With news yesterday that Boeing has scheduled the first delivery to a customer of its long-awaited 787 Dreamliner for the third quarter of 2011, things began to look up for the troubled program. Since its inception, it has suffered through a series of delays, both mechanical and human, but now it appears that it may finally be almost ready to begin taking passengers aloft.
But the 787, of course, is hardly the only commercial airplane plying the skies of the world. On this page and those that follow, CNET presents the airplanes from the 787's own parent, Boeing, and its archrival, Airbus, that compete with the 787 for passengers' dollars.
Seen here, the 787 makes its first-ever flight, from Payne Field in Everett, Wash., on December 15, 2009.
The 787, which features either two GEnx engines, or two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, will come in two configurations.
The 787-8 will have a range of between 7,650 and 8,200 nautical miles and will typically carry 242 passengers in a three-class configuration. It is 186 feet long, its tail is 56 feet high, and its wingspan is 197 feet.
The 787-9 will have a range of between 8,000 and 8,500 nautical miles and can carry up to 290 passengers in a three-class configuration. It is 206 feet long, has a 56-foot-high tail, and a wingspan of 197 feet.
The 787 is said to be one of the most fuel-efficient airplanes in history thanks to its use of composite materials and advanced propulsion systems, as well as other advances. It is said to offer fuel savings of as much as 20 percent per passenger mile as other aircraft.
To date, Boeing has received 847 orders for the 787 Dreamliner.
After the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing's next new airplane will be the next-generation 747, the 747-8 Intercontinental.
The 747-8 has a range of 8,000 nautical miles and can carry 467 passengers in a three-class configuration. It is 250 feet long, has a 63-foot, 6-inch high tail, and a wingspan of 224 feet, 7 inches. The plane will feature four GEnx-2B67 engines and can carry up to 64,055 gallons of fuel.
Throughout the history of the 747 program, Boeing has received orders for 1,525 of the iconic airplanes.
Boeing's 747-400ER has a range of 7,670 nautical miles and a three-class configuration capacity of 416 passengers. The plane runs on four PW 4062 or four GE CF6-80C2B5F engines and has a length of 232 feet, a tail height of 64 feet, and a wingspan of 211 feet. It also has a fuel capacity of 63,705 gallons.
The largest passenger plane in the world, Airbus' A380 is as big as it looks. With a capacity in a three-class configuration of about 525 (but room for 800 in single-class configuration), this behemoth has a range of 8,300 nautical miles. Its double-decker body is 238 feet, 7 inches long, and has a giant tail that's 79 feet tall. Its wingspan is 262 feet.
The A380 operates on four GP 7200 or four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines. Recently, a Qantas A380 experienced the in-flight failure of one of the Rolls-Royce engines. The plane was able to land safely, and the fleet has not been grounded.
To date, Airbus has taken orders for 234 A380s, and 41 are in service. The plane can hold 84,600 gallons of fuel and is seen as one of the most efficient airliners in history when measured by the cost per passenger mile.
The Boeing 777-200 LR Worldliner has a range of 9,395 nautical miles and can hold 301 people in a three-class configuration. It features two engines, either GE 90-110B1s or GE 90-115BLs, and is 209 feet long, has a 61-foot-high tail, and a wingspan of 212 feet, 7 inches. It can hold up to 47,890 gallons of fuel.
All told, Boeing has received orders for 1,163 777s of all models.
Airbus has several models of its A340 series, and the A340-500 has the longest range, at about 9,000 nautical miles, and can hold up to 313 passengers in a three-class configuration. The plane features four Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines and can carry up to 56,870 gallons of fuel. Though the A380 gets all the ink, the A340-500 has the longest range of any Airbus airplane.
The plane is 223 feet long, has a 57-foot-high tail, and a wingspan of 208 feet.
The Airbus A340-600 has similar specs to the -500, but its range is somewhat less, at 7,900 nautical miles.
This plane also features four Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines and can hold 51,570 gallons of fuel. It is 247 feet long, can hold up to 380 people in a three-class configuration, and has a 56-foot, 6-inch tail. Its wingspan is 208 feet.
Airbus' next-generation long-haul plane, the A350 XWB series, is scheduled to begin carrying passengers sometime in 2013. Airbus has received orders for 583 of the planes.
The A350 series is thought to offer 25 percent cost savings over its closest long-haul competitor, thanks to, among other things, composite structures combined with titanium and aluminum alloys.
The plane will come in three configurations, the A350-800, -900, and -1000. It will offer ranges from 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles, and carry between 270 and 375 passengers in 3-class configuration. Each model will feature two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. The planes' lengths vary from 199 feet to 242 feet, and each has a 56-foot-high tail, and a wingspan of 212 feet. The planes will carry as much as 41,211 gallons of fuel.
Boeing's 767-400 has a range of 5,625 nautical miles. It can carry up to 245 passengers in three-class configuration, and operates on two PW 4000 or two GE CF6-80C engines. It has a fuel capacity of 23,980 gallons.
The plane is 201 feet long, has a 55-foot-high tail, and a wingspan of 170 feet.
Boeing has taken orders for 1,044 planes across the entire 767 line.