Boeing 787 to Finally Take Flight Today

Two years after initial plans, Boeing to finally test 787

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009  |  Updated 12:38 PM CDT
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Boeing's new plane should debut soon.

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Two years late, Boeing is finally ready to test its new 787 jetliner.

Ground tests were completed this past weekend, including a 150-mph dash down the runway at Everett's Paine Field, Wash., during which its nose gear briefly lifted off the pavement.

Today, pilots Michael Carriker and Randall Neville hope to take the 787 on a four-hour flight over Washington state, beginning the extensive flight test program needed to obtain the plane's Federal Aviation Administration certification.

Before landing at Seattle's Boeing Field, the two-member crew will perform a variety of basic tests and systems checks, said Boeing Commercial Airplanes spokesman Jim Proulx. "They will essentially make sure that the airplane under normal circumstances flies the way it's supposed to fly," he said.

Today's forecast calls for rain, 10 mph winds and a cloud ceiling at about 1,500 feet.

The plane is the first of six 787s Boeing will use in the flight test program, expected to last about nine months and subject the planes to conditions well beyond those found in normal airline service.

Chicago-based Boeing, which has orders for 840 787s, plans to make the first delivery to Japan's All Nippon Airways late next year.

But the program has been plagued by ill-fitting parts and other problems.

The first flight was supposed to be in 2007 with deliveries the following year, but Boeing has been forced to push that back five times -- delays that have cost the company credibility, sales and billions of dollars. Most recently, Boeing said it needed to reinforce the area where the wings join the fuselage, with tests completed on that fix just two weeks ago.

An eight-week strike last year by Seattle-area production workers also hampered the program and was a factor in Boeing choosing North Charleston, S.C., in October as the site for a second 787 assembly line.

The version being tested will be able to fly up to 250 passengers about 9,000 miles. A stretch version will be capable of carrying 290 passengers and a short-range model up to 330.

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