Boeing Co said on Monday it was moving ahead with plans for a stretch version of its fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliner but added that more work is needed before it obtained approval for an official launch.
Boeing has said it has been talking with airlines and leasing companies to define specifications for the 787-10, which would be the biggest version of the revolutionary plane and a powerful rival to the Airbus A330.
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"We've got a lot of support all the way through the company including our board of directors," Larry Loftis, vice president and general manager of the 787 program, said when speaking of the 787-10 during an investor call hosted by RBC Capital Markets on Monday.
"We still have some more work to do before we'd be ready to launch the program and/or be given authority to launch the program," Loftis added.
The expected longer, biggest version of the carbon-composite, fuel-efficient 787 would be pitched to airlines for long-haul travel.
Loftis said the backlog of the 787 was currently about 60 percent for the 787-8 model, which can carry 210 to 250 passengers, and 40 percent for the 787-9, a slightly bigger version that is designed to seat up to 290.
"Clearly our customers have told us ... that they would prefer us to focus on fuel-burn economics versus extending range" should the company launch a 787-10 version, he said.
Boeing said it was still looking to raise 787 production rates to 10 a month by the end of 2013. Pat Shanahan, Boeing senior vice president for airplane programs, said a rate of seven a month would likely be reached in mid-2013. The company reached the five-a-month production rate for the 787, which is built in Washington and South Carolina, in November.
Shares of Boeing were up 0.3 percent to $73.97 in afternoon trading.
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by M.D. Golan)