10:08 AM

It was Virgin.

As I blogged last week, Boeing recently booked a USD $4.6 Billion order for 30 787-8s, but did not disclose the buyer. We noted that through 4.10.07, there were actually 67 Dreamliners with buyers who wished to remain anonymous. In trying to figure this out, I predicted the following:

It is Richard Branson and Virgin America, planning a mondo-push to get his airline going on this side of the pond. Nothing would say “Here we are, deal with us” quite like a shiny new fleet of 30 Dreamliners.
And today, Boeing and Virgin Atlantic announced this, via AP:
CHICAGO - Boeing Co. announced Tuesday that Virgin Atlantic ordered 15 of its 787 Dreamliners. The 787 order, which Boeing previously disclosed but did not identify as coming from Virgin, is worth $2.8 billion at list prices. It is the largest European order to date for the Dreamliner, which is due to enter service in 2008. Virgin also took options for eight 787s and purchase rights for 20 more of the aircraft, which Boeing is touting for its increased fuel efficiency — a deal potentially worth $8 billion.
I speculated that maybe this huge buy-in from Sir Richard Branson was to build a fleet for his Virgin America project, and time will tell if that indeed is what he is planning. One thing for sure is that when an airline drops this kind of money for new heavy iron, they've got big plans to fly...somewhere.

But there was also a hint at some rather interesting news buried in this AP story that will make Al Gore smile:
Boeing executives and Branson said at a news conference that they hope to launch a test flight of a biofuel-powered 747 in the next year. Branson said he hopes the new fuel will reduce the overall pollution generated by the airline industry. “We all have a responsibility ... to reduce the carbon footprint. Doing nothing should not be an option,” he said. “The environment has become the most important issue facing the world right now.”
That last blockquote ought to make the corn growers of America happy...which is one of the very positive by-products of our push to develop biofuels. A few years ago, you couldn't give away a corn farm in Iowa, and now they are growing the stuff at record levels, or so I'm told by friends from the “Corn Belt” who know these things.

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