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Boeing debuts lightweight "Dreamliner" airplane

Boeing has unveiled its first 787 Dreamliner aircraft, three years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

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Better late than never: Boeing unveiled its first 787 Dreamliner aircraft at its factory in Everett, Wash., on Sunday, three years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget

Japan’s All Nippon Airways has bought the first plane, which the Seattle-based airplane manufacturer will deliver to Tokyo in September.

The Dreamliner is the first commercial airliner to be made mostly of carbon composites or super durable plastic rather than aluminum, CNN reports. This means it’s lighter and uses less fuel than conventional planes – 20 percent less, Boeing claims – making it friendlier to the environment and cheaper to operate.

The plane also has some new design features that passengers will notice, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. These include a cabin that is more than two feet wider than a 767 and shade-less windows that passengers can tint to their desired level of darkness.

Boeing said it was developing two versions of the Dreamliner, Reuters reports. The first version, the 787-8, will carry 210 to 250 passengers on routes of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles. A second version, the 787-9, will transport 250 to 290 passengers on routes of 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles.

Boeing said it has more than 800 orders for the 787 Dreamliner, which has a list price of about $200 million per plane. All Nippon Airways has ordered 55 planes.

The delays and cost overruns were due to logistical problems that Boeing encountered after it decided to outsource much of the plane's construction to contractors based around the world, CNN reports. The company also stirred up trouble when it announced that it would locate a new Dreamliner assembly plant in South Carolina rather than Washington state. Boeing’s machinist union has accused the company of locating the factory there to take advantage of South Carolina's weak labor laws, and the National Labor Relations Board has threatened to shut the plant down.