Grateful for a big order from China, Boeing Co. yesterday renamed the new 7E7 Dreamliner the 787 Dreamliner in recognition of the symbolic significance of the number 8 in Asia.
The announcement came as China signed an order at the Department of Commerce in Washington for 60 aircraft, worth up to $7.2 billion at list price. To the Chinese, the number 8 represents prosperity and good luck. It also represents the year in which Beijing will host the Olympics: 2008. Boeing said it would deliver at least one of the new planes to each of the six Chinese airlines that had placed orders in time for the Olympics.
"It was appropriate to honor this Chinese order in some way," said Michael B. Bair, Boeing's vice president and general manager of the 787 program. "All of you know the numeral 8 is good luck. The 787 -- 8 for the 2008 Olympics -- kind of made a nice package for them."
The 787 also is the latest in Boeing's 7-7 model series following the 777, the last commercial airplane the company launched.
Yesterday's big order was crucial for the success of Boeing's new plane because China is one of the hottest markets for aviation, as millions of its residents can now afford to travel by air. Boeing and its rival, France-based Airbus SAS, are competing heavily to sell new planes in China. Yesterday, Airbus said it had signed a deal to deliver five of its new super-jumbo A380s to China Southern Airlines. It also recently announced plans to build a competitor to the 787.
Boeing now has 186 orders for the new double-aisle aircraft, which it expects will begin flying in 2008. The plane will replace the company's 767 and will have more fuel-efficient engines and be made mostly of composite materials rather than aluminum to reduce its weight.
Chinese officials did not indicate what routes the aircraft would fly, but Boeing officials said the new plane is designed for international travel and for opening service to new cities. Bair said China was already offering service to new destinations, noting that China Southern now has a direct flight from Ghuangzhou in southern China to Las Vegas.