Boeing's 787 Dreamliner
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner - 
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Jeremy Hobson: Thousands of workers will celebrate at Boeing's huge factory outside Seattle today, as the company delivers its first 787 Dreamliner
to Japan's biggest airline.

The 787 is three years behind schedule, and as Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports, Boeing will have to sell a lot of these planes to break even.

Mitchell Hartman: Boeing's new Dreamliner was eight years in the making. But it is a marvel of engineering, says aerospace analyst Wolfgang Demisch.

Wolfgang Demisch: The airplane is the pioneer in aircraft technology. It is lighter and more efficient than anything currently available.

But all those advances in composite materials and aeronautics came at a price. Analysts estimate Boeing spent as much as $20 billion -- several times what was predicted.

Orders have been rolling in -- more than 800 so far. But aerospace consultant Scott Hamilton says Boeing probably needs to sell 1,200 just to cover costs.

Scott Hamilton: They'll get there. Of course, it takes a long time to deliver 1,200 airplanes, so you won't see actual profit on the airplane for the better part of a decade.

Boeing faces another challenge: It'll ultimately have to produce about 10 of these incredibly complicated airplanes every month just to keep the Dreamliner profitable. Right now, Boeing's cranking out just two a month.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

Follow Mitchell Hartman at @entrepreneurguy