Airlines Need New Planes, but the Supply Chain Has Other Ideas
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which Boeing hopes will be the first passenger-class plane to roll off its California plant’s assembly line next year. AP/Brian Kersey
The 787, a passenger-class aircraft that was introduced by Boeing in 2013, is the product of decades of tinkering with the most basic aspects of its design in a search for a plane that could compete on price with long-haul-carrier airlines.
What Boeing finally got, however, was a high-tech aircraft that may have the potential to break through the market as a true alternative to the usual low-cost jet.
“I think it’s going to do really well, if I had a nickel for every time I said that,” said Mike Lewis, a Chicago-based analyst with BMO Capital Markets. “The 787 will probably end up with more fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs than any plane ever produced, in some cases by a factor of 3 or 4.”
Boeing did not reveal its plans for the 787, but a prototype, the Dreamliner, is on order to be built by its longtime manufacturing partner McDonnell Douglas. The 787 prototype will be constructed at Boeing’s plant in North Charleston, S.C., where it will be assembled by Boeing engineers using the same manufacturing tools used in the production of its 747 jetliner.
Boeing has not yet sold its Dreamliner business jet. The company is waiting to see how the jet market performs before going forward with the Dreamliner’s production.
The Dreamliner has been hailed by its designers and critics as a technological tour de force. It was developed by Boeing in an effort to break into the crowded and ever-changing global cabin market as a plane that could match or outsell the Boeing 767, an ultra-long-range, widebody jetliner that competes with the 787 in other dimensions.
“The 787 is a game-changer in that it offers much better fuel efficiency and fuel savings through the use of lighter materials than previous planes, while increasing passenger capacity,