A few years ago, it was even odds on the wildly different bets Boeing and Airbus were making with their next generation planes. Airbus would go with the ungainly and unimaginably huge A380 while Boeing wagered on the more modest 787 Dreamliner. Even though the A380 has flown successfully and the first 787 has not made it out of the hanger door yet, it's safe to say the former has a wide lead in this big stakes race and has all but won round one. I say round one because a race like this take decades to unfold.
Last week, Boeing announced orders had passed the 500 mark to 514 with to Japan Airlines Corp. signing up for five 787-8s. Several other planes were ordered by unidentified customers, Boeing said in the April 3 announcement. At its quarterly update reviewing the 787's progress on March 19, orders stood at just below 500, according to Mike Bair, Boeing vice president and general manager. The blog post I did on the quarterly review - the first for new plane in Boeing's history - has set records for Design at Large Engineering with 3,000 page views last time I checked a week ago. The entire Design News staff is working with Boeing to review the myriad innovations and systems that make up the 787, which is slated to roll out on 7/8/07 (get it?) and fly for the first time in August.
Another little-told story is the 747 Dreamlifter, which is basically a pregnant version of the venerable 37-year- old jetliner design modified to carry 787 parts and assemblies back from a global web of suppliers to Boeing's Everett, Wash. plant for the plane's final assembly. In a marvel of engineering, the Dreamlifter's entire tail section swings open so the 787's large center sections can fit inside. By the way, if you love watching plane videos like I do, Boeing has a entire page of them.