First variant of Boeing 787 takes maiden test flight

EVERETT, Wash. – The first addition to the Boeing 787 family completed its maiden test flight Tuesday, taking off from Paine Field, near the factory where the plane was assembled, and landing in Seattle about five hours later.

The flight took the 787-9 over Eastern Washington, where Boeing conducts a lot of flight testing.

Several hundred Boeing employees watched the blue and white plane with a number 9 on the tail take off at about 11 a.m. in Everett. It landed at 4:18 p.m. at Boeing Field in Seattle.

“This is about as close to a flawless first flight as I could have imagined,” Mark Jenks, vice-president of 787 development, told reporters at Boeing Field.

Piloting the plane were Capt. Mike Bryan and Randy Neville, the Daily Herald of Everett reported.

“We’ve got five more hours of gas left in there,” Bryan said after the plane landed. “We’d still be flying if they hadn’t told us to bring it back.”

The 787-9 is 20 feet longer and can seat 40 more passengers than the original 787-8, which carries between 210 and 250 passengers. The new version of the fuel-efficient, long-haul wide-body known as the Dreamliner also can carry more cargo and fly farther, Boeing spokeswoman Kate Bergman said.

The 787-9 has 388 firm orders, which account for 40 per cent of all 787 orders, Bergman said.

After flight tests and certification, the first 787-9 will be delivered next June to the launch customer, Air New Zealand.

The original 787-8 was delivered in September 2011, nearly three years late because of production problems. The worldwide fleet of about 50 planes was grounded for almost four months this year after lithium batteries smouldered on two planes in January.

The redesigned battery system, which resolves the overheating problems, is built into the 787-9.

Boeing plans another stretch with the 787-10. That plane would seat between 300 and 330 passengers.

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