Dreamliner needs to shed a few pounds

Diantha Parker Oct 25, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Boeing announced a 31-percent slump in quarterly profits this morning. The Chicago-based plane maker also admitted its newest offering has some kinks yet to work out. That’s not such great news. Boeing’s been pinning its hopes on the 787 — the Dreamliner, it’s called. The 787’s also set Boeing apart from Airbus, which is bogged down over troubles with its super-jumbo A380.

From Chicago, Diantha Parker has more.

DIANTHA PARKER: The first Dreamliner is not supposed to roll off the assembly line till 2008, a stretch limo of a plane that will carry more than 250 passengers. The plane’s already sold out through 2012.

It’s supposed to cost 30 percent less to maintain than existing models. And it’ll be 20 percent more fuel-efficient because it’s designed to be lighter. But right now, it isn’t.

RICHARD ABOULAFIA: Tad overweight, but violet eyes to die for.

Industry analyst Richard Aboulafia says it’s important for Boeing to reassure customers it has a roadmap to slim the plane down on schedule. Spokeswoman Yvonne Leach says the problems aren’t serious, and Boeing may be able to fill orders early.

YVONNE LEACH: We’re looking at if there’s a possibility we could go up in production, and actually give customers earlier slots.

But the current Dreamliner glitches may sound like good news for rival Airbus. Its A380 jumboliner has been plagued this year with delays and technical problems.

But analyst Aboulafia says at this point it would take a lot for Airbus to catch up to Boeing.

ABOULAFIA: It’s going to be very tough for them to quickly respond with a competing product to the 787. Which means if Boeing can keep to the timetable, they have the chance of having a lock on this market — the 200-300 seat, long-range international market — for five years or more.

In the meantime, Boeing’s raised its earnings expectations for next year.

In Chicago, I’m Diantha Parker for Marketplace.

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