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Boeing To Launch Stretch Version Of Its Newest Jet Four Asian Airlines To Buy 31 777-300x Jets

The Boeing Co. said Wednesday it will start work on a longer version of its twin-engine 777 after four Asian airlines promised to order 31 jets and took options to buy another 31.

If all the options are exercised, the deals could be worth $6.2 billion.

All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Korean Air and Thai Airways International made commitments to buy the twin-engine jet, known as the 777-300X. Of the 31 order pledges, 20 are new and 11 are conversions of previous orders for the original version of the 777, Boeing said in a news release from the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France.

Purchase price for the 31 planes is about $3.1 billion, Boeing said.

The deals are not firm orders because Boeing’s board of directors has yet to approve the start of work on the stretch 777, said Valarie KusudaSmick, a Boeing spokeswoman.

The issue is on the board’s agenda for a meeting at the end of the month, she said.

A 777 had an embarrassing loss of cabin pressure on Wednesday while carrying Transportation Secretary Federico Pena and several foreign transport ministers on a demonstration flight from Washington to Denver.

The flight arrived in Denver about 90 minutes late, and there were no injuries. It was the third time a 777 has lost cabin pressure. The cause of two earlier failures during tests had been fixed, Boeing said earlier.

The basic 777 carries about 305 passengers in three classes; the stretched version will carry 368. With just coach class, the plane could carry as many as 550 passengers.

Japan’s All Nippon is adding 10 orders for 777-300X jets to its existing orders for 18 777-200s. Cathay, based in Hong Kong, is converting seven of its 11 777 orders to the stretched version.

KAL is ordering four new 777-300X planes and converting four of its existing eight orders for 777-200s. Thai, which has eight 777-200s on order, will order six new 777-300X planes.

The first 777-300X is scheduled for delivery to Cathay in the spring of 1998.