x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Boeing’s regional chief discusses the 787 Dreamliner

Marty Bentrott, one of Boeing's regional sales chiefs, talks about the 787 Dreamliner and addresses questions about its future and the competition it faces from Airbus.

Marty Bentrott, the vice president of sales, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Middle East, Russia and Central Asia, talks about the 787 Dreamliner.

How did the 787 grounding impact new orders for the aircraft?

“The order activity during the grounding slowed as all of our customers were wondering: ‘What is the problem, how long will it take, can you get it fixed and how can I go to my board to purchase more aircraft amid all the uncertainty?’ We didn’t take any new orders during the grounding. Subsequent to the grounding, we’ve taken quite a few new orders and will continue to do so. The marketplace has exhibited a new confidence in the 787. For example, we launched the 787-10 at the Paris Show.”

After the recent problems with the 787 battery, will Boeing completely replace the battery, rather than do band-aid work on the existing one?

“We would say we didn’t do band-aid work. We solved what we identified as the problem and put in some additional remedies in the event there is a future problem to ensure there wouldn’t be any fire, any smoke or any issues. For now, we are going to continue with our existing installation and design. We’ve looked at alternatives to the existing batteries and if we couldn’t have found a solution we would have made a change.”

Was it Boeing or its suppliers at fault for the battery problems?

“You can’t point fingers. As a manufacturer it’s our product, we have to accept responsibility. Were there supplier factors? Yes, there were supplier factors but Boeing has to accept responsibility, it’s our problem and that’s why we accepted responsibility.”

How is the relationship with Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways, following the grounding of the 787 fleet earlier this year?

“The relationship is very strong. [But] it’s kind of like a marriage, sometimes its OK and sometimes you’re fighting a little bit. He has high expectations and why shouldn’t he? He runs one of the greatest airlines in the world. But yes, there have been some challenges. I don’t think any airline’s CEO will be feeling very positive if they had five airplanes sitting on the ground and grounded. We’ve moved on past that and Akbar is OK. Our biggest focus now is helping that airline restore the 787’s credibility levels to what we promised and what they expect.

How big a competitor is the Airbus A350 to the 787?

“We’ve been competing with the A350 for quite some time and, as you know, we’ve sold over 1,450 787s and their number is around 830 [plus 31 to Jal this week, with an option for 25 more] for the A350s. We’ve competed very well. They will continue to be aggressive in pursuing other opportunities. When you look at the A350-900 it really competes against the 787-9 and 10, the A350-1000 competes against the 787-10. But I’m confident we’ll continue to have the lead in long-range twin-aisle airplanes.”

tarnold@thenational.ae