Mon, Dec 15, 2003
Will It Fly Or Die?
When Boeing's board of directors meets in Chicago today, it will
decide whether the company's commercial aircraft division will
build its first new model since 1991 -- or send the Dreamliner to
sleep. Chances are, the 7E7 will get the nod.
That could pave the way for the 7E7 program's official launch in
the middle of next year. But first, Boeing needs to know, if they
build it, will they come?
If there's any sense of drama at all about the board's decision,
it comes from aviation industry analysts. "The only doubt is what
kind of launch we're talking about here," said aviation analyst
Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group. "Boeing has always done a real
launch. But McDonnell Douglas (which it acquired in 1997) did a
bunch of halfhearted, highly conditional launches in the '90s where
things didn't go anywhere." Harry Stonecipher, Boeing's new CEO, is
a McDonnell-Douglas veteran.
Still, Boeing is smarting from its foray deep into
the defense contracting business. The company lost
millions in a scandal involving its defense rocket program and was
stung by investigations into its missile shield contributions and
the 767 super tanker deal. On top of all that, Boeing is set to
become the world's second-biggest supplier of aircraft to the
airline industry, as arch rival Airbus projects it will sell more
planes than Boeing in 2004.
The standard 7E7 will carry 200 passengers more than 8,900
miles. A stretch model will hold 250 passengers and have a maximum
range of 9,500 miles. Boeing is even touting a short-range version
with room for 300 passengers and a range of 4,000 miles.
About 800 to 1,200 jobs are expected to be created for the
Dreamliner assembly process. The Seattle Times reports the 7E7 will
be built in Everett
although that announcement has yet to be made by Boeing.
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