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New Boeing CEO backs 7E7

/ Source: Reuters

The new chief executive of Boeing Co will ask his board to authorize the company’s new 7E7 plane project next week, a top official at the U.S. aerospace giant said on Monday.

Randy Baseler, vice president of marketing at Boeing, told Reuters at the Dubai air show that CEO Harry Stonecipher had informed other top officials at the company, including Commercial Airplanes division chief Alan Mulally, that he was fully behind the project.

“We feel the business case is very compelling and we are confident heading into the board meeting,” Baseler said.

“This plane is critical to our product strategy going forward...and Harry has informed us he will ask the board to approve it.”

Baseler said board approval to begin marketing the 7E7 was likely to pave the way for final production approval in the first half of next year.

He declined to say, however, how many airline commitments would be needed to go ahead with the launch and noted that U.S. airlines were not ordering jets right now because of financial troubles.

“In the past we have aimed to get both a U.S. and international carrier on board when we launch a new airplane,” he said.

“Most of the U.S. customers that are interested in the plane are not in a position financially to be making orders right now.”

Stonecipher was named CEO of Boeing last week following the surprise resignation of Phil Condit.

Despite recent comments in which he has said he was fully behind the 7E7, some analysts think the plane’s launch is less certain with him at the helm.

Boeing intends to develop 200, 250 and 300-seat versions of the 7E7, a more cost-efficient plane using modern engine and composite technologies that it hopes to begin delivering in 2008.

Rival Airbus is aiming to deliver its 555-seat A380 in 2006 and has lined up nine customers.