Sunday, July 18, 2010

Boeing's Dreamliner completes first flight outside US


FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom (AFP) - – Boeing's 787 Dreamliner jet, whose delivery to clients faces fresh delay, landed in Britain on Sunday after its first flight outside of the US ahead of the Farnborough International Airshow.

The test plane landed at Farnborough airport at 9:08am (0808 GMT), watched by journalists from around the world, ahead of the major week-long trade show that begins on Monday, where aircraft makers are hoping to secure major orders.

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

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

Last week, US aircraft maker Boeing said it may be forced to delay the delivery of its first fuel-efficient Dreamliner to 2011 from late this year -- a date that was already more than two years behind schedule. It has secured 860 orders so far.

Last month, Boeing said it had detected a "workmanship issue" with the horizontal stabiliser of the aircraft, whose innovative structure and manufacture across more than 100 sites has created many technical problems.

The company is hanging its future hopes on the mid-sized plane -- Boeing's 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 -- a deadline which may now be pushed back until the start of 2011. 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 in the European autumn later this year.

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

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.

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