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Boeing Launches Formal Study Of New Small Plane

May 25, 1994

SEATTLE (AP) _ The Boeing Co. is taking a formal look at producing a new, smaller plane to meet an expected rise in demand for such aircraft.

The study, announced Tuesday, will focus on 80- to 100-seat planes and will involve Japanese industry participation and Chinese observers. It follows an informal study also involving the two Asian nations.

Richard L. James, vice president of marketing for the commercial division, will oversee the new study, including ″the market feasibility and structure of a new small airplane program,″ said Ron Woodard, president of the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group.

James’ appointment ″underscores the importance Boeing places on the commercial jetliner market (for planes) smaller than the 737 and our industrial relationship with Japan and China,″ Woodard said.

Boeing’s workhorse 737 is the company’s all-time best-seller and its smallest plane, with a capacity that ranges from 100 to 150 passengers.

Spokeswoman Valarie Kusuda-Smick said the new analysis will focus on the ″market need, the configuration, the technical requirements and economic viability″ of building an 80- to 100-seat jet.

She noted the release Monday of Boeing’s ″Current Market Outlook″ by James, which projected a high demand for smaller planes over the next several years due to federal airplane-noise restrictions, aging fleets and growing overseas markets. James said these factors were expected to produce a need for 3,000 ″new, smaller planes″ jets in the overall market over the next six years.

Representatives from Japan Aircraft Industry, China National Aero- Technology Import and Export Corp., and Boeing’s commercial division were involved in the initial Boeing look into the project, and will remain involved in the formal study.

Boeing’s past ventures into the production of smaller aircraft have not gone far.

In the mid-1980s, Boeing and Japan discussed development of a high-tech, 150-passenger jet dubbed the 7J7, with Japanese companies to hold a 25 percent share of the project. That effort, which never produced an airplane, was spurred by fuel concerns that have since subsided, Kusuda-Smick said. Low- level research continues, she said.

In 1986, Boeing bought the de Havilland aircraft operation, based near Toronto, as the base for commuter-plane division. But money-losing company was sold to government-backed Bombardier of Canada in 1992.

Boeing’s production has slowed in recent years, following a global slump in airline industry and cuts in the U.S. military.