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Northwest Airlines


confirmed Thursday it has ordered 18 of the 787 Dreamliner jets from




The Minneapolis airline also said it has options to purchase another 50 of the fuel-efficient, medium- to long-haul jets. Northwest's announcement confirms news reports from earlier this month that the airline had chosen the 787 to upgrade its fleet.

Northwest says it will be the first North American carrier to put the 787 into normal service. "We believe that the Boeing 787 provides Northwest Airlines with a new-generation, long-range aircraft that will allow us to tailor our growing international route system to best address our customers' travel needs," said Doug Steenland, Northwest's CEO.

The sale marks another victory for Boeing as it tries to wrest back leadership in the world market for commercial planes from rival


, a joint venture of the

European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co

. and

BAE Systems


Boeing is using lightweight, composite materials for the 787, which will help the plane consume 20% less fuel than current jets of comparable size. That makes it attractive to airlines, which are struggling with near-record fuel costs. The 787 will seat between 200 and 300 passengers.

Airbus' shareholders late last year gave the go-ahead for a direct competitor to the 787, although the company has yet to officially announce development of the plane, which is named the A350 and based on the existing A330 model.