Boeing Says 787 Program on Schedule

Airlines commit to purchase 420 Dreamliner jets. Boeing Co. now has 420 commitments from airlines to buy its new 787 Dreamliner commercial jet, a company executive said Friday.

The 787 program remains on schedule, and engine testing is ahead of schedule, Craig Saddler, the chief financial officer on the project, said at a conference in New York.

Boeing is continuing to invest to bring down the plane's weight, he said.

With 377 firm orders through August, initial production of the aircraft has started. The first flight in the third quarter of next year will mark the next major milestone before Boeing begins shipments in 2008.

The Chicago-based company is counting on the 787 to win back dominance of the $60-billion-a-year jetliner market from Airbus SAS, the European planemaker.

"We are sold out through 2011, and 2012 is getting taken up really fast," Saddler said at the conference, sponsored by Gabelli & Co. "This feels like any development program I've been on. We are working the schedule and we are working weight. We'd like weight to be better, so we're investing there."

Boeing plans to spend more on engineers working on the 787 programs to ensure the plane remains on schedule and to help avoid design mistakes that could hinder production, CEO James McNerney said in July.

Production of the Dreamliner is dependent on suppliers that will ship pre-assembled fuselage parts and wings from all over the world to Boeing's wide-body factory in Everett, Wash. A record 70 percent of the jet's parts come from outside suppliers.

"This is a big deal, and none of us will fail," Saddler said. "And we won't let them fail, either."

Wing components are being manufactured in Tulsa by Spirit AeroSystems Inc.

The 250-seat plane, which will be the first to be made of more than half composite materials, will be assembled in a record three days after all its parts are delivered from as far away as Italy and Japan.

The Tulsa World Business staff contributed to this report by Bloomberg News.

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