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2/12/2010 | 1 MINUTE READ

Boeing gives go-ahead for 7E7, names key customers and suppliers

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An airplane family in the 200- to 300-seat class, intended for routes between 3,500 and 8,500 nautical miles (6,500 to 16,000 km), the 7E7 design projections call for nearly 50 percent of the total airframe weight to be composites.

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The Boeing Co. (Chicago, Ill.) has approved the formal launch of the new 7E7 Dreamliner passenger jet, based in part on a firm order for 50 of the planes from All Nippon Airways (Japan). The order is worth approximately $6 billion (USD). More recently, Air New Zealand committed to purchase two 7E7s, as part of an overall fleet refurbishment plan. First deliveries are scheduled for 2008.

The 7E7 (see our story in HPC January 2004, p. 11) will be an airplane family in the 200- to 300-seat class, intended for routes between 3,500 and 8,500 nautical miles (6,500 to 16,000 km). Existing projections call for nearly 50 percent of the total airframe weight to be composite — more than any other commercial air transport. The company has begun second-round wind tunnel tests at four locations, including Boeing Seattle (Seattle, Wash.), QinetiQ’s (Farnborough, Hampshire, U.K.) low-speed facility, the NASA Ames Research Center (Moffat Field, Calif.) facility, and the University of Washington’s wind tunnel, also in Seattle. The testing is helping to refine the aerodynamic design, to improve fuel efficiency (photo shows technician preparing a scale model of the 7E7 fuselage for wind tunnel trials).

Toray Industries Inc. (Tokyo, Japan) has been selected as a principal supplier, and will provide TORAYCA prepreg material for the 7E7’s structural composite parts, says Boeing, with a total contract value estimated at $3 billion (USD). A variety of materials are part of the supply deal, including unidirectional tapes and fabric prepregs incorporating T800 fiber. TORAYCA was previously qualified for the Boeing 777 program.

Also named as a key supplier was China Aviation Industry Corp., which has signed a memorandum of understanding with Boeing to supply parts and assemblies, including the 7E7’s rudder. An affiliated company, Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Group Co. Ltd., will actually fabricate the rudder. Total value of the Chinese agreement could reach several million dollars.

Boeing’s rival Airbus Industrie (Toulouse, France), meanwhile, reports that it has secured firm orders for 129 A380 aircraft, from 11 customers. Airbus has started production of the first articles of the jumbo dual-aisle, triple-deck airplane, scheduled for flight testing in early 2005, and entry into service in 2006. In addition, JetBlue Airways recently ordered 123 new Airbus A320 aircraft, with options for 50 more.

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