SEATTLE (AP) -- The Boeing Co. will begin work on a longer range 747 freighter, now that International Lease Finance Corp. is ordering five of the planes for $1 billion, a newspaper reported.
Jeff Peace, Boeing's 747-400 program manager, said the extra range would eliminate the cost of such intermediate stops as Tokyo's Narita airport on routes between Anchorage and Asia.
An announcement that the Los Angeles-based leasing company will be the launch customer for the jumbo freighter could be made at any time, with deliveries to begin in October 2002, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Monday.
The five orders were booked more than two weeks ago and have been added to Boeing's order tally for the year but were listed without identification of the buyer or whether the planes were for passengers or cargo, the morning daily reported.
Quoting an unnamed industry source, the P-I also said International Lease is taking options on five more planes, boosting the potential value of the order to than $2 billion at list prices. But the report said the options probably won't be cited in the initial announcement.
The new plane is a freighter version of the longer range 747-400 passenger plane that went into development late last year with an order for six planes from the Australian carrier Qantas.
Of the 25 747-400s that Boeing delivered last year, 15 were freighters, as are most of the 13 747-400 orders Boeing has this year. The company has predicted a doubling of the world's freighter fleet over the next two decades, a faster growth rate than for passenger fleets.
The plane is being designed with a maximum takeoff weight of 910,000 pounds -- 35,000 more than the current model. That would give operators the choice carrying additional fuel to extend the flight range by 530 nautical miles or loading an additional 22,000 pounds of cargo.
Robert Dahl, project director for Air Cargo Management Group, an aviation consulting and market research firm in Seattle, predicted strong demand for the new freighter, especially in Asia, because of the greater range and cargo capacity.
''Range is very important,'' Dahl said.
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