An ANA 787 Dreamliner
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner of Japan's ANA. Reuters

Nobody ever said progress comes easy. And so it has been with Boeing's Dreamliner, the long-awaited, game-changing plane the U.S. manufacturer struggled to birth.

The company has been convicted and convinced that its new Dreamliner, finally deliverd after three years of delays, will set the standard for air travel technology and passenger amenities. Yet the Everett, Washington-based plane manufacturer literally paid dearly to get it done.

In all, Boeing has spent roughly $32 billion so far to launch the Dreamliner, according to an estimate by The Seattle Times, with half spent in development and half spent on manufacturing. Now Boeing has crossed the achievement threshold, completing the company's first contractual delivery of a 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing's long-awaited 787 Dreamliner became a commercial reality Sunday as the company completed the final contract to deliver the world's first lightweight composites jetliner. Boeing sold the aircraft to a Japanese customer All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA).

Boeing's vice president and general manager of the 787 program said the $200 million aircraft was legally transferred to All Nippon Airways. The company is handing over the first Dreamliner to All Nippon Airways today, signaling a milestone long-awaited for the U.S. manufacturer.

We've developed a set of technologies that will serve as the backbone of our airplanes for the next 30 years, Scott Fancher, the 787 program chief, told reporters yesterday at a briefing in Everett, according to Bloomberg.

Boeing sees the long-term payoff as huge. It's the first new jet the company has launched in 16 years and Boeing doesn't plan to create another new plant until the next decade. The Dreamliner, which seats from 210 to 290 people and is designed for long-haul routes like Tokyo to New York, is intended to provide unprecedented customer comfort and profitability due to fuel efficiency.

The Dreamliner 787 is designed to be 20 percent cheaper to operate than comparable sized jets because of the lightweight materials its made with combining with a new all-electric system that doesn't divert air from the engines for power. It has a new Rolls-Royce engine, bigger windows with dimming glass to replace shades, larger luggage bins and a cabin that retains more humidity. Simply, it's loaded with wow factor for customers and airlines seeking more long-haul efficiency.

This airplane is positioned to capitalize on one of the biggest challenges in aviation the operating cost of fuel and maintenance, Fancher said. This is positioned to challenge those head-on.

Because Boeing outsourced with partners from around the world for carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic composite for manufacturing, the company faced delays. The outsourcing effectively made Boeing dig a tremendous hole, one company engineer said, but as production stabilizes Boeing hopes to get costs out of manufacturing and speed up the process.

But even though the Dreamliner launched in 2004 and has faced scrutiny for three years of delays and cost overruns, one airline industry consultant the jet will still be a winner.

The plane may be the best plane ever produced, but in losing money it may also be the record holder, Adam Pilarski, a senior vice president with the aviation-consulting firm Avitas, told The Seattle Times.

In designing the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing relied upon a decade of research by psychologists and architects to improve passenger comfort and experience. Boeing said the template will be a baseline for all future airplanes.

Boeing's delivery of the first Dreamliner is causing celebration at the company's headquarters, Fancher said.

Now that the airplane is ready to deliver, the entire team is ready to celebrate, said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program.

Boeing plans to make 10 787 Dreamliners a month until the end of 2013 faster than any jet manufacturer has made a plane of such scope. The company already has orders for 800 units, Boeing said.

ANA expects to receive 12 787's over the next six months and another eight in its next fiscal year. United Continental is the first U.S. company on Boeing's delivery list, and the company expects delivery next year.