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Boeing launches cargo version of 777

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SEATTLE-- Boeing Co. is launching a cargo version of the Boeing 777 after receiving an order from Air France for five of the airplanes, the Chicago-based aerospace company announced Tuesday.

Four days after receiving approval from the Air France-KLM board of directors, Air France placed the order and took options on three more 777 freighters. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to a news release from Boeing and the airline.

The orders would be worth about $1 billion at list prices, but airlines typically negotiate steep discounts, especially on multiple and launch orders.

Air France Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta said the planes would be used to replace 747-200 freighters and offer economies because Air France's fleet already includes 777-200-E-R and -300-E-R passenger planes.

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Air Canada will become part of the 777 freighter launch under an order for an 18 777s and 14 787s that was announced in April, according to the news release. Some terms of that deal, including the number of Air Canada's 777s that will be freighters, remain under negotiation.

The 777 freighter, designed to carry 222,000 pounds of cargo up to 6,400 miles, is based on long-range 777-200LR passenger aircraft, which is scheduled to enter service early next year.

Airbus SAS, Boeing's chief rival, has said its new superjumbo A380 freighter will be able to carry 341,000 pounds of cargo the same distance when it enters service in 2008.

Separately Tuesday, Chairman Lew Platt told analysts at a conference in Seattle that the company is down to a short list of both internal and external candidates in its search for a successor to Harry Stonecipher as chief executive officer.

Platt said the search is being conducted "purposefully and without haste" with the aid of an executive search firm while interim CEO James Bell handles day-to-day matters.

Stonecipher resigned March 6 as a result of what Boeing said was improper conduct during an affair with a female company executive.

Boeing shares rose 36 cents to $62 in early afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange-- up 41 percent from a year ago.


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