Rollout to be One for the ages

If God is considering a Second Coming soon, maybe she should tune in to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner rollout ceremony to borrow a few ideas about staging, drama and worldwide impact. Indeed, short of an 8.0 earthquake, an eruption of Mount Rainier or...


If God is considering a Second Coming soon, maybe she should tune in to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner rollout ceremony to borrow a few ideas about staging, drama and worldwide impact.

Indeed, short of an 8.0 earthquake, an eruption of Mount Rainier or the Mariners winning the World Series, Boeing's debut of its best-selling, superefficient jetliner won't be upstaged anytime soon by a Pacific Northwest event.

The July 8 ceremony, or "premiere," as Boeing prefers to call it, literally will have a cast of thousands: 15,000 in the Everett factory where the 787 is being built; 50,000 at Qwest Field, where other Boeing employees and retirees will watch the events unfold on giant screens; 20,000 in Wichita, Kan., where one of Boeing's major subcontractors, Spirit Aerospace, will be connected by satellite at the company's annual picnic; and at factories, racetracks and public venues large and small in South Carolina, Japan, Italy, England, Australia and elsewhere around the world.

With the ceremonies publicly available on DirecTV and Dish Network in North America, and two dozen other satellite systems around the world, the potential audience for the ceremony is 100 million people, said the rollout's director, Yvonne Leach.

Boeing has hired former "NBC Nightly News" anchorman Tom Brokaw to emcee the ceremonies, and commissioned Vancouver Symphony musicians and native performance artists worldwide to record the rollout's theme songs.

Even the event's date, 7-8-07 in numeric shorthand, seems custom-made for the occasion of the public debut of the first example of what Boeing claims is a game-changing aircraft.

The plane has been crucial in shifting the momentum of the aircraft industry from Airbus, which had passed Boeing four years ago as the world's largest commercial maker, back to Boeing, which won the order race last year on the strength of 787s orders.

Of course, Airbus has played a role in its own decline, failing to deliver its superjumbo A380 on time and redesigning its response to the 787, the A350XWB three times. Now the first A350XWB is expected to enter commercial service in 2013, five years after the 787. The A350XWB has won 13 firm orders, while Boeing's 787 order total now exceeds 600.

So Boeing is anxious to cluck about the 787 with a grand coming-out party and almost all of the most powerful and influential people in the airline and aviation business in attendance in Everett. The company, for instance, has invited executives from all of its 787 customers.

Flight attendants from each of the 787 airlines will play a role in the ceremony. About 50 aviation industry financial analysts from around the world will attend along with 250 aviation journalists from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Asia.

Boeing has reserved substantial blocks of rooms in five Seattle hotels for its guests, and it plans briefings, tours and cocktail parities throughout the pre-ceremony days for those attending.

"This is the first new-plane rollout since the 777 13 years ago, so an occasion like this deserves a proper celebration," Leach said.

Serious planning for the event began more than a year ago, when Leach polled all the Boeing departments involved about their expectations for the rollout ceremonies.

Ultimately, Leach would have 13 managers under her supervision handling different aspects of the event, from press relations to employee and retiree access.

The event plan that emerged from those queries was one that reflected not only how the 787 is different from the aircraft that proceeded it, but also how the system Boeing uses to design and build the aircraft is different, Leach said.

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