LONDON – Boeing Co. (BA) said speedy sales of its new 787 (search) plane reflect changed views on financing and maintenance in an airlines industry rebounding from five tough years.
The mid-sized 787 has sold more in its first year than any Boeing (search) model, putting the U.S. planemaker on course to recapture the lead over rival Airbus (search) in orders for the first time since 2000.
Boeing's more aggressive approach with the 787 involves a new strategy in financing and maintenance, according to Walter Skowronski, president of financing arm Boeing Capital Corp. (search)
"Boeing is back," he told Reuters in an interview Friday. "There was a change in our behavior about a year and a half ago," he said, noting Boeing Capital turned from building its portfolio of more than 400 planes to a more active role supporting Boeing's sale of new planes and defense equipment.
Banks have also changed the way they look at the airlines industry, he said, noting a slowdown since 2001 has put far more focus on aircraft residual values.
"We've seen a real evolution of aircraft finance," he said. "Historically they (banks) would assess the credit quality of the airline ... today it's much more evenly split between airline credit quality and the assets."
"The 787 was designed with that in mind," he said, noting banks were consulted about how to make it a plane that held its value.
The twin-engined plane is due in 2008 and has in its first year of marketing attracted 255 orders and commitments.
"This time we involved the financial community, we went out to key banks and basically said: 'What do you guys need?'
"One of the answers we got was: 'We need it to be able to be transitioned from one user to another user with minimal down time'."
The 787 will have engine mounts that will take either the General Electric (GE) or Rolls-Royce engine being delivered for the plane, saving time and money in the event a plane is sold on and the next airline uses the other engine.
"The next key element is how this aircraft will be maintained over its lifespan," said Skowronski.
He said airline engineers will be able to walk through the 787 with a handheld device that "reads" the maintenance requirements of components, doing away with costly and lengthy paperwork.
It can cost an airline up to $4 million to get paperwork in order when a plane is repossessed, a Boeing executive noted.
Skowronski said Boeing was winning orders for the 787 in part because its new approach involves servicing.
"This has allowed us to begin talking to the financial community about different ways to finance the 787 which will be much more dependent on the aircraft and its servicing and its value going forward as opposed to basically credit," said.
He declined to provide further details, which he said were being worked out, including changes required within Boeing to fully capitalize on this sales approach.