- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2005

SEATTLE (AP) — At least a half-dozen Chinese airlines have agreed to order 60 of Boeing Co.’s 7E7 jetliners, the largest order to dat e for Boeing’s new fuel-efficient jet, a spokeswoman for Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, said yesterday.

The senator was told of the deal in a meeting with Chinese officials, spokeswoman Charla Neuman said. The deal could be worth as much as $7.2 billion at list prices.

“We’ve reached a substantial agreement,” said Boeing spokeswoman Amanda Landers from Washington, where Boeing, Commerce Department and Chinese officials have scheduled a signing ceremony for today. She declined to provide more detail.

Aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia with the Fairfax, Va., firm Teal Group said the large order from a broad range of Chinese airlines is “a validation of Boeing’s market approach.”

“This is a firm and broad commitment to the 7E7 program,” he said of the orders from China Southern, China Eastern, Air China, Hainan, Xiamen and Shanghai airlines.

Mrs. Cantwell’s meeting with the Chinese was primarily social, Ms. Neuman said. There was no talk of delivery dates or specific orders. “Different planes are going to have to be configured differently for the various airlines. It varies too much to get into specifics” at such a gathering, she said.

The Chinese delegation spoke about expected air-service expansion in their country, especially in connection with the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, she said.

The 7E7 Dreamliner, which is to go into service in 2008, is competing with the A350 being developed by Europe’s Airbus SAS. The Toulouse, France, company expects to put its plane into service by 2010.

At the end of last year, Boeing had firm orders for 56 of the planes and tentative agreements for an additional 70 planes.

Boeing’s twin-aisle Dreamliner comes in three models, able to seat between 223 and 296 passengers with a range of up to 9,800 miles. Boeing asserts the plane will be 20 percent more fuel-efficient than comparable airplanes on the market today.

Boeing has said the 7E7 will be priced at $120 million, though airlines usually negotiate discounts for large orders. The plane will be assembled in Everett, about 30 miles north of Seattle.

The largest order by a single airline for the 7E7 was placed last spring, when All Nippon Airways of Japan ordered 50.

Shares of Boeing rose $1.11, or 2 percent, to close at $50.97 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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