First Boeing Dreamliner arrives in fortress Japan

Wed Sep 28, 2011 1:19am EDT
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By Mariko Katsumura and Natalia Konstantinovskaya

TOKYO (Reuters) - All Nippon Airways' first Boeing 787 Dreamliner touched down in Tokyo early on Wednesday with hundreds of aviation fans welcoming the carbon-composite plane that its American maker is fielding, albeit three years late, to keep rival Airbus out of its best market.

The U.S. aircraft giant has had to cede ground to its European foe nearly everywhere else, including at home. Airbus has outpaced it globally in deliveries for the past nine years and in orders since 2008. Airbus has even had some success selling its A380 super jumbo to new carriers in Japan.

Japan remains, however, a fortress for Boeing, which it dominates with a 90 percent market share. Flag-carrier Japan Airlines has never bought a European jet, while the Dreamliner's new owner, ANA, has already phased out some of its aging single aisle Airbus A320s.

Some 500 spectators flocked to Tokyo's Haneda Airport to catch a glimpse of the first twin-engine, lightweight jetliner, which cruised in under a clear autumn sky before smoothly landing at around 9:04 a.m. (8:04 p.m. EDT).

Onlookers, many having arrived hours earlier to secure a good view, applauded and thronged to photograph the aircraft, whose blue and white fuselage had a big 787 emblazoned across its 58-meter (190 ft) body.

"I arrived at the airport around midnight and spent the night at the international terminal. I just couldn't sleep at all because I was too excited," said Shuichi Urakawa, a 19-year-old university student who skipped his classes to see the 787.

Boeing has a backlog of 821 orders for the plane -- nearly a 10th of them from Japan -- built up over three years of setbacks as its engineers dealt with glitches and parts hold-ups. It promises the plane will deliver a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency.

The twin-engine aircraft boasts the latest features aimed at giving passengers a more comfortable flight and winning over airlines trying to garner business in a fiercely competitive air travel market.   Continued...

<p>A Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft (top) lands for delivery to All Nippon Airways (ANA) of Japan at Haneda airport in Tokyo September 28, 2011. REUTERS/Toru Hanai</p>