Most Design Work Completed On Boeing 7E7
A year after giving the 7E7 a green
light, Boeing says the project is way ahead of the production
schedule. But customers haven't been as plentiful as the
Chicago-based aerospace giant might hope.
Boeing says 90 percent of the design work on the Dreamliner has
been completed -- two months ahead of schedule. Because so much of
the aircraft is being outsourced, program boss Mike Bair said
Boeing has to "be a lot more structured." As a result, he told the
Everett, WA, Herald, "We're further along, in better shape, than
we've ever been in the past."
The 7E7 fuselage will be wrapped in resin-soaked material, then
baked at high temperature.
"We're weaving this airplane," Bair said. "We assemble planes
today from parts. This is more like a textile mill."
As a result, the aircraft will apparently require a lot less
maintenance than its predecessors. Bair told the Herald that
Boeing's experience with composite "I" beams in the 777 shows the
materials stand up well to the rigors of flight. C-checks, which
must be performed every two years on most aircraft, won't be needed
as often, Bair said. Instead, the company may be able to recommend
those routine checks every 30 months -- and Bair told the Herald
"we think it might get to 36."
And because of the composite nature of the fuselage, the
aircraft will weigh a lot less than planes built along more
May I Take Your Order?
Of course, it's not easy trying to launch a new line of
airplanes if your potential customers keep filing bankruptcy.
That's the case with the 7E7. Initial reaction to the Dreamliner
was very positive, leading Boeing to predict 500 orders by the time
the aircraft first flies, in 2007. But so far, after All Nippon
signed up as the 7E7 launch customer with an order for 50 aircraft,
only Air New Zealand has committed -- for two.
There is an ongoing sense of interest from the marketplace, said
Boeing's vice president in charge of 7E7 sales, John Feren. More
than 200 airlines have put down deposits.
And this is where Airbus gets into the act. All indications are
that EADS plans to go ahead with the Airbus A350. It's basically an
A330 modified to more readily compete with the 7E7 and initial
indications are it will be easier for cash-strapped companies to
TM Sell, a Highline Community College professor, told the Herald
that could seriously cut into Boeing's hopes for the Dreamliner.
"If my budget is a Kia budget, I'm not buying a Volvo, even though
[the Volvo is] the better value."
But if you ask the guys who supply the money to buy aircraft,
they'll tell a slightly different story (and remember the old
journalism saw -- follow the money). Deutsche Verkehrs Bank Senior
VP Bert van Leeuwen told a Boeing news conference, "You get what
you pay for." As far as the Airbus A350 is concerned, he said,
"It's unlikely you can achieve something similar to the 7E7."
Fifty-two orders is nothing to sneeze at -- especially if you
look at the way the 777 picked up steam. The first year the 777 was
out, Boeing took only 49 orders, three less than it's taken on the
Dreamliner. The 777 turned out to be Boeing's top-selling wide body
aircraft, according to the Herald.