The Paris review: Boeing’s week that was

An Air India Boeing 787 took to the skies on opening day of the 50th Paris Air Show last Monday.

Francois Mori

As noted last week in this space, Boeing’s aircraft marketing vice president Randy Tinseth likes to say the big European air expo each year is just another week for the company — one in 52.

Well, with the 50th Paris Air Show in the books, let’s judge that apparent understatement.

The company’s biggest splash at Le Bourget, and the one with the most S.C. intrigue, came Tuesday when Boeing officially launched its largest Dreamliner model, the 787-10, with commitments for 102 of the stretch jets from five customers.

That Boeing would build the 787-10 was long expected and that the future model would be launched at the expo was rumored for weeks. But on the eve of the show came more support for another suspicion: that Boeing will assemble the jet exclusively in North Charleston.

Asked whether the plane’s extra-long fuselage could be airlifted from North Charleston to Everett, Wash., like the other 787 models before it, Boeing’s commercial chief Ray Conner was noncommittal. The company is expected to make that key decision in the next several months.

Bracketing Boeing’s 787-10 announcement and more updates regarding the forthcoming 737 MAX was perhaps the biggest action of the show overall: the successful first flight of arch rival Airbus’ answer to the Dreamliner (and Boeing’s 777), the A350. The jet’s maiden voyage came the Friday before the expo, and it made another pass over the expo this past Friday.

Meanwhile, back stateside, it was a mixed week. A pair of United Airlines 787s was forced to make unplanned landings after their pilots received oil-related engine alerts. Tuesday’s flight from Denver to Tokyo had to land in Boeing’s back yard in Seattle, and Thursday’s flight from London to Houston had to divert to Newark, N.J.

Both landed safely, and there’s no indication these problems are as big a deal as the pair of smoky battery incidents that led the Federal Aviation Administration to ground the global fleet from January to April. But they can only add to the 787’s problem-jet reputation.

In North Charleston, Boeing delivered its first S.C.-made 787 since the FAA grounding. The red-and-gold Air India jet, the fifth to roll out of the local final assembly plant and Air India’s seventh Dreamliner, flew away Wednesday.

While other Boeing host states, like Washington, re- ported having a successful show, S.C., which sent a 16- member delegation to Paris for meetings with aerospace-related companies, has not offered any update. That should come this week.

So, Paris week included up-lifting 787 (and 737) news, but also a couple of glitches and a visible reminder of the competition for North Charleston’s Boeing complex. Perhaps there was some truth in Mr. Tinseth’s advertising after all.