Boeing Co. said Thursday it finalized a deal with British Airways, notching 790 orders for its long-awaited 787 Dreamliner plane during the last three years.
British Airways' order for 24 Dreamliners gives the plane one of the industry's most successful launches ever — even though the airliner has yet to take flight.
The Chicago-based aerospace company expects to fly the first 787 around the end of the first quarter of 2008 and begin deliveries in late November or December. It expects to deliver 109 airplanes in 2009.
The 787, Boeing's first newly designed jet since airlines started flying the 777 in 1995, will be the world's first large commercial airplane made mostly of light, durable less-corrosive carbon-fiber composites. Boeing says its new plane will be cheaper to maintain and offer better fuel efficiency and more passenger comforts than planes flying today.
Analysts called the demand for the Boeing plane "unprecedented."
"This is a breakneck pace," said Morningstar analyst Brian Nelson. "The fact that it continues to get orders and airlines continue to order this represents great confidence that Boeing can build this plane and deliver this plane."
British Airways placed options for another 18 and purchase rights for an additional 10 787s.
The British Airways deal is worth $4.4 billion at list prices, though carriers usually negotiate deep discounts on sizable orders.
"This order is a vote of confidence from one of the world's leading global network carriers in the 787's unprecedented performance," said Marlin Dailey, vice president of Sales for Europe, Russia and Central Asia, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
Meanwhile Thursday, Brazil's GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes S.A. said it exercised firm orders for 34 Boeing 737-800 NGs, completing the purchase option for 121 aircraft negotiated in October 2006. The carrier said it signed a new contract for the acquisition of 40 additional aircraft for delivery in 2012-2014.
"This new contract will further reduce GOL's costs and enable us to continue to modernize our fleet with new aircraft," said Fernando Rockert de Magalhaes, GOL's technical vice president.
Boeing's Dreamliner success comes as its European rival Airbus SAS struggles with its double-decker flagship A380 and its mid-range A350. Wiring and other technical problems delayed delivery of the A380 by two years.
Boeing was forced to delay the launch of its 787 — assembled with components manufactured largely by other companies — by six months earlier this year because of outsourcing snags.
The company said Thursday that it signed a $1 billion contract with Russia's OAO VSMPO-Avisma to provide titanium forging for the jet from 2011 until 2015.
Shares of Boeing fell $1.53 or 1.7 percent to $88.47 in midday trading Thursday.