- - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AIRLINES

Southwest orders 208 Boeing 737s

DALLAS — Southwest Airlines is placing a huge order for a redesigned and more fuel-efficient version of the Boeing Co.’s most popular plane, the 737.

It’s the biggest firm order in Boeing’s history by number of planes - 208 - and list-price value - nearly $19 billion. Last month, Boeing announced a deal with Indonesia’s Lion Air for 230 planes worth $21.7 billion, but that agreement hasn’t been finished.

Tuesday’s order should help Southwest address its biggest challenge - high fuel prices - when the planes start arriving in 2017. Southwest is on pace to spend $5.6 billion this year on fuel, its largest expense and one that is growing twice as fast as revenue.

Southwest committed to buy 150 of the yet-to-be-built 737 Max planes and will become the first carrier to get one. Boeing says the new plane will have about 10 percent better mileage than the most economical single-aisle jetliner in the skies today. Southwest will also buy 58 current 737 jets, adding to the 142 it has on order.

SPACE

New giant plane to launch people, cargo

SEATTLE — Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan announced Tuesday they’re building a giant airplane and spaceship to zip people and cargo into orbit.

Unlike traditional rockets and government spaceships, this new commercial spaceship will drop from a high-flying airplane instead of blasting off from a launch pad.

Mr. Allen and Mr. Rutan join a field crowded with Silicon Valley veterans who grew up on “Star Trek” and want to fill a void created with the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle. Several companies are competing to develop spacecraft to deliver cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.

The duo won a prize in 2004 with a spaceship that went into space but not orbit. Their new business model likely includes tourism and satellites.

Their new plane will have a wingspan of 380 feet, longer than a football field. It will carry under its belly a space capsule with its own booster rocket, take off from a runway and go high into the air. Then the plane will release the spaceship, which will rocket to orbit.

COLORADO

Disclosure of fracking chemicals approved

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