By now you've heard the good news: Boeing's
As predicted, the "Dreamliner" took off for its maiden voyage on Tuesday morning, 10:27 a.m. Pacific Time. It then proceeded to zoom around the Puget Sound for two hours and 42 minutes before returning to land safely near Seattle.
So ended the first not-quite-three hours of the 3,000 hours of test flights that experts say the 787 will need to undergo on its way to FAA certification. And so began the cheering by Boeing suppliers General Electric
One small step for Boeing, one giant leap for its credibility
Indeed, it's hard to overestimate the significance of this accomplishment. For two years, Boeing investors have been "treated" to an endless stream of bad news. Missed deadlines. Canceled plane orders. PR gaffes. Production snafus. It was high time Boeing booked itself a win, and proved it can deliver on a promise.
Of course, while this is a step in the right direction, it's just "one small step" -- there remains a long road ahead of Boeing before the 787 will turn into a profitable project. Industry experts tell us Boeing has invested about $10 billion in the Dreamliner's development already. Divvied up among the 840 787s for which Boeing has booked orders, this suggests the first $12 million of each plane's purchase price will go just to pay development costs. That's before materials, labor ... and penalties for the two years of delays Boeing has already racked up.
Fortunately, this week's "big news" was only the beginning of Boeing's good news.
Even if everything goes perfectly according to plan from here on out, we're still a minimum of one year away from the happy day when Boeing begins building Dreamliners in bulk, flying 'em out to customers, and collecting payments from customers like All Nippon Airways, Delta
For example, over in the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Defense has had it up to here with delays in EADS' big military transport project. While the A400M made a successful test flight of its own last week, the program as a whole remains nearly as overdue as Boeing's 787. Result: On Tuesday, the Ministry announced it was buying yet another Boeing C-17 to fill the gap in its military airlift needs. That's one less A400M sale for EADS, $200 million in windfall revenues for Boeing.
Two, three, four ...
$200 mil not enough loot for ya? Then get a load of some of the other contracts Boeing has booked this week: In addition to its C-17 purchase, the Ministry is also hitting Boeing up for 22 new Chinook helicopters to bolster its military airlift capabilities in Afghanistan. The United Arab Emirates is asking for 16 more Chinooks, while NATO ally Turkey wants 14 Chinooks for its own military. That's 52 helicopter orders booked in the space of just a couple weeks -- not bad for a company that makes its "real money" on fixed-wing jets.
And as if that weren't enough good news, our very own Department of Defense wants to buy nearly three dozen Chinooks for itself. Although the press releases don't give us detailed revenue breakdowns for each of these projects, if you add up the numbers they do contain and extrapolate across the whole order book, it looks to me like Boeing captured a minimum of $5 billion in margin-boosting defense orders this week.
Foolish final thought
In the context of its Defense division's successes, you could almost argue that the Dreamliner's success was the least of Boeing's good news this week, eclipsed by a slew of even better news. On that note, there's one last item that just came out that I want to highlight for you before we go.
Remember how, back in August, I mentioned that Russia's Rosavia had asked Boeing and Airbus to submit bids for the right to sell it some 120 new airliners? Remember how I said the Russians were looking to take advantage of a lackluster airplane market, to extract price concessions and push Boeing into an unprofitable sale?
Well, it looks today like Boeing avoided the bear trap. Just this morning, Rosavia announced that it is ... not going to announce the results of its tender -- at least not just yet. Rosavia says it needs more time to review additional offers from the participants, and according to a wire just out from Interfax, the reason for the delay is that "Airbus recently submitted very attractive proposals that require further examination."
Sounds like another win to me -- even if Boeing winds up "losing" the sale.