A near all-black Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner has been delivered to launch customer Air New Zealand, giving Boeing fans and aviation nerds a dramatic introduction to this latest model of the fuel-efficient plane.
The head-turning aircraft, sporting a special edition, mostly black livery, was handed over to the carrier in Everett, Washington, with around 1,000 Boeing employees and Air New Zealand executives attending.
"It's a big night for us all, seeing the plane come out of the hangar here," said Air New Zealand captain David Morgan. "I'm very excited to be able to get my hands on this aircraft and proudly fly it back to New Zealand."
Newer = bigger
The 787-9 is 20 feet longer than its predecessor, the 787-8, and can hold 40 more passengers.
It also has a greater range of 8,000-8,500 nautical miles, compared to the 787-8's range of 7,650-8,200.
"Obviously with their geography they're the perfect airline to really exercise this airplane -- they'll really be able to use the amazing performance that the 787-9 has," said Boeing's Mark Jenks, vice president, 787 Airplane Development.
The manufacturer said it was on track to deliver 10 of the new planes to Air New Zealand by mid-year.
The "Skycouch," unique to Air New Zealand, where three seats join up to create a couch.
Twenty-six customers have ordered 409 787-9s to date, accounting for 40% of all 787 orders.
Due to a lighter, composite body, the plane can operate on 20% less fuel than other similar sized planes and offers design features such as larger, dimmable windows and in-cabin LED lighting.
Air New Zealand will begin operating its 787-9 in October 2014, flying from Auckland to Perth, Australia. In November it'll begin flights from Auckland to Tokyo and Shanghai.
The launch aircraft will offer 302 seats total, with the business premier cabin housing 18 lie-flat seats, a premium economy cabin with 21 seats and two economy cabins with 263 seats total.
The plane will also have 14 Skycouch rows -- a design unique to the Kiwi airline that turns a row of three economy seats into a three-seater "couch."
The plane will arrive in Auckland this Friday, July 11.