Boeing's 747-8 People gather around an engine on Boeing’s new 747-8 Intercontinental during the unveiling ceremony for the new plane at the Boeing plant in Everett, Washington, US. The aeroplane is the largest passenger plane built by Boeing. 

Boeing's 747-8 2

Boeing's 747-8 3

Airbus is planning a fuel-efficient twin-engine, twin-aisle airplane to compete against the 787 Dreamliner. So with all of the attention on the 787 and the mammoth A380 not selling very well, it might seem a jumbo like the 747-8 is an anachronism. But Boeing isn’t about to cede the market for very large aircraft to Airbus, even if that market is a fraction of what it was in the 1970s when the 747 transformed the airline industry.

“In the past 10 years you’ve had 3,000 mid-market, twin-aisle long-rangers sold,” Aboulafia says of industry workhorses like the Airbus A330 and A350, along with the Boeing 777 and 787. Compare that to less than 450 very large aircraft like the A380 or 747.

“That’s the future,” Aboulafia says of very large aircraft sales. “Two per month.”

So if the market is so small, why did Boeing even bother with a new jumbo jet when it has more than 800 orders for the 787 Dreamliner, and the 737 and 777, two industry staples, continue selling well?

“It was supposed to be cheap,” Aboulafia says. “You re-engine it and spruce up the wing and for $2 billion [in development costs] you get something that’s far more cost-effective than the A380, which is going to come in at $25 billion.”

It  didn’t quite work out that way. Both the 787 and 747-8 development programs have been plagued by delays and the 747-8 program is approaching $5 billion, according to analysts. With Airbus offering deep discounts on the A380, Boeing is having a hard time selling the Intercontinental passenger version of the 747-8, with only 33 ordered so far.

via boeing, via [wired]