Boeing Set to Approve New Aircraft By REUTERS Published: December 13, 2003 CHICAGO, Dec. 12 (Reuters) _ - The board of the Boeing Company is expected to approve the marketing of the new 7E7 commercial jet on Monday. The 7E7, known as the Dreamliner, would be the company's first significant jet program since it began work on the 777 in 1990, and its third attempt just this decade at developing a new aircraft. The 7E7 base and stretch aircraft would carry 200 to 250 passengers. The jet, being designed in Seattle, is expected to use 20 percent less fuel. The board will meet here on Sunday and Monday for the first time under its new chief executive, Harry C. Stonecipher, who has already expressed strong approval of the program. "This plane is critical to our product strategy going forward,'' said Randy Baseler, vice president for marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "And Harry has informed us he will ask the board to approve it.'' Even with authorization from the board, an official start of the 7E7 program would still be months away. The aircraft would not actually be in service until 2008. If the plane proved too costly to build, it could still be killed under Mr. Stonecipher, who ended other aircraft programs when he led McDonnell Douglas. Boeing is expected to go forward with the 7E7, analysts say, because the company needs it if it hopes to remain competitive with Airbus of Europe in commercial airplanes. "I think they've been pressured into it,'' said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group. "If they don't launch it, they're sending a very negative message to their customers and to the market.'' Mr. Aboulafia estimates Boeing could sell at least 1,500 aircraft just for the basic model if all goes well. This year, Airbus will for the first time deliver more planes to the world's airlines than Boeing, around 300 to Boeing's expected 280. Its superjumbo A380, which can carry 555 passengers, has already won more than 100 orders and is expected to start flying in 2006.