Wednesday, December 16
EVERETT, Washington (AFP) - – Boeing's cutting-edge 787 Dreamliner has taken its milestone first flight that the US aerospace giant hopes will prove a "gamechanger" for the global aviation industry.
The Dreamliner's first flight, more than two years behind schedule, marked the beginning of a world-spanning flight test program expected to deliver the first airplane to Japanese launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) in the fourth quarter of next year, the company said.
"Today is a great day for the Boeing Company," Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program, said at a news conference following the flight Tuesday.
"I assure you the 787 will be the gamechanger that it was meant to be," he said.
The mid-size, twin-aisle Dreamliner is Boeing's first new model in more than a decade. The company has based its revolutionary design on lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum to improve fuel efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. Facts: Boeing 787 Dreamliner
About half the Dreamliner is made of composite materials, such as carbon fiber-reinforced resin, compared with 12 percent for its predecessor, the Boeing 777, which made its first flight in 1994.
The Dreamliner will use 20 percent less fuel than today's airplanes of comparable size and provide airlines with up to 45 percent more cargo revenue capacity, the company said.
For passengers, the 787 means larger windows, better lighting, more storage space and cleaner, more humidified air than current airplanes, it said.
Boeing sees the 787 as the future for the industry, as well as for its commercial strategy. The 787 "will set the bar for years to come," Fancher said.
"We build things that fly so airlines can put people on board," Russ Young, a Boeing spokesman, told AFP.
The Dreamliner is an opportunity "to provide a superior flying experience at lower cost to them, which is good for their industry."
Boeing thinks the use of composites "will only grow," Young said . "It's a bold step on our part" but Boeing has done its homework and "we realize composites are ready for these kinds of applications."
Clad in Boeing test-flight blue livery, 787 emblazoned on its tail, the Dreamliner took off under overcast skies at 10:27 am (1827 GMT) at Paine Field near Boeing's Everett plant in Washington state and landed at 1:33 pm at Seattle's Boeing Field.
Chief Pilot Mike Carriker and Captain Randy Neville said they tested some of the airplane's systems and structures in the nearly three-hour flight, as on-board equipment recorded and transmitted real-time data to a flight-test team at Boeing Field.
"We smoked it," Carriker said at the news conference, calling the 787 "a great jet."
"It felt like I flew into the future of the Boeing Company."
Neville said the 787 had delivered "no surprises" and brought "back the joy of flying."
The pilots took the airplane to an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and an air speed of 180 knots, or about 207 miles (333 kilometers) per hour, "customary on a first flight," the company said.
The first Boeing 787 will be joined in the flight test program in the coming weeks and months by five other 787s, the company said.
Chicago-based Boeing is vying with European rival Airbus for commercial supremacy. Airbus, a unit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, is developing a new long-haul A350 plane aimed at competing with the Dreamliner which is expected to fly in mid-2013.
Boeing launched the Dreamliner program in April 2004 and initially had planned to deliver the first airplane to ANA in the first half of 2008, a delivery now set for fourth-quarter 2010 as production problems forced the company to announce a series of delays.
The delays contributed to a 1.6-billion-dollar loss in the third quarter and Boeing has slashed this year's earnings guidance by more than a third.
Boeing says it has 840 orders on its books from 55 customers for the cutting-edge plane, which it claims is the "fastest-selling all-new jetliner in aviation history."
United Airlines announced last week it would buy 25 Dreamliners, as well as 25 A350s, with the option to buy 50 more of each aircraft.
Asked if Boeing expects phones to ring off the hook with orders after the Dreamliner's first flight, a beaming Fancher said: "Everybody's going to want to have one."