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Boeing's Dreamliner on Schedule; Lufthansa To Buy 747-800s

The chief of Boeing's commercial airplanes unit said on Wednesday the company's hot-selling 787 Dreamliner, which is crucial to Boeing's financial prospects, is on schedule for its first test flight next year and first customer delivery in 2008.

The new carbon and titanium wide-body plane is set to deliver operating economics "about 2% better" than already promised to customers, said Scott Carson, the chief of Boeing's commercial airplanes unit, in a Webcast presentation at the Credit Suisse Aerospace and Defense Conference on Wednesday.

Carson, who took over as Boeing's commercial airplanes head in September after Alan Mulally left to become chief executive of Ford Motor, said assembly of the 787's main sections is set to start in January. The plane's first test flight is scheduled for next summer.

Boeing has 435 firm orders for 787s, making it the most successful plane launch in the history of the industry, said Carson.

He repeated previous Boeing executive comments that the planemaker is still working to take weight out of the 787 design, but he said that was "not uncommon" for new plane launches.

Meanwhile, Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa said it is ordering Airbus and Boeing aircraft worth about $6.9 billion at list prices as it expands and modernizes its fleet.

The airline said it was ordering 20 Boeing 747-800 aircraft worth about $5.5 billion in total, making it the first airline to buy the passenger version of the plane. It was taking options to buy 20 more 747-800s.

Lufthansa also said it would buy seven Airbus A340-600s, of which it already has 14. These are worth about $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion, based on list prices, according to Lufthansa.

Carson warned that European rival Airbus, majority-owned by EADS, would emerge "stronger than they've ever been" after a string of production delays on its flagship A380 superjumbo. "We better be ready for it," he added.

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