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Boeing 787 Dreamliner Prepares to Take Flight

On July 8 the Boeing Company will reveal its newest passenger jet in 13 years, the 787 Dreamliner. It is billed as the hottest-selling and most technologically advanced commercial jet ever. Boeing already has more than 600 orders for planes to 45 airline customers, worth an estimated $100 billion in sales. What makes this aircraft so special? As VOA's Brian Padden reports, Boeing is claiming that the 787 Dreamliner will change how people fly.

The Boeing Company is betting its future on its new 787 Dreamliner. Unlike the last generation of jumbo jets, like the Airbus A-380 which seats 550 passengers, the 787 is smaller. The Dreamliner is designed to carry up to 330 people, and to access regional airports. And it is lighter, made from composite materials, primarily plastic.

Boeing's Randy Tinseth says the 787 Dreamliner has what both the flying public and the airline industry are looking for. "For airlines we are looking at a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over today's airplanes, significantly better costs so that airlines can continue to be profitable. And for passengers we are offering a totally new experience, larger windows, wide aisles, wide seats, large overhead bins, new lighting so you can rest better and we are even doing things to have cleaner air."

Guy Norris covers Boeing for Aviation Weekly. He says planning for the 787 began about 10 years ago when the company was suffering both serious financial losses and production delays. He says Boeing changed its production process to farm out 70 percent of the work to nearly 50 partner aerospace companies.

"And the combination, here we are 10 years later, is a result of those changes,” says Norris. “They produce this 21st century technology airliner, with a production system that should produce the aircraft in record numbers and at record profitability."

Boeing's main competitor, Airbus, may be at a disadvantage today, but it is not standing idly by. It is also developing a new generation of airliners. Airbus's Barbara Kracht says, in an industry that is growing at a rate of 4.8 percent a year, there is room for both aerospace giants in the marketplace.

"The Boeing 787 is certainly a great product but we have the 330 available now and the 350, which is coming in the next decade,” she says. “So customers love to have competition which benefits everybody."

While sales for the 787 Dreamliner are brisk and Boeing's immediate future looks promising, there are still concerns. Unforeseen production delays would cut profits and the airplane has yet to actually fly.