FARNBOROUGH // The aircraft giant Boeing's highly anticipated - and long delayed - 787 jetliner made its international debut today, landing in England as the star attraction at the Farnborough International Air Show. The airliner, the first passenger jet to be largely built from lightweight and environmentally friendly composite material, is the first of the five test aircraft to leave US airspace. Etihad Airways placed an order for the 787 Dreamliner during the 2008 airshow.
Its appearance at Farnborough, which alternates years with the Le Bourget airshow outside Paris as the premier aerospace and defence industry gathering, comes as Boeing and arch European rival Airbus seek to rejuvenate plane sales in the aftermath of the global recession - and face new threats to their competitive duopoly. It is the first time the pair will line up their flagship products, with Airbus' A380 "superjumbo" taking part in flying displays during the show.
Raymond Jaworowski, a senior aerospace analyst with Forecast International, said Boeing hopes to show the programme is on the right track after years of difficulties. "The fact that they are able to bring it to Farnborough, it just is kind of a signal to the industry that 'We have things worked out.' It will help," he said. Boeing has 863 orders from 56 companies worth about US$150 billion for the 787, which has been plagued by problems since the programme launched in 2004 and is currently more than two years behind schedule.
Boeing reported another potential setback on the eve of Farnborough, warning that the delivery of the first plane to a customer may slip again - this time into early 2011. Boeing said that it still hopes to deliver its first 787 to Japan's All Nippon Airways later this year, but warned of a potential delay because of the need for additional testing and changes to inspection equipment. Faulty parts built by Boeing's suppliers, including problems with the aircraft's tail, have caused many of the previous delays - in a change from normal production, Boeing has relied on suppliers from around the world to build large portions of the plane, before assembling the parts itself.