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Mon, Jul 09, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Dreamliner picks up new orders on eve of launch

SUNDAY DEBUT Air Berlin and a leasing company in Kuwait want 35 of the jets, bringing the total number of orders for Boeing's new 787s to 677 from 47 customers

AP AND BLOOMBERG , SEATTLE

A worker walks by one of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners being built on Saturday at Boeing's assembly plant in Everett, Washington. The Dreamliner's official roll-out ceremony was scheduled for yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Boeing Co announced 35 new orders for its 787 Dreamliner on the eve of its unveiling yesterday of the new commercial jet.

Air Berlin ordered 25 and ALAFCO Aviation Lease and Finance Company of Kuwait is taking 10, Boeing said on Saturday. Together, the orders are valued at US$5.62 billion at list prices, although customers are usually able to negotiate discounts.

Boeing now has orders for 677 of the new 787s from 47 customers. The new plane's first flight is scheduled for later this year, with the first delivery to a customer, All Nippon Airways Co, next May.

Air Berlin's order is the largest single order placed by any European carrier, Boeing said. The airline also secured 10 options and 15 purchase rights for additional 787s, Boeing said.

The 10 ordered by ALAFCO are in addition to 12 787s it ordered in March. The earlier orders are to be placed with Kuwait Airways; it was not clear where the 10 new orders would be placed.

The 787 will be the world's first commercial jetliner made mostly of carbon-fiber composites, which are lighter and sturdier than aluminum. Boeing has said that and other technological advances will make the 787 more fuel-efficient and cheaper to maintain.

The new jet will make its public premiere before 15,000 people and broadcast live by satellite in nine languages in Everett, Washington, where the planes are assembled about 50km north of Seattle.

Once the crowd leaves, Boeing must prove the aircraft is ready for commercial use in eight months, the shortest test-flight program in the company's 90-year history.

"The flight test will be the moment of truth," said Craig Fraser, a fixed-income analyst at Fitch Ratings in New York. "That's what people are really focusing on. Does it go from a positive story to a very positive story or slide into trouble?"

The plane helped Boeing win more orders than France-based Airbus last for the first time in five years. Airbus's competing A350 XWB will enter service in 2013, five years after the Dreamliner.

Airbus passed Boeing in aircraft deliveries in 2003 and retained the lead through last year.

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