Boeing’s Dreamliner successfully completes maiden flight (Lead)December 16th, 2009 - 7:15 am ICT by IANS
Seattle, Dec 16 (DPA) More than two years behind schedule, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner successfully completed its first test flight Tuesday, becoming the first passenger airliner to take to the air with a fuselage and wings built mostly of advanced composite materials rather than aluminium.
The blue and white, twin-engined plane took off from Boeing’s test facility near Everett, Washington, at 10.27 a.m. (1527 GMT) with two veteran test pilots aboard. About three hours later the plane executed a textbook landing at the Boeing field in Seattle.
Crowds of aviation enthusiasts and Boeing workers lined the tarmac in wet and cloudy weather to see the plane fly for the first time. Flanked by two T-33 chase planes, the wide-bodied airliner lifted off flawlessly into the overcast skies, the upward sweep of its carbon-fiber reinforced plastic wings cutting a unique silhouette.
“The development (of the Dreamliner) has not gone without problems,” said Boeing CEO Jim McNerney. “We all needed to see this innovation get in the air. We’re all excited about it.”
Some nine months of intensive testing is expected on the revolutionary aircraft, which Boeing boasts will cut fuel consumption by 20 per cent as well as reducing noise and increasing passenger comfort.
A total of six Dreamliners are scheduled to participate in the test programme, which includes over 80 pilots, 600 engineers and 400 mechanics.
Boeing’s first new model in more than a decade, the fuel-efficient plane is expected to compete fiercely with the Airbus A350 plane, which is scheduled to launch in 2012.
McNerney said that despite the problems that have beset the Dreamliner’s development, the 787 programme is still some three years ahead of the rival A350, though he conceded that “the margin is less than we originally had hoped for.”
Boeing says it has 840 orders from 57 airlines for the $166-million planes, which were originally meant to launch in 2008, but are now scheduled to be delivered to the first customer, Japan’s All Nippon Airways, before the end of next year.
Boeing has invested over $10 billion in the design and development of the aircraft.
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