Boeing 787 Dreamliner: has there ever been an airplane more over-hyped than this?

UPDATED: 22 July, 5:45 a.m. EDT

THE FARNBOROUGH BLOG, 21 July 2010. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner was supposed to create the biggest buzz here at the Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, England. It flew in Sunday to great fanfare, and then flew out again halfway through Tuesday, leaving 3 1/3 days of one of the largest air shows in the world 787-less.

Okay, I know this airplane is important. It's made of composites for fuel economy and range; has cabin environmental controls that promise to make long-haul passenger flights merely miserable, rather than horrible; it has very nice windows that darken if you don't want to be baked in the sun, or if you're afraid of flying; it's a lean, mean, green, environmental machine, blah, blah, blah.

It's halfway through Wednesday at Farnborough -- the second of the two most important days for commerce and business -- and I think Boeing so far has sold three 787s at the show. Yeah, you heard that right. Three. That's out of, what, 600 airplanes sold at Farnborough so far this week? The primary competitor to the 787 -- the future Airbus A350 -- sold 15 airplanes yesterday. I think that's five times as many A350s sold at Farnborough than 787s so far.

Adding to the woes of the Boeing 787, deliveries of this aircraft to U.S. carrier American Airlines have been pushed back even farther than before, and now will not begin until 2014, according to published reports here at Farnborough.

Boeing took a self-important attitude about the 787's international debut at Farnborough, as well as with access to the Dreamliner for the short time it was here. The media were granted access for one hour on Monday, and one on Tuesday; that's it. Then the thing flew away. The guest of honor at Farnborough, and the aircraft had pressing engagements and had to leave early. I'm sure there was an important reason.

I got aboard Monday, after waiting in line for at least half an hour, and this newest, greatest passenger airplane looked like it wasn't really expecting company. I mean, no one was in bathrobe and slippers, or anything, but inside were steel walkways, electrical cords snaking everywhere, stacks of test instruments, and just a few passenger seats. It didn't look anything like those ethereal blue-lighted publicity photos that Boeing is fond of distributing.

The pretty interior shots are nice, but let's face it: those interiors most likely will look nothing like the 787s once they enter service. It's the airlines, not Boeing, that determine each airplane's interior, and the airlines will design the insides of 787s for maximum revenue. That just makes sense. Still, what makes sense often isn't pretty; it's to make the most money per passenger seat mile possible, and attractive, spacious seats rarely fit the bill.

So let me see if I understand this correctly: sales of Boeing 787 sales are stalled, the plane can't even stay for the whole Farnborough air show with everybody else's airplanes, people here at the show informally tell me that Boeing is arrogant, and a beast to do business with, and the 787s competition at the Dreamliner's international debut is outselling that plane five to one.

I think Boeing not only ought to adjust its attitude where the 787 is concerned. I think the company also ought to keep an eye over its shoulder.

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