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Originally published June 25, 2012 at 6:28 PM | Page modified June 26, 2012 at 9:24 PM

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Boeing to show off 787 over U.K. air show next month

Breaking with its longstanding practice, Boeing will fly the 787 Dreamliner in the daily aerial flying displays at the Farnborough Air Show near London next month.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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Breaking with its longstanding practice, Boeing will fly the 787 Dreamliner in the daily aerial displays at the Farnborough Air Show near London next month.

The jet-maker's policy in recent years has been to fly in its commercial airliners and leave them parked on the ground at air shows. Boeing's military jet fighters are the only planes it sends up for display flying.

Airbus, in contrast, provides an awesome display each day at the world's big air shows, sending up its massive A380 double-decker jet for low and slow fly-bys.

Boeing executives have justified their stance by saying they consider it a risk not worth taking to make an airliner fly atypically with large crowds underneath.

At the last Farnborough Air Show two years ago, after the 787 made its first appearance there, Tom Enders, then chief executive of Airbus and now head of parent company EADS, praised the plane after touring it on the ground, but added a stinging comment:

"They bring new planes and park them," Enders said in an interview. "We bring new planes and fly them."

Airbus has maintained its flamboyant approach to air-show flying despite a deadly 1988 accident during a display for a small French flying club. An Air France Airbus A320 making a low level flyby crashed into trees at the end of the runway, killing three of the 136 people on board.

The last Boeing commercial jet to participate in the flying display at Farnborough was in 1984, when its then-new 737-300 made its debut.

That same year at Farnborough, a small cargo plane crashed during the afternoon display and burst into flames. The two people aboard escaped uninjured.

A Boeing spokesman would not confirm the company's intentions at Farnborough this year, but people with knowledge of the plan said it will fly a Qatar Airways Dreamliner.

Boeing famously benefited from a memorable flying stunt with its first jet airliner, though that instance was decidedly unauthorized.

In summer 1955, chief test pilot Tex Johnston did a 360-degree rotation barrel roll in a prototype 707 over Lake Washington, then came back over the hydroplane race crowd and did it again.

That unexpected maneuver scared Boeing's president, Bill Allen, who gave Johnston a severe verbal reprimand. But it made Boeing's reputation in the new era of jets and helped sell the 707 better than any salesman's pitch.

In Farnborough this year, chief 787 test pilot Randy Neville will take the Dreamliner up for its aerial routine.

Neville was formerly chief Boeing pilot on the F-22 Raptor, the Air Force's most advanced jet fighter. In December 2009, he was co-pilot on the first flight of the Dreamliner.

Boeing's intent to fly the 787 at Farnborough was first reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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