Boeing unveiled its lightweight, carbon-composite 787 Dreamliner last month in front of 15,000 cheering employees, customers and suppliers, capping a weekend of hype and a flurry of orders for the new fuel-efficient plane.
The ceremony, at the company’s Everett, Washington plant, gave the crowds their first full look at the mid-sized, long-range jetliner, which is Boeing’s first all-new plane in 12 years and has already attracted more than $100 billion in orders.
Apart from its swept back, upward tilting wings, the plane did not look radically new on the outside. But beneath the just-dried paint the structure is made up of 50 per cent carbon composite materials and another 15 per cent titanium, making it much lighter and fuel efficient than existing jetliners of the same size.
Airlines have jumped at the plane after years of struggling to turn a profit. Boeing is rapidly closing in on 700 orders, and says a customer placing an order now would have to wait until 2015 for delivery.
First deliveries are expected by Japan’s Air Nippon Airways next May, in time to carry passengers to the Beijing Olympics next summer.
Other airlines and leasing companies lining up to take delivery include Air Berlin, Kuwait’s Aviation Lease and Finance, Royal Jordanian and Qantas. Qatar Airways has reportedly signed up for 30, while a Bloomberg report said Emirates Airline wants Boeing to guarantee it will build a larger version of the 787 Dreamliner before deciding on a potential order of 100 aircraft from either Boeing or Airbus.
The plane is not scheduled to begin flight testing for at least another six weeks, and still needs its internal power and control systems fitted and functioning. It also needs about 1,000 temporary fastening bolts replaced by permanent ones, which Boeing said it will start work on immediately.
The use of fatigue-resistant and rust-free composite materials means air in the cabin can be more humid, leaving passengers less dried out and jetlagged after a long flight.
The twin-engine plane, which seats nine-abreast in coach, can carry 210 to 330 people in its three models of various sizes. Prices range from $146 million to $200 million.
The lighter weight and newly designed engines made by General Electric and Rolls-Royce mean air carriers will save about 20 per cent on fuel costs.
The plane is trouncing rival Airbus, whose competing A350 XWB (extra wide body) has been bedevilled by design changes. The European plane maker conceded that the day – 7/8/07 in US date shorthand -- belonged to Boeing.
“Even if tomorrow Airbus will get back to the business of competing vigorously, today is Boeing’s day -- a day to celebrate the 787,” Airbus chief executive Louis Gallois wrote to Boeing CEO Jim McNerney in a letter made public by Airbus.