Nearly a decade in the making, the Dreamliner hasn't been a dream for Boeing to create and to produce. But, with the first delivery of the 787 on Monday, Boeing takes a step in the right direction -- toward restoring its reputation and toward reaching an ambitious goal of building 10 Dreamliners each month.
"This airplane begins a new chapter in aviation history," Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing's commercial airplanes division, said last month, when announcing the delivery date.
Today, executives from Boeing and the 787's launch customer, All Nippon Airways, privately will sign contracts giving the Japanese carrier the right to the first Dreamliner. The companies will celebrate the delivery of the first 787 in a ceremony that will be webcast live Monday. Less than 24 hours later, ANA pilots will fly the Dreamliner home to Tokyo, where they will get it ready to enter commercial service next month.
Boeing executives and employees aren't the only ones who have been looking forward to the first delivery of the 787. ANA has stood by Boeing through more than three years of delays, because of production problems and snags in Boeing's global supply chain.
"This aircraft will enable us to offer new standards of service and comfort to our passengers," Shinichiro Ito, ANA's chief executive, said last month in announcing the delivery date.
The 787 will reduce fuel costs for airlines and expand comforts for passengers. Boeing has 821 orders for its 787 from 56 customers.
Local political leaders see the delivery of Boeing's first 787 as a good sign for the area's economy. In 2003, state and local government officials gave Boeing and other aerospace companies more than $3 billion in tax incentives in order to land the 787 final assembly line in Everett.
"This is very good news in a pretty bleak economy," said Ray Stephanson, mayor of Everett. "It should give us that psychological lift."
While the delivery of Boeing's first Dreamliner might boost spirits, analysts say the company still has a long road ahead. Observers say Boeing won't make a profit on the 787 until it reaches the 1,000th jet.
"It's going to take a while to get there," said Scott Hamilton, an analyst with Issaquah-based Leeham Co. But "I don't think there's any doubt this program will be profitable over the long haul."
Before Boeing can even worry about increasing production from two airplanes monthly to 10 by 2013, the company needs to stabilize production, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group.
"They need to build the aircraft that people expect," he said.
Despite the challenges ahead, Boeing, its suppliers and the community should take a moment to celebrate the first delivery, said John Monroe, aerospace coordinator with the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County.
As a retired Boeing manager, Monroe said he was "almost embarrassed" by the delays to the 787 program over the past few years.
However, with the first Dreamliner delivery, "I think some of that pride factor will come back," he said.
Watch the 787 delivery ceremony
Boeing will webcast the event beginning at 9 a.m. Monday. We'll have live updates on all the events at HeraldNet.com.
Here's a quick look at some of the new amenities of the Boeing Co.'s Dreamliner:
• A better flight. New sensors should help the plane even out turbulence, making the ride smoother. The windows are 3 inches taller and include a dimming button, making the flight more enjoyable.
• A better feeling after. The cabin pressure will be lower, and a new filtration system will make the air less dry, allowing passengers to fell less tired and less dehydrated after their trip.
• Less cost for airlines. The 787 will cost 10 percent less to operate, pilots will need less training and the planes will require less maintenance. Pilots already flying the 777 will see many similarities with the 787. They also will be able to do more training online. The composite barrel structure of a 787 requires fewer parts to erode and break down. And less maintenance is needed.
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