New, bigger Boeing Dreamliner completes maiden flight

Story highlights

  • Boeing's Dreamliner 787-9 lands after after 5-plus-hour test flight
  • The Dreamliner 787-9 holds 40 more passengers than the earlier 787
  • Air New Zealand will receive the first 787-9 in mid-2014

The latest incarnation of Boeing's Dreamliner finished its maiden flight Tuesday afternoon, completing a test run of more than five hours.

A larger version of the 787-8, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is 206 feet long -- 20 feet longer than its predecessor -- and holds 40 more passengers. (The 787-8 can hold 210-250 passengers.)

Its range is also greater, at 8,000-8,500 nautical miles, versus the 787-8's range of 7,650-8,200 nautical miles. Like the 787-8, the new plane uses 20% less fuel and has 20% fewer emissions than other planes its size.

Watch it online

Boeing provided live coverage via webcast prior to the aircraft's 11:02 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET) takeoff from Paine Field Airport in Everett, Washington. After a five-hour, 16-minute flight, it landed at Seattle's Boeing Field at 4:18 p.m. PT (7:18 p.m. ET).

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The two pilots, Capt. Mike Bryan and Capt. Randy Neville, were expected to speak afterward at a news conference, also to be carried on the webcast.

"This is a beautiful machine," said Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, speaking on the webcast shortly after takeoff. "It's going to be the backbone of the 787 fleet."

Pre-debut

The latest Dreamliner rolled out of the factory in Everett, Washington, in late August, and it is scheduled to be delivered to its first customer, Air New Zealand, in mid-2014.

World's largest airliner: Is bigger better?

This year, Boeing has had more than 82 orders to date for the 787, with the largest order of 42 planes coming from American Airlines. Singapore Airlines has the second largest order for 787s with 30 planes ordered.

Approximately 40% of all 787 orders to date (not just this year) are for the 787-9.

The announcement is one of the few celebratory moments for the company in recent months.

The four-month global grounding of the entire Dreamliner fleet, after an ANA flight was diverted following a battery fire in January, was the first such global grounding in 30 years.

To get the plane back in the sky, a team made up of experts from Boeing and from outside the company redesigned the system so battery cells would be separated and insulated. The new system also was designed to ventilate outside the plane any smoke that would come from overheating batteries.

The grounding was lifted at the end of April.

Since the dramatic ANA incident, Dreamliner's list of problems has gone on to include a United Airlines emergency landing in Houston caused by brake problems and a fire started by an emergency locator beacon on an Ethiopian Airlines 787 at Heathrow Airport. United flights were diverted as a precaution last summer due to a faulty fuel pump indicator and an oil level indicator.

As well as being lighter and more fuel efficient than similar aircraft, the Dreamliner's in-cabin experience is also different.

It has bigger windows that can be dimmed (out go the pull-down shutters), LED mood lighting and is pressurized at 6,000 feet rather than 8,000 feet, making air sickness less likely.

Another new airplane

The 787-9 won't be the final iteration of the 787 aircraft. In June, Boeing announced the launch of the 787-10 Dreamliner. Final assembly and flight tests are scheduled to begin in 2017, with first delivery tentatively scheduled in 2018. The company said the 787-10 will fly up to 7,000 nautical miles and have seating for 300-330 passengers.

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