Sept . 28 - All Nippon Airways' first 787 touches down in Japan, a key market for Boeing as it tries to maintain an edge against rival Airbus. Arnold Gay reports.
It took three years longer than expected, but Boeing's first passenger-ready Dreamliner plane finally touched down at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on Wednesday morning (September 28). The All Nippon Airways 787 landed smoothly at around 9am local time (0000 GMT), completing a handover that began 3 days ago, when Boeing handed the "key" to the jet to ANA president Shinichiro Ito in Seattle. The twin-engine, lightweight all carbon composite jet boasts the latest features in passenger comfort, and promises fuel cost savings in a fiercely competitive air travel market. While Boeing has ceded markets to rival Airbus in the past two years, Japan remains the planemaker's stronghold. 90 percent of the passenger jets used in Japan are from Boeing, and ANA has already started phasing out some Airbus planes. A big part of this rooted in history, after Japan's defeat in World War Two, and trade spats that saw Tokyo buying billions of dollars worth of American planes. But more than a third of the Dreamliner is also built by Japanese companies, like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Fuji Heavy Industries. Many echo how Dreamliner pilot Hideaki Hayakawa feels about the joint effort. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 787 DREAMLINER PILOT HIDEAKI HAYAKAWA SAYING: "This plane is a representation of the Japan-America bond and a symbol of the cooperation between ANA and Boeing. Looking forward, I feel that this plane has the potential to change the entire airline business. " Pride in Japanese aviation technology is helping fuel enthusiasm for the plane. A special promotional flight to Hong Kong on October 26 saw over 25,000 vying for the 100 seats made available to the public. Tickets for the 787's first scheduled commercial flights to Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan on Nov. 1 sold out minutes after going on sale. Nearly a 10th of Boeing's backlog of 821 orders for the plane come from Japan. Analysts say Boeing needs to maintain a steady stream of planes from assembly plants in Seattle, to guarantee this loyalty in Japan. ANA expects to have 20 Dreamliners by early 2013 and receive all 55 jets it ordered by 2018. The airline is Japan's biggest, by passenger traffic. Arnold Gay, Reuters