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Originally published Monday, April 11, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Boeing's new 787 hits sales milestone

Boeing has pushed past the sales mark that executives set for 787 orders last year. The company announced last night that Korean Air Lines...

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Boeing has pushed past the sales mark that executives set for 787 orders last year.

The company announced last night that Korean Air Lines has placed an order for 10 787 jets, plus 10 options, surpassing the 200-mark targeted by sales executives in 2004.

The initial order is worth $1.3 billion at list prices, though discounts are common.

Boeing executives had set a target of 200 orders by the end of 2004 and were embarrassed at failing to reach it.

In December, Boeing ousted its chief airplane salesman, Toby Bright, and replaced him with Scott Carson, the former leader of Boeing's Connexion unit. However, the company insisted the orders were in the works and that the delay would not matter.

In a statement announcing the Korean Air Lines order, Larry Dickenson, Boeing sales chief for Asia, described the news as continuing the new jet's "steady drumbeat of orders."

A Boeing spokesman described the order for 10 planes as "firm" but added the South Korean government must approve the deal. Until then, the order will not be tallied on the official Boeing order Web site.

Only 64 orders for the 787 are officially listed there as firm contracts. The rest are expected to be formally finalized this year.

That expectation is the basis for the sanguine prediction by Carson, who said last week Boeing would beat rival Airbus on orders this year for the first time since 2000.

If Boeing does take the lead in orders, it would be a remarkable shift in fortune after four years of trailing its European rival.

Last week, Carson said Boeing has learned to move faster in making key decisions for customers to help sell planes. He also said the company is paying more attention to some customers it had neglected, such as those in the Middle East.

All of the Korean Air orders are for the 787-8 version of the new plane, the long-range version that will carry 223 passengers 8,500 nautical miles.

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The 787 will be able to fly nonstop from Seoul to Jakarta, Indonesia; Dallas; Rome; or Tel Aviv.

Korean Air has been a solid Boeing customer for some years. In 2004, the airline took delivery of its 100th Boeing jetliner. Deliveries of its 787s are due from 2009 through to 2011.

The 787 is due to enter service in 2008.

"This airplane deal signifies our commitment to our vision of becoming one of the world's top 10 airlines by 2010," Korean Air Chairman and Chief Executive Cho Yang-ho said in a statement.

During the next 10 years, Korean Air said it planned to invest $10 billion in new aircraft purchases, in-flight-service upgrades, information-technology enhancements and other projects.

The 787s will replace aging Airbus A300-600 aircraft that are being phased out of the fleet.

Korean Air has its own aerospace division, which does heavy maintenance on airliners and also builds aircraft parts for both the Air Force and for Boeing.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

Information from Reuters is included in this report.

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