Image: 787
Ted S. Warren  /  AP
The first production model of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplane was unveiled Sunday to an audience of several thousand Boeing employees, airline executives, and dignitaries.
updated 7/8/2007 10:14:03 PM ET 2007-07-09T02:14:03

Boeing Co. unveiled its first fully assembled 787 on Sunday to an audience of thousands who packed into its widebody assembly plant for the plane’s extravagantly orchestrated premiere.

With flight attendants on stage from each airline that has ordered the jet, the giant factory doors opened wide as the plane slowly moved into view to the strains of a theme song composed specially for the 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner.

Boeing has won more than 600 orders from customers eager to hold the jet maker to its promise that the midsize, long-haul jet will burn less fuel, be cheaper to maintain and offer more passenger comforts than comparable planes flying today.

The 787, Boeing’s first all-new jet since airlines started flying the 777 in 1995, will be the world’s first large commercial airplane made mostly of carbon-fiber composites, which are lighter, more durable and less prone to corrosion than aluminum.

To date, Boeing has won 677 orders for the 787, selling out delivery positions through 2015, two years after Airbus SAS expects to roll out its competing A350 XWB.

Congratulations -- from Airbus
In a rare tip of the hat to the competition, Airbus congratulated Boeing on the 787, whose commercial success has chipped away at the edge the European plane maker once held over its Chicago-based rival.

“Even if tomorrow Airbus will get back to the business of competing vigorously, today is Boeing’s day — a day to celebrate the 787,” Airbus co-CEO Louis Gallois said in a letter to Boeing Chairman and CEO James McNerney.

“Today is a great day in aviation history. Whenever such a milestone is reached in our industry it is always a reflection of hard work by dedicated people inspired by the wonder of flight,” the letter said.

Airbus customers forced it to redesign the A350, which pushed back production. Airbus also has faced problems with its A380 superjumbo, which has been hit with delays that slashed profit projections for Airbus’ parent company, European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.

Boeing hired former NBC “Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw to serve as master of ceremonies for the 787 premiere, which was broadcast live on the Internet and on satellite television in nine languages to more than 45 countries. The company rolled out red carpet and set out roughly 15,000 seats for spectators at one end of the 787 factory north of Seattle.

The company invited thousands of its employees and retirees to watch via satellite at the NFL stadium where the Seattle Seahawks play, and it hosted viewing parties for 787 customers and suppliers in dozens of other locations around the globe.

Final assembly of the first 787 started in late May, after a gigantic, specially outfitted superfreighter started flying wings, fuselage sections and other major parts to Boeing’s widebody plant, where they essentially get snapped together, piece by huge piece.

Once production hits full speed, the company expects each plane to spend just three days in final assembly, but this time, Boeing workers spent several weeks installing electrical wiring and other innards that suppliers will eventually stuff into their sections of the plane before they’re delivered to the assembly plant.

Boeing decided to handle that work in-house for the first few planes rather than risk any production delays.

A few snags
Despite a few snags the company says it anticipated — including an industrywide shortage of fasteners brought on by a surge in demand for new jets in recent years — Boeing officials say nothing so far has threatened to bump the 787 behind schedule.

The first test flight is expected to take place between late August and late September. The plane is set to enter commercial service next May after Japan’s All Nippon Airways receives the first of the 50 Dreamliners it has ordered.

All Nippon Airways executives acknowledged Sunday that Boeing faces production challenges, but they said they’re doing what they can to make sure they get their plane on time next spring.

“We know it’s not easy to make that deadline. However, we will support Boeing, and we will work with them so that the deadline can be met,” Osamu Shinobe, executive vice president of corporate planning for All Nippon Airways Co., said before Sunday’s rollout ceremony.

The 787 that debuted Sunday will serve as the first of six flight-test airplanes, while two other planes will be used for static and fatigue tests. The ninth plane off the assembly line will be the first one delivered to All Nippon.

The 787-8, the first of three 787 models Boeing has committed to making, has an average list price of $162 million, though customers typically negotiate discounts on bulk orders.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Boeing rolls out 787

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  1. News media tour the assembly line of the Boeing 787 in Everett, Wash. on Sunday, Sept. 25,. All Nippon Airways is the first customer to take delivery of the 787. (John Froschauer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A worker looks over the inside of a fuselage of a Boeing 787 at the assembly plant in Everett, Wash. on Sunday, Sept. 25. (John Froschauer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Boeing employees assemble Boeing 787 Dreamliners September 25, in Everett, Washington. Boeing delivered its long-awaited and delayed first 787 airliner to All Nippon Airways which it will celebrate before ANA flies the airliner to Japan September 27. (Stephen Brashear / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Kang Kang of China Central TV sits in the reclining seat as the news media tour the second Boeing Co. 787 to be delivered to All Nippon Airways (ANA) at the assembly plant in Everett, Wash. on Sunday, Sept. 25 (John Froschauer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. News media tour the inside of the second Boeing Co. 787 to be delivered to All Nippon Airways (ANA) at the assembly plant in Everett, Wash. on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011. ANA is the first customer to take delivery of the 787. (John Froschauer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. An All Nippon Airways' Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrives at Tokyo's Haneda airport as fire engines spray it with water during a test flight on July 3, 2011. (Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Boeing chief pilot Chuck Killberg, right, gives a tour of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to American Airlines' pilots Scott Alderink, second from right, Jim Dees, center left, and John Conrad at Dallas-Fort Worth International airport in July. American Airlines is buying at least 460 new planes over the next five years in the biggest single passenger jet order in history. The order will include the Boeing 787. (Lm Otero / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Kent Craver, Boeing Co.'s regional director for passenger satisfaction and revenue, shows off the headroom in the passenger cabin of the first Boeing 787 with the interior installed at the production plant in Everett, Wash., in 2010. (Elaine Thompson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. The super freighter Dreamlifter aircraft, carrying the mid-body fuselage for the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, sits in the unloading area in Everett, Wash., in 2007. The tail of the modified 747-400 swings open for huge payloads that are unloaded using the largest cargo loader in the world. (Kevin P. Casey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet takes off at its long-waited first flight on Dec.15, 2009 at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. (Stephen Brashear / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Boeing 787 Chief Pilot Captain Mike Carriker exults after landing Boeing's long delayed new 787 at Boeing Field in Seattle, Wash., on December 15, 2009. (Paul Joseph Brown / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The front landing gear on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner lifts off the runway during taxi tests on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The largely composite airplane is scheduled for its maiden flight next week. (Joshua Trujillo / Seattlepi.com via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Boeing employees work on an aft fuselage for the 787 Dreamliner inside a North Charleston, S.C., facility in October 2009. Boeing plans to open a second assembly plant for its 787 in North Charleston, expanding beyond its longtime manufacturing base in Washington state. (Mic Smith / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Boeing employees work inside the North Charleston, S.C., facility in October 2009. (Mic Smith / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. International journalists and other visitors view a mock-up of the interior of the new Boeing 787 airplane on Saturday, July 7, 2007, at Boeing's Customer Experience Center in Renton, Wash. The airplane maker has promised that the interior of the new airplane will be much more comfortable than previous airplane models. (Ted S. Warren / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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