Boeing on track to deliver 112 new 787s

Boeing says it plans to deliver 112 of its new 787 airplanes in 2008 and 2009, and is still on track to get the plane into service in the early summer of 2008.

In a telephone briefing with reporters on Wednesday, Mike Bair, Boeing’s vice-president and general manager of the 787 programme, added that if all tentative commitments for the airplane firm up, it could be sold out until the first part of 2012.

But he noted that some of those tentative deals could fall through, meaning that other airlines would be able to grab production line slots for planes to be delivered before 2012. For example, Bair said Australia’s Qantas Airways was able to strike a deal last week for 787s that will be delivered beginning in 2008 because another contract didn’t work out.

Still, Bair said the company could soon reach a point where it is unable to provide potential customers with airplanes as quickly as they might want them.

Bair said Chicago-based Boeing plans to begin producing the 787s as early as 2007, and will store an unspecified number of planes while it awaits certification. That will allow the company to deliver a big batch of 787s once it enters service.

He said the company is still figuring out what the production rate for 787s will be after the initial deliveries, but he vowed not to repeat the production problems that plagued the company and hurt business in the late 1990s.
Boeing stumbled badly when it tried to ramp up production of the 737 significantly while introducing a new version of the plane.

Boeing has 254 firm orders for the 787, but Bair said the company is still waiting to see if it will snag major orders from some major United States and overseas carriers who may be eager to renew fleets that include older Boeing 767s or rival Airbus SAS models.

Airbus has 59 firm orders for its A350, the 787’s chief rival that is scheduled to enter service in 2010.

Overall, Boeing is on track to sell more airplanes than Airbus for the first time in five years, amid strong demand for both companies’ offerings. Airlines have been especially keen on the 787 because it promises up to 20% more fuel efficiency than any model on the market today—a key selling point as many airlines struggle to make money amid high fuel prices.—Sapa-AP

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