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Boeing set to unveil Dreamliner

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  • Boeing's new plane made of lightweight composite materials
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The eyes of the aviation industry will be on the 787 Dreamliner's unveiling on Sunday but is the fastest selling airliner in history ready for its close-up?


The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the world's fastest-selling commercial airliner.

Boeing has sold 642 of the new planes before the first one has even been assembled, and much of the anticipation has been over the material used to build it and its innovative and spacious cabin.

As much as 50 percent of the Dreamliner is manufactured from carbon fibre, including the wings and fuselage, which is formed from one piece, making it more stable and lighter than riveted panels of aluminum used by other commercial jets.

The U.S. plane manufacturer has outsourced many of the plane's components from outside of its base in Washington state. Parts from the UK, Italy and elsewhere are flown in specially adapted 747s called Dreamlifters before being assembled in the U.S., while a complete plane can be built in just three days.

With the aviation industry currently in the spotlight over its impact on the environment, Boeing has been keen to play up the 787's green credentials. Lighter than other planes of its size and powered by more efficient engines supplied by GE and Rolls-Royce, it's estimated that it will use 20 percent less fuel than other similar sized aircraft.

Its huge presales have also enabled the U.S. plane manufacturer to steal a march on its rival Airbus in terms of total sales.

"It's the strongest confirmation possible that we are bringing the right airplane to the market at the right time. The airlines of the world have validated that the environmental performance, passenger appeal and new technologies that are fundamental to the 787 are the right combination for the second century of powered flight." said Mike Bair, vice president and program manager of the 787.

Compared to the trials and setbacks of the Airbus A380, the 787 has had an easy ride in its development since the first orders were placed in 2004.

There have been a few teething problems, with reports of a lack of rivets and ill-fitting front sections, but so far nothing like the woes faced by Airbus and the problems that affected the 350 miles of wiring that snake back and forth through the double-decker A380 superjumbo. Being a midsized jet, the 787 only has 60 miles of wiring to contend with.

With air travel forecast to triple by 2030, Boeing designed the 787 believing that more passengers will want smaller jets for point-to-point travel, rather than flights to major airports that the A380 is designed for.

"This plane means more frequency, so anyone who changes planes regularly at Heathrow, Narita or Frankfurt can be grateful for the 787," Richard Aboulafia, a consultant at aerospace specialists the Teal Group, told Reuters.

All Nippon Airways will be the first of 787's 45 customers to receive the plane in May 2008 after flight test this fall. As one of three models planned for the Dreamliner, it will be able to carry 250 passengers up to 8,200 miles. The 787-9 will have an even longer range and accommodate up to 290 people.

It's a plane many of us will be flying in the future, and while Boeing may have transformed the way planes are built, they're keen to highlight the improved comfort levels of their new jet.

Thanks to its stronger carbon fibre build, the cabins will have larger windows and air pressure will be lower than the jets flying today, so passengers won't feel so dehydrated at the end of long flight.

Little features sprinkled throughout the plane include infrared sensors that open trash lids and turn on taps and flush lavatories.


Boeing also worked with the National Center for Accessible Transportation in Oregon to make its interior the most passenger-friendly in the sky and fit for the 21st century.

The unveiling takes place Sunday at the U.S. manufacturer's plant in Seattle. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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