Dreamliner lands in England for air show

The
Boeing 787 Dreamliner landed at Farnborough on Saturday for its first
appearance at an international air show.

Boeing’s
flagship aircraft is different from conventional aircraft, having been built
largely out of light-weight composite material.

“This
is the first time we’ve had a new airplane at an air show since the early
1990s,” Jim Albaugh, boss of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told the BBC.

The
plane has been delayed by more than two years after a series of hitches.

When it
was first conceived, the Dreamliner was a revolutionary concept, but rivals
have since done much to catch up.

Airbus
is building a similar series of planes dubbed A350, while newcomers in Russia
and China are gearing up to enter the fast-growing market for single-aisle
aircraft.

“The
market is changing,” said Mr Albaugh in a BBC News interview.

“There
are a lot of companies that have a lot of technology and ambition, but
competition is good. Competition makes us better. Competition makes us more
innovative.”

The
Dreamliner is scheduled for delivery to its launch customer All Nippon Airways
later this year, though this deadline could slip into early 2011, Boeing told
BBC News last week.

The
plane is currently conducting daily flight tests in the US after its first
flight in December 2009.

By then,
the plane was already more than two years late, so Boeing is eager to avoid
further delays.

However,
the delays are not important in the bigger scheme of things, Mr Albaugh
insisted.

“This
is an airplane that’s going to be in the market for 50 years,” he said.

Optimism
about the Dreamliner’s performance in the market is mirrored by high hopes of a
revival in the fortunes of the civilian aviation industry.

During
the past two years, airlines in difficulty have held back from ordering new
planes, though production schedules have been largely unaffected as aircraft
manufacturers have order books stretching several years into the future.

This
year, predicted Mr Albaugh, the customers will be back.

“We’re
going to hear a lot of orders being announced this week, both from Airbus and
from Boeing,” he said.

John
Leahy, head of sales at Airbus, said on Saturday that he had bet parent company
EADS chief Louis Gallois that the planemaker would match the number of orders
it had taken in the year so far during the Farnborough show.

Industry
watchers are also waiting for announcements from the world’s leading airplane
makers about whether and when they will update their best-selling but ageing
Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 series of planes.

“We’ve
got three options,” Mr Albaugh said. “Do nothing, re-engine or build
a new airplane.”

A
decision should be taken later this year, he said.

Airbus
will also announce its decision after the middle of September, Mr Leahy said,
hinting that it would probably fit its A320 jets with engines that should help
it deliver fuel savings and thus emission cuts of about 15% from 2015.

“We
think that is the way to go and that Boeing will be behind us before the end of
the year,” he said.

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