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The Dubai Air Show kicked off this weekend, a chance for people in the aviation industry to see and be seen, and show off technology and usually, to announce a lot of sales. In the first three hours of this year's show, more than $150 billion in airplane orders were announced. And the biggest beneficiary was Boeing. The Seattle-based company said it had orders for more than 350 new passenger jets. There's still a question of where those aircraft will be built. NPR's Nathan Rott reports.
NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: It's fitting that an air show should start with a boom, even if an ill-timed sandstorm ensured that the only boom resonating around Dubai this last weekend was the one coming from inside the showroom.
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EMIRATES AIRLINE OFFICIAL: I'm pleased to announce that Emirates will order 150 Boeing Triple 7X aircraft...
ROTT: The boom? Those 150 aircraft that Emirate Airlines' chairman was announcing will cost a whopping $76 billion. Add that to the 50 aircraft Qatar Airways signed on for, the 25 Etihad Airways bought, and a pile of others and you have, according to Boeing, the largest commercial launch of an aircraft in aviation history.
SCOTT HAMILTON: You're talking about billions of dollars at list price. It's a world record. There's just everything good to say about it, for Boeing.
ROTT: That's Scott Hamilton. He's an aviation analyst in Washington state. He says its no shock that Boeing's aircraft, the Triple 7X, sold so well. Gulf airline carriers had been trying to play a big role on the international market for a while. And this airplane, with composite material wings and better fuel efficiency, will allow them to do just that.
HAMILTON: It gives Emirates the ability to fly to basically any one point on Earth, nonstop, out of Dubai.
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EMIRATES AIRLINE OFFICIAL: That's why the Boeing Triple 7X is the evolution of flight. It's airline prosperity embodied in wings.
ROTT: But there's still the question of where those composite wings and hyper-efficient engines will be built.
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UNIDENTIFIED MACHINISTS: (Singing) Solidarity forever. Our union makes us strong...
ROTT: Last week members of Boeing's biggest union - machinists, like these women who posted their protests on YouTube - rejected a contract offer from the company that would keep the manufacturing of the new jet in Seattle. That's where the current model of the Triple 7 is being built.
Boeing had said it would promise to build the newer version there too, if the machinists would agree to cut pension and health care benefits. The machinists said no - soundly. Again, Scott Hamilton.
HAMILTON: The machinists take a look at the current record profits that Boeing has, and the fact that the CEO, Jim McNerney, has a defined pension plan that is worth $260,000 a month upon retirement, and they say: Why should we give back?
ROTT: But might those feelings change when they see the deals - the guaranteed work - coming out of Dubai?
HAMILTON: I think that's a long shot, at this stage.
ROTT: But he says, the good news is somebody - whether it's in Washington, South Carolina, Texas, California or somewhere else - will be doing that work. And if the deals keep coming like they have at the beginning of the air show, well, there will be a lot of work to be done.
Nathan Rott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.