Boeing, eager to live down three years of embarrassing delays to its 787 Dreamliner, has begun talking up a bigger version of the plane, and one executive said it could announce customers as early as next year.
Boeing has been talking to airlines about the 787-10 and is seeing strong interest in the plane, said Nicole Piasecki, Boeing vice president of product strategy, at the Paris Air Show on Monday.
"The market place would love for us to announce this airplane today," Piasecki said. "I think it's feasible it could happen next year."
Boeing had long planned to offer a 787-10, to complement its 787-8 and 787-9 versions, which are both in development. But the company stopped talking about it in public during the last few years as it made headway on the two other 787 models.
"I think what you were probably seeing is our belief that we needed to deliver on what we said we were going to do first, which was the -8 and remain focused on the -8," Piasecki said.
The 787 is a lightweight, carbon-composite plane that promises greater fuel efficiency to operators.
Boeing is about three years behind schedule in delivering the first 787 to a customer largely because it has been dogged by problems with its unusually complex supply chain.
The plane is almost finished with flight tests and is set for delivery to Japan's All Nippon Airways in the third quarter.
"So we're more comfortable now talking about the -10 and bringing it up to customers and getting some feedback," Piasecki said.
She said the plane, which could have a range of 7,000 nautical miles and seating capacity of about 320, was especially appealing to European airlines and carriers that fly within Asia.
"I wouldn't limit this airplane to any one market. It's got a global geographic base, and I would foresee it being a very strong family member in the 787 family," she said.
Boeing has taken more than 830 orders for the 787, including one for four 787-9s placed by Air Lease during the air show on Monday.
The 787-8 will carry 210 to 250 passengers on routes of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles, while the 787-9 will carry 250 to 290 passengers on routes of 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles.
Boeing scrapped plans for the 787-3, a version meant to fly shorter routes, because of lack of demand.
On Sunday, Boeing's commercial planes chief executive Jim Albaugh said Boeing would move a design team to the 787-10 as development of the 787-9 winds down over the next few years.