Boeing sees strong Dreamliner orders

A senior Boeing official on Wednesday brushed off the threat of European rival Airbus SAS’s “superjumbo,” saying orders for Boeing’s smaller, more fuel-efficient Dreamliner were robust.

Boeing vice president Wade Cornelius said the Airbus A380 requires heavy investment but would likely command only a small market.

“We are very happy that Airbus has chosen to develop that airplane for that market,” he said in an interview while in Tokyo to attend a conference.

Chicago-based Boeing and Airbus, which are competing fiercely for the global commercial jet market, are offering very different products.

Boeing is building the 787 Dreamliner, which carries between 223 and 296 passengers, while Airbus is selling the much larger A380 “superjumbo,” which seats a maximum 840 passengers.

The A380, which was to make its first test flight on Wednesday in France, has won 154 firm orders from 15 carriers including Air France, Lufthansa and Virgin.

Cornelius, who oversees global strategy for commercial airplanes, said that including recent deals with Air Canada and Air India, orders for the 787 now total 237.

Boeing is in talks with other customers about possible orders for 429 more planes, which makes the 787 already a sellout for the first three years of delivery, he said at Boeing’s Tokyo headquarters.

The Boeing 787 goes into production next year, its first flight is expected in 2007 and delivery 2008. Airbus is planning a rival offering to the 787, but that won’t be delivered until two years after the 787.

Overnight, Boeing released images of the exterior design of the Dreamliner, which was almost identical to the earlier sleek concept image. Cornelius said skeptics had expressed doubts whether technologically the final design could live up to the concept.

Although Boeing enjoys decades of success with Japanese airlines, partly because Japanese manufacturers have worked for years with Boeing to develop and make aircraft, Airbus has recently begun a major campaign to win orders in Japan and is counting on the A380.

There have been no orders so far for the A380 from major Japanese carriers, but Boeing does not offer a product that directly competes in that category.
Boeing’s response to the A380 has been to offer an improved 747 with a longer body that seats 450 people, Cornelius said. - Sapa-AP

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