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’Boeing 001 Heavy Experimental’ Dreamliner Takes Flight

EAAer at the controls of composite airliner as it makes its maiden test flight

The Dreamliner leaves the Boeing factory ramp at Paine field in Everett, Washington. (Courtesy: Roy McMillion)

The 787 taxis toward Runway 34L at Paine field. (Courtesy: Roy McMillion)

The pronounced dihedral of the all-composite wings as the Dreamliner climbs above Runway 34L at Paine field. (Courtesy: Roy McMillion)

December 15, 2009 —The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the world’s first mostly composite commercial airliner, flew for the first time today (December 15) from Paine Field’s Runway 34L in Everett, Washington. Boeing Chief Pilot Michael Carriker (EAA 505412) and Engineering Test Pilot Randy Neville were at the controls as 25,000 people, mostly Boeing employees, watched and cheered the 10:27 a.m. PST take-off. Boeing also provided a live video stream of the milestone watched by 300,000 people from around the world. View the video

As the aircraft climbed out, the wings had a noticeable dihedral or upswing, which is part of the wing design. The airplane followed a route over the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Capts. Carriker and Neville took the airplane to an altitude of 15,000 feet and an air speed of 180 knots, or about 207 miles per hour, customary on a first flight.

"Today is truly a proud and historic day for the global team who has worked tirelessly to design and build the 787 Dreamliner - the first all-new jet airplane of the 21st century," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program.

This first flight, which lasted about three hours, was delayed for two years as, among other things, the design of the wing had to be modified after extensive testing. Boeing engineers had to strengthen the wing attach points at the fuselage before flight testing could begin. Today was the first actual flight loads for the new wing design which will still have to complete load certification testing.

The flight test and FAA certification program will last nine months and involve six 787 airframes. Today’s flight featured Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, however two of the five additional aircraft will be powered by General Electric GEnx engines.

Like the 747, Boeing has staked much of its fortunes to the success of 787 and its promise of fuel efficiency, lower emissions, and quieter takeoffs and landings. While not competing directly with the Airbus A380, Boeing is betting that of the new airliners available to worldwide customers, they will prefer efficiency to volume.

In addition to the engineering delays, an eight-week labor strike, and order cancellations due to the global economic downturn have hindered the 787’s development. However, the 787 is still leading its category in sales with 840 on order.

Video provided by EAA Sport Aviation columnist Max Trescott

For more information, visit www.newairplane.com.

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