Customers reaffirm commitment as 787 advances

Dubai
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As Boeing advances toward validating its 787 side-of-body reinforcement, customers have reaffirmed their commitment to the aircraft.

Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Girma Wake, whose airline serves as launch customer in Africa for the Dreamliner, reaffirmed his airline's order for 10 787s, despite two years of delays and weight overruns.

"We are not very happy that it is overweight," Wake told Flight International at the Dubai air show. "But we believe that for our mid-range routes, it is still a very attractive airplane, like Europe to Africa, and within Africa. And if we can leave the Far East and the American operation to the 777 and the A350, the 787 will definitely be a very good replacement for us for the 767 and 757 routes."

Wake added that he expects first delivery in mid-2011, and revealed that two of the 10 787s on order will be for the larger 787-9 for delivery in 2013.

Wake said that Boeing is trying to "come up with various solutions" to meet contractual payload/range and fuel consumption targets for the 787-9, adding that "if they come up with a solution, we will take the -9. If they don't come up with a solution we will keep the -8, we have that in our contract. In any case, initially only two -9s were contracted for us, but if it does not work we can still go with -8, we'll take all the [orders]."

Etihad Airways chief James Hogan also said at Dubai that his airline, which holds orders for 35 787-9s, remains bullish on Boeing moving past its early production troubles, citing a track record of early teething problems that a natural part of new aircraft development.

"The majority of new aircraft introduced have snagging problems, have delays, you saw that with the [A380] with the wiring problems. The 787 is going to be a great product and we're committed to it. We were due to take them in 2013, we are working very closely with Boeing, and comfortable that 2014 delivery date will be achieved," said Hogan.

Moving into the end of November, Boeing will undertake full-scale tests of the 787's static test airframe, which the company announced 16 November had completed side-of-body modification along with the second of six flight test aircraft. Boeing announced 11 November that it had completed similar modifications on ZA001, the first 787.

All three aircraft are now undergoing restoration at the company's Everett, Washington plant in preparation for the commencement of the flight test programme widely believed to be targeted for late-December.