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Boeing lands a buyer for its SC-made 787, renews sustainability initiative

Air Tanzania Boeing

Air Tanzania announced a commitment to buy a 787-8 jet (top), plus a 767 freighter (center) and two 737 Max aircraft at the Dubai Air Show. Provided/Boeing

Boeing Co. has logged a new order for the 787 it makes in South Carolina, ending a roughly three-month drought for the North Charleston-based widebody program. 

Air Tanzania, the Africa nation's flag carrier, will buy a 787-8, the smallest of three Dreamliner models, plus a 767 freighter and two 737 Max jets, according to a joint announcement Nov. 16. 

The sale is valued at about $726 million before discounts, according to Boeing, which announced the deal at the Dubai Air Show. The Dreamliner list price is about $225 million.

Until Tuesday, the previous new 787 orders — for 12 planes — were recorded in August and July for unidentified buyers. In May, the German airline group Lufthansa said it would bump a previous order for 20 Dreamliners up to 25. 

With the combined impact of the pandemic and production issues for the 787, orders for the long-range jet have been sparse this year. Through October, Boeing had reported commitments for 21 Dreamliners. The latest order brings the total up to at least 22. A full breakdown for November will be released next month. 

Ihssane Mounir, Boeing's senior vice president of commercial sales and marketing, said the Air Tanzania order was part of the carrier's plan to modernize and enhance its fleet.

The Dar es Salaam-based airline operates two 787-8s and is awaiting delivery of a third. It currently deploys the planes on flights to India and South Africa.  

"Our flagship 787 Dreamliner is popular with our passengers, providing unrivaled in-flight comfort and ultra-efficiency for our long-haul growth," Air Tanzania CEO Ladislaus Matindi said in the statement. 

Also on Tuesday, Boeing and India start-up carrier Akasa Air said they'd reached a deal for 72 737 Max planes. 

Meanwhile, Boeing competitor Airbus has announced a couple of blockbuster deals while in Dubai. On the opening day of the expo, it inked a deal with Indigo Partners for 255 aircraft that will go to several budget carriers.

Also, Airbus said it struck a deal to sell 111 jets to Air Lease Corp., which recently canceled four 787 orders, blaming delivery delays caused by production problems. 

Deliveries of the 787 have been on hold for much of the past year as workers inspect jets and fix production defects. 

Ahead of the start of the expo, a Boeing executive said the company is "getting close" to resuming 787 deliveries, according to multiple reports.

The planemaker hasn't given specifics about a restart, and it continues to stress that the Federal Aviation Administration will determine the timing.

Chicago-based Boeing consolidated the 787 program in North Charleston earlier this year, after shutting down the original production line near Seattle in a cost-cutting move. 

Also this week, the company and Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways said they would expand a sustainability initiative that was first announced in Dubai in 2019. They signed a new memorandum of understanding that's "centered on the airline's 787 Dreamliner fleet." 

Etihad is the largest operator of the 787 in the Middle East.  

The new agreement with Boeing is focused on making navigation and flight operations more efficient, reducing the airline's fuel emissions and exploring ideas that could be applied to the industry as a whole. 

Last year, Etihad was Boeing's partner in its annual ecoDemonstrator program, which the U.S. aerospace giant uses to test new aviation technologies. For the first time, a South Carolina-made Boeing jet, a 787-10 assembled in North Charleston for Etihad, was chosen for the initiative. 

Etihad and Boeing also collaborated on an eco-conscious flight aboard what they called a 787 "Greenliner" in early 2020. 

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Reach Emily Williams at 843-607-0894. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

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