DREAMLINER LANDS AT FARNBOROUGH
he Boeing 787 Dreamliner has landed at Farnborough 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.