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Boeing 747-8 program gets lift from order

SATURDAY, DEC. 5, 2009

Korean Air asks for five; Lufthansa first in line

SEATTLE – After a three-year wait, Boeing has finally secured a second airline to buy the passenger version of its forthcoming 747-8, the new version of the jumbo jet.

Friday in Seoul, Korean Air announced a “memorandum of understanding” with Boeing that it will order five of the 747-8 Intercontinentals. The airline ordered five of the freighter models three years ago this month.

Lufthansa was the only previous airline customer for the passenger version, creating doubt that this model would ever be built. The Korean order will help dispel that doubt.

The new order is worth $1.5 billion at list prices, though heavy discounts are typical, especially for initial orders like this. According to data from airplane valuation firm Avitas, the actual purchase price after discounts is about $800 million.

Though the order is not yet firm on the airplane maker’s order book, Boeing said in a statement it is “delighted with Korean Air’s selection.”

Korean Air also has an aerospace manufacturing business, and the purchase decision follows an announcement by the company in October that Boeing had selected it to build parts of the wing structure for the 747-8.

The parts to be made in Korea include the jet’s raked wing tips, its wing tip extensions and the flap track fairing.

Of the 105 previous firm orders for the 747-8, 78 of those were for the freighter version.

German flag-carrier Lufthansa ordered 20 of the passenger jets in December 2006, and private buyers have ordered seven VIP versions of the passenger model.

In October, Boeing took a $1 billion charge for the 747-8 program, leaving it in a loss position unless further orders materialize.


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