Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner Finally in the Skies

Referred to as the “Seven-Late-Seven” by some, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner completed its maiden flight on 15 December 2009 in Seattle, Washington. This is just the first step in a rather complex nine-month flight test program.

More that two years late, the first flight of the 787 Dreamliner went relatively smoothly. Pilots Randy Neville and Mike Carriker reported no issues in the course of the three-hour flight, cut short by poor weather conditions. The overall performance of the aircraft will only be judged once all six of the test airplanes have been tested. During this process it will need to prove to shareholders, federal aviation regulators and airline customers that it can meet its fuel efficiency and emission goals. If the entire test program goes according to plan, the 787 Dreamliner should be in commercial service toward the end of 2010.

Amongst the anxious spectators of the maiden flight was Mitsuo Morimotto, All Nippon Airways’ vice president, as the Japanese carrier is the first on the list to receive Boeing’s new 787. He is quoted saying: “After watching the flight and hearing the pilots, I feel confident Boeing will be able to deliver our airplane on time. This flight is a step to go forward.” Boeing already has some 840 orders for the new 787, though the delay in the program and the global economic crisis has resulted in 83 cancellations in 2009.

What has truly appealed to buyers is Boeing’s promise of huge fuel savings. This well designed aircraft is made largely of composite materials and thus has a lower mass when compared to other similar models. It is expected that the longest range variant of the 787 will be able to fly to over 5 000 km at a cruising speed of 903 km/h. There is indeed much to look forward to, and it is easy to understand why the Dreamliner has received so much attention. However, there is still a way to go and hopefully there will be no more delays.