The Case of the Missing Dreamliners

OK, I spent most of last week lounging on the shore of Hood Canal. (That’s the western-most arm of Puget Sound, for you non-locals. It’s still mostly rural, tucked in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains, and it’s where I grew up). I spent most of the time watching the seals and bald eagles chase sea-run cutthroat and not pondering anything more complex than whether I would have grilled salmon or steamed clams for dinner, and whether I should open the semillon or just stick with the IPA.

And now I get back and I’m faced with the Mystery of the Missing Dreamliners. In case you missed it, China’s official news agency announced that five Chinese airlines will sign deals for 50 787s worth $6 billion in September — this after last winter’s announcement that SIX Chinese airlines planned to buy SIXTY 787s worth $7.2 billion.

(Here are some links to the announcement, btw):

The Chinese order was huge for the 787 program. Boeing timed its announcement of the plane’s name change (from 7E7 to 787) to coincide with the order, because “8” is considered a lucky number in China. The signing ceremony itself took place at the State Department in Washington, D.C., with all the pomp and falderal that entails.

BUT … it wasn’t a firm order, just a memo of understanding signaling the intent of the Chinese government to order the 60 jets on behalf of the six airlines, which are all partly owned, to various degrees, by the government.

So what happened to the 10 missing jets? It’s looking like that’s gonna be near the top of my to-do list for the week. Boeing itself seemed puzzled when the announcement came last week.

Key Quote 1 (from the Associated Press on Friday): “Boeing spokesman Peter Conte said he did not know why the order had changed. ‘I’ve got to do some fact-checking,’ he said.”

Key Quote 2 (from the AP, a couple hours later): “‘We continue to work with six airlines in China to finalize the commitments that were made in January,’ said Boeing spokesman Peter Conte in Seattle.”

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