest 787 Dreamliner.

The US company's European rival Airbus has been gaining sales in the transcontinental segment with its long-range A321, and could make further headway if it moves forward with plans to outfit its medium-range A330 with more fuel-efficient engines.

"We continue to watch trends and speak to our customers to determine what the market will require in the years to come," Doug Alder, a Boeing spokesman, said in an e-mailed response to questions about a successor to the 757.

"Today, we’re very focused on our current development programmes: the 777X, the 737 Max and the 787-10."

While Boeing delivered the last single-aisle 757 in 2005, the jet remains popular with carriers such as US-based Delta Air Lines for a range that’s unmatched by any narrow- body jet currently manufactured.

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said in May that the company was contemplating a new aircraft with comparable capabilities, though it saw no immediate need to produce the plane.

Boeing's design would meld features from the single-aisle 737 Max, which seats as many as 192 people, and the twin-aisle 787-8, with a capacity for 242 travellers, McNerney said. The planemaker used a similar approach when it developed the 757 jointly with the larger 767 in the 1980s.

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