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New orders for Boeing 787 debut

Boeing has announced 35 new orders for its 787 Dreamliner, hours before the plane is unveiled at the US manufacturer's plant in Seattle.

The new orders, from Air Berlin and a leasing firm, mean Boeing now has 677 orders from 47 customers for the midsize, long-haul jet. Sunday has been chosen for Dreamliner's premiere as it is 8 July, or, in the American date style, 7/8/07. The first test flight is expected in August or September. It is due to go into service next year with Japan's All Nippon Airways set to be the first recipient as a reward for placing orders for 50 of the aircraft.

Lighter, more durable. The plane, which has been billed as the most environmentally-friendly aircraft ever built, is set to be unveiled at 1530 Seattle time (2330BST). Boeing says that the 787 plane, the first to be built primarily from modern composite materials, was designed to be fuel-efficient. Carbon fibre, which is lighter and more durable than aluminum, makes up about 50% of the structure, including the fuselage and wings.

Air Berlin is buying 25 of the planes while ALAFCO Aviation Lease and Finance Company of Kuwait is to take 10, Boeing said. And a report in the Observer says that Virgin Atlantic is set to unveil an order for a further eight of the jets. It has also been announced that Rolls-Royce has secured a $1.3 billion (£646 million) engine deal for the 787 Dreamliner from the US's largest aircraft leasing company, International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC).

Transatlantic-rivalry
The Dreamliner is Boeing's first all-new plane since the 777, which began flying in 1995. It is crucial to Boeing's success, just as Airbus is pinning its hopes for the future on its forthcoming A380. However, the two are very different planes with different aims. The European firm sees its superjumbo plane as a response to airline calls for a bigger plane to meet increasing passenger numbers flying between major hubs. Boeing is taking a different tack, predicting that the future growth sector will be for additional medium-sized planes that can service more of the smaller airports unable to handle the A380.

Airbus is currently developing the A350, which is more of a direct rival to the 787, but it is not expected to roll out the plane until about 2011. Boeing received a boost at the Paris air show with an order for 50 of the aircraft from ILFC. Orders from plane-leasing companies - among the biggest global buyers of aircraft - are often seen as an indication of how a model will succeed in the long term. Assembly of the first Dreamliner began in May, although Boeing says that when full operation is under way, it will take just three days to put together each aircraft.

The first will carry between 210 and 250 passengers up to about 9,400 miles (15,125 kilometer). The second will carry between 250 and 290 passengers up to about 9,800 miles (15,770 kilometer). The third will fly between 290 and 330 passengers on shorter routes, up to about 6,500 miles (10,460 kilometer). Materials in the 787 Dreamliner4 are: Carbon-fibre composites: 50%; Aluminum: 20%; Titanium: 15%; Steel: 10% and Other: 5%. (news.bbc.co.uk)