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The Boeing 787 Deamliner timeline

Airbus launches A330-200, usurping the 767-300ER, which had led the mid-size, long-range widebody market.

Boeing launches 767-400ER "double-stretch" derivative but sells only 37 aircraft to two airlines - Continental Airlines and Delta. McDonnell Douglas merges with Boeing.

A330-200 enters service. Alan Mulally replaces Ron Woodard at the helm of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, promising to overhaul the company's product development strategy.

Boeing counters Airbus's efforts to secure launch commitments for the A3XX ultra-large airliner with its proposed 520-seat 747X Stretch and commits to produce longer-range "767-400ERX" after Kenya Airways order, as well as launching 777-200LR/300ER family powered exclusively by GE engines. In December, Airbus launches the A3XX as the A380.

In a major U-turn, Boeing abandons its derivative approach, shelving the 747 Stretch and plans for further 767 variants. At the same time, studies of a "new faster airplane" development are confirmed - the Mach 0.98 Sonic Cruiser - with service entry targeted for 2006-2010. Sonic Cruiser receives good market reaction but is dismissed by Airbus as a publicity stunt as the A380 grabs the headlines.

Boeing continues to pursue the Sonic Cruiser despite the economic downturn that follows the 2001 terrorist attacks, but many potential customers push for a more conventional alternative using the technology to provide significant operating cost savings rather than increased speed. Boeing has been undertaking parallel studies of a "super-efficient airliner" under "Project Yellowstone" and by year-end the Sonic Cruiser has been shelved.

The super-efficient airliner studies come to the fore publicly in the form of the 7E7. The twinjet is intended to succeed the 757 and 767. Airbus initially dismisses the proposal as a "Chinese copy" of the A330. At Paris in June, 7E7 is christened "Dreamliner" after a public vote, reflecting its flowing conceptual lines and sharkfin tail. Boeing decides to adopt carbonfibre for bulk of structure.

The 7E7 programme is launched with Mike Bair at the helm, following an order from All Nippon Airways. It is offered with GE and R-R engines. Plans for an Airbus response based on the A330 begin to emerge, crystallising in the unveiling of the "A350" in December, which incorporates 7E7-based engines.

Boeing redesignates the 7E7 the 787 and releases finalised design renditions, with the production aircraft losing some of its flowing lines but retaining an element of its original concept. Airbus makes a series of redesigns of the A350 as it seeks enough customer support to launch the programme, which finally happens in October. Boeing launches slightly stretched 747-8 family. First round of production delays announced for A380.

Prominent customers such as ILFC question Airbus's decision to compete with a derivative design - still undergoing revisions - and at Farnborough, Airbus announces the original A350 has been dropped in favour of an all-new family dubbed the A350 Xtra Wide Body. As Airbus (now without BAE Systems as a shareholder) battles to recover from another A380 delay, the XWB programme is launched in December, with carbonfibre fuselage panels. Mulally joins Ford and is replaced by Scott Carson. Production of the 757 ends, but the 767 gets a stay of execution.

As 787 orders continue to rack up, Airbus admits it had been "caught napping" by Boeing. But as it starts to put its A380 woes behind it and signs up XWB orders, Airbus says it has a more than viable competitor despite trailing the 787 by five years. The 787 is rolled out with a firm order backlog of about 600 aircraft - unprecedented for a new airliner.

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