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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Boeing Looks for Momentum in Dreamliner Takeoff

EVERETT, Wash. — The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner lifted into the gray skies here for the first time on Tuesday morning, far behind schedule and burdened with restoring Boeing’s preeminence in global commercial aviation.
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Times Topics: Boeing Company

Yet at least for the moment, here in the Seattle suburb where generations of families have built planes for Boeing, the first flight was an unqualified thrill.

“Engines, engines, engines, engines!” shouted April Seixeiro, 37, when the glossy plane began to warm up, several hundred yards across Paine Field from where spectators had informally gathered, at around 9:25 a.m. local time. Ms. Seixeiro was among hundreds of people, some Boeing employees, but many simply self-described “aviation geeks,” who came to watch the takeoff.

Moments after the plane took off at about 10:30 a.m., Mrs. Seixeiro was wiping tears from her eyes.

Unlike jets Boeing built here for decades, the 787 is built more from composites than metal and is pieced together from parts made around the world, reflecting Boeing’s effort to globalize its production and compete more aggressively with Airbus, the European competitor that has gained momentum on Boeing over the last decade.

Just as the company has changed its manufacturing methods — changes that played a role in delaying production — Boeing has also changed its relationship with the Seattle region. The company moved its executive offices to Chicago several years ago, and this fall announced that it would open a second manufacturing plant in South Carolina to build 787’s. The company has had ongoing disputes with powerful labor unions in the Seattle area and the plans in South Carolina worry many people here that Boeing will gradually reduce its presence in the area.

“It’s a bigger deal than they say,” said Mrs. Seixeiro’s husband, Steve, referring to the new South Carolina plant.

Garrett Wiedmeier, who grew up with posters of jets on his bedroom walls and watched first flights of the 767 and 777, starting in the 1980s, said he did not fault Boeing for expanding its production operations beyond Seattle.

“I think Boeing will be here for a long time to come. It’s just got such a big infrastructure here,” said Mr. Wiedmeier, 37, who works in information technology, though not for Boeing. “But I do worry. “

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