Boeing (NYSE:BA) announced yesterday that its dream will become a reality: The 7E7 Dreamliner airplane will go into production, thanks to an order for 50 of the planes from Japan's All Nippon Airways. Perhaps more importantly, the aerospace giant appears convinced that the deal will be just the first of many.

Notably, All Nippon's launch order was the largest ever for a new Boeing jet. The company indicated that the deal is worth $6 billion at list prices, although press reports suggest All Nippon probably received a discount as an initial buyer.

It's not surprising that a Japanese carrier became the first buyer, as Boeing enjoys a dominant market position in Japan. But with major American carriers like American Airlines' AMR (NYSE:AMR), Continental Airlines (NYSE:CAL), and Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) sporting losses and worsening balance sheets, many investors might be wondering if domestic outfits will bite on the 7E7.

In a conference call yesterday, Boeing Senior Vice President Mike Bair seemed to be brimming with confidence. Bair said global interest in the 7E7 has been "extraordinary" and noted that of the additional 12 firm offers Boeing has extended, "a couple" are with U.S. carriers, although he declined to comment on whether "a couple" actually meant two. The firm's financing arm, Boeing Capital Corp., which late last year shifted its strategy from growing its loan portfolio to financing Boeing sales, is no doubt working to grease the wheels in negotiations.

With its promise of 20% fuel efficiency over the comparably sized 767, the 7E7 may be impossible to pass up. Fuel costs surely will remain a major factor in profitability in the years ahead, and airlines need all the help they can get in the margins department. In fact, as passenger traffic builds in coming years, buying 7E7s may make more sense than returning old planes in storage back to service.

Further, if major carriers don't buy, they risk more setbacks at the hands of cut-rate competitors such as Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU), and AirTran (NYSE:AAI). Boeing repeatedly has expressed its belief that the 7E7 would allow discount airlines to compete effectively in long-haul markets. It's an argument low-cost players may find hard to resist.

Boeing stock carries a rich valuation based on near-term earnings projections. Still, the new plane's prospects seem promising. The company expects the 7E7's production run to be 2,000 to 3,000 planes over 20 years. Can investors afford to ignore it?

JetBlue is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Check out the newsletter for six months, risk-free, to learn more.

Fool contributor Brian Gorman does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.