Boeing's Dreamliner completes first flight outside US

18th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner jet, whose delivery to clients likely faces fresh delay, landed here Sunday after its first flight outside of the United States ahead of a major airshow.

The test plane touched ground at Farnborough airport at 9:08 am (0808 GMT), watched by journalists from around the world, a day before the opening of the Farnborough International Airshow, where aircraft makers are hoping to secure big orders.

Dubai's Emirates airline is expected to announce the order of 30 Boeing long-range 777 aircraft at the trade show, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing sources.

Boeing will meanwhile also hope to secure more orders for its fuel-efficient Dreamliner, after already agreeing deals to sell 860 of the planes.

"It's such a nice plane," Mike Bryan, the pilot who flew the Dreamliner to Britain from the United States told reporters in Farnborough.

"I can't find a pilot who doesn't love it. I'm privileged enough to fly it."

Last week, Boeing said it may be forced to delay the delivery of its first Dreamliner to 2011 from late this year -- a date that was already more than two years behind schedule.

The boss of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Jim Albaugh, said on Sunday that he did not believe that any fresh delay would go beyond January.

"While we're committed to 2010 I think there's a possibility that the delivery could push over into January," he told reporters in London.

Boeing is hanging its future on the mid-sized plane -- its first new model in more than a decade -- which draws on huge advances in aviation technology and is capable of flying long-haul routes with up to 20 percent less fuel.

The fuel efficiency is largely down to the fact that up to half the twin-aisle Dreamliner is made of lightweight composite materials, such as carbon fibre-reinforced resin, according to the company.

Boeing launched the programme in April 2004 and initially had planned to deliver the first plane to Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways in the first half of 2008. The plane can seat up to 330 passengers.

Boeing's fierce European rival Airbus is meanwhile working on a new long-haul plane of its own -- the A350 XWB (Extra Wide Body). Another big project for Airbus is its long-delayed A400M military transport plane.

The head of Airbus parent company EADS, Louis Gallois, said on Sunday that he expected contracts with clients for the A400M to be signed later this year.

"I expect it will be at fall," Gallois told journalists.

The client countries for the Airbus transporter are France, Germany, Spain, Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Turkey.

The seven states, after tense negotiations in the face of production difficulties with the A400M, reached an agreement in March with EADS on sharing out 5.2 billion euros (6.4 billion dollars) in cost over-runs.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company plans to deliver the first A400M to France in early 2013.

Gallois meanwhile added on Sunday that he expected the military plane market to face a tough few years as governments look to slash their defence spending in a bid to reduce massive state deficits.

"We think that we have ahead of us three or four years that will be difficult," said Gallois.

On the civilian side, any new orders for aircraft at Farnborough -- one of aerospace's biggest events -- are likely to be dominated by airlines from emerging economies across Asia and the Middle East where air traffic is growing rapidly.

Boeing and Airbus meanwhile head to the show facing increased competition for their mid-sized civilian jets from smaller manufacturers, such as Brazil's Embraer and Bombardier of Canada.

© 2010 AFP

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