- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 10, 2007

BERLIN - China will soon be threatening major Western aircraft makers, Boeing boss James McNerney said in an interview with German weekly Der Spiegel to be published today.

Warning that it was wrong to think that there would only ever be Boeing and Airbus in competition, Mr. McNerney was quoted as saying, “The Chinese have well-trained people, a strong spirit of enterprise and an enormous domestic market.”

Mr. McNerney said the U.S. manufacturer had learned its lesson after failing to heed the threat from its European rival. “We were market leaders and we went to sleep, instead of staying wide awake,” he said.

Asked about Airbus’s current problems, stemming in part from difficulties with its giant A380 airliner, Mr. McNerney said the two companies had different views of where the market lay.

“We believe the future is with smaller aircraft capable of flying long distances between medium-sized cities, rather than in the development of large hubs” favored by Airbus, he said.

But Mr. McNerney added that the A380 was “a marvellous airplane, very exciting from a technological view,” Der Spiegel said.

In London last week, Mr. McNerney said development of Boeing’s new 787 model was on track.

“We’re hitting all our benchmarks, we’re fighting all the fires,” Mr. McNerney said, adding that he expected rollout of the plane in July.

Boeing has sent engineers to supplier firms to help them stay on schedule as the planemaker works toward a May 2008 first delivery of the all-new 787 to Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA).

Boeing topped Airbus in new plane orders in 2006 for the first time since 2000, helped by continued strong demand for its smallest model, the single-aisle 737.

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