If you're a Boeing (NYSE:BA) shareholder, should you be worried about the recent release of Airbus' A380 superjumbo jet? Not right away, but there are a few things you should take note of. First, Boeing also has a new jet in the works, but it's not going to compete in the same space as Airbus' A380. Second and most important, the company releases fourth-quarter and full-year results on Feb. 2, which will be the deciding factor of near-term direction.

A little about Boeing's new jet, the 7e7 Dreamliner. The 7e7 carries about half as many passengers as the A380 and is most likely meant to transport passengers between smaller airports, something the A380 simply cannot do because of its enormous size. Two models of the 7e7 will carry 217-257 passengers on routes of roughly 8,400 nautical miles. A third, slightly larger, plane holds 289 for trips of 3,500 miles. According to the company, entry into service will not commence until 2008. Boeing is stepping up the program, though, and announced it is increasing 2005 research and development investment for the project. With the unveiling of the Airbus A380, Boeing is motivated to create some fresh buzz of its own.

Now, let's look at the upcoming earnings release and estimates for 2005. In the third quarter, the company raised full-year 2004 EPS guidance from $2.25-$2.45 a share to $2.40-$2.60 a share. But the company recently announced that it would be taking some large charges for the fourth quarter, putting a potentially large dent in 2004 numbers. And Boeing just warned that military budget cut proposals could cause further instability in the future. Not helping, several firms (including J.P. Morgan) recently trimmed 2004 estimates. For 2005 though, Boeing left guidance unchanged at $2.35-$2.60 a share, although that's something that could easily change in the upcoming earnings release.

As a side note, keep in mind that Delta (NYSE:DAL), Continental (NYSE:CAL), American Airlines parent AMR (NYSE:AMR), Northwest Airlines (NASDAQ:NWAC), and Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) all lacked chutzpah in the fourth quarter. While there was a light sprinkling of optimism, at least for Southwest, for the first part of 2005, elevated fuel prices will continue to hit bottom lines. And less profitable air carriers eventually translate into a decline in Boeing's orders. Boeing certainly has a few obstacles ahead, but that's what makes business fun, right?

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Foolish contributor Mark Whistler does not own any of the aforementioned companies. Join in on the discussion.