Shares of Boeing (NYSE:BA) edged higher this morning after an analyst upgrade at Wachovia (NYSE:WB) and a favorable story in Barron's magazine. The bigger news, though, will no doubt be revealed at a press conference slated for tomorrow morning in London.

Boeing is expected to announce a new order for its 7E7 Dreamliner, possibly from a European carrier. Names such as charter firm Britannia, British Airways, and Ireland's Aer Lingus have been floating around as possible buyers. To date, Boeing has inked deals with only two carriers: a requisition for 50 of the planes from Japan's All Nippon Airlines, and a modest purchase of two from Air New Zealand.

Boeing is reportedly in discussions with more than 30 companies worldwide (10 to 12 in Europe), with proposals for as many as 600 aircraft on the table. Last year, French rival Airbus delivered more planes than Boeing for the first time in its 34-year history of competition, and is on pace to do so again this year. At the midway point, Airbus has delivered 161 commercial planes with orders for another 104, versus 151 and 75 for Boeing.

Boeing still controls the market for smaller jets -- the mainstay at discount carriers such as Southwest (NYSE:LUV) and Air Tran (NYSE:AAI). In fact, Southwest's entire fleet is composed of Boeing 737s.

Expectations are high, though, for the 7E7 Dreamliner, Boeing's first new jet in a decade. The plane has been billed as highly fuel-efficient, cutting consumption by 20%. Despite relatively lackluster demand for planes given the current state of affairs in the industry, the Dreamliner's efficiency must look tempting to carriers struggling to cope with rising fuel costs. They represent the second-biggest expense, costing Southwest, for example, an additional $100 million more this year than budgeted (despite the company being 80% hedged).

Boeing has reduced its dependence on commercial aviation (which now accounts for less than half of total revenues) in favor of other ventures such as satellite communications, defense contracts, and finance. This should help soften earnings volatility until the cyclical industry recovers. When that happens, the Dreamliner stands ready to recapture market share previously lost to Airbus, especially if the latter's weight problems with the A380 are worse than feared. Tomorrow's press conference, conveniently scheduled shortly before the Farnborough Air Show (Boeing shares typically rise ahead of the European air show), may just be the start of the 7E7 Dreamliner's acceleration down the runway.

Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter owns none of the companies mentioned.