Boeing's Promise (and Peril)


T-minus one month and counting... Yesterday, Boeing (NYS: BA) delivered on last week's promise to complete flight tests on its 787 Dreamliner. (At least, planes equipped with engines manufactured by United Technologies (NYS: UTX) have checked out. Boeing added the caveat that it's still running tests on those outfitted by General Electric (NYS: GE) .)

Next step: FAA certification, which Boeing expects to receive within the next two weeks. After that, Boeing should have the green light to begin making deliveries to its legions of (im)patient customers, beginning with inaugural customer All-Nippon Airways next month, then running all the way down the tarmac from AMR to United Continental to Delta (NYS: DAL) , which, as we learned last year, has postponed its Dreamliner orders out to 2020.

This, as they say, is the good news. The bad news is that the future for Boeing and its plane sales just got a little bit bleaker.

A threat from the north
We all know that the Dreamliner is a "big deal" and the linchpin of Boeing's future fight against Airbus. However, it's not the company's biggest profit maker. Right now, the workhorse 737 airliner holds that title, a plane so popular Boeing has backlog stacked up seven years deep. But a wrinkle has emerged for what happens in year eight and beyond.

Up in Canada, you see, Bombardier has been building a CSeries regional jet to take on the Boeing/Airbus duopoly. Critics have pooh-poohed the plane, saying it's a paper tiger and lacking significant sales. But Bombardier has been steadily gaining speed this year, and yesterday got another boost from a Russian buyer, Ilyushin Finance Corp., which inked a "letter of intent" to purchase 10 of the planes (with an "option" for 10 more, and "purchase rights" on 10 more than that.)

Bombardier calls the deal "a significant breakthrough ... in a market with huge potential." For Boeing, Bombardier's coup represents a just-as-significant challenge for share in a market that Boeing itself estimates will be worth $110 billion in total aircraft sales over the next 20 years.

Foolish takeaway
Between Airbus and Embraer, Mitsubishi Heavy and China, and now Bombardier, it's shaping up to be quite a dogfight for market share these next few years. Fasten your seat belts, stow your trays, and return your seats to a full, upright position. This ride's going to start getting bumpy.

Can Boeing win in a dogfight with more than two participants?Add the stock to your Fool Watchlistto see what happens.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorRich Smithowns shares of Embraer.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Embraer. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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