Boeing (BA)'s 787 Dreamliner took off on its maiden flight today, more than two years late, starting a testing process that will last at least nine months before the new plane enters service.
The Dreamliner lifted off at about 10:27 a.m. local time from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, across from Boeing's twin-aisle jet factory. The plane is scheduled to fly for about five hours then land at Boeing Field, 35 miles south in Seattle, where it will be based during the certification program.
"Yahoo! Now that's what I'm talking about," Robert Brockert, a Boeing mechanic watching the takeoff, said as the crowd cheered. "It got in the air and it stayed there."
Two test pilots, Mike Carriker and Randy Neville, are the only people aboard during the flight to evaluate the plane's systems and performance. In later flights, pilots will push the jet to extremes and simulate emergencies to make sure it's safe for passengers. They'll also test it in inclement weather, including thunderstorms and icing conditions.
The 787 — the first plane to be built with a plastic fuselage and an all-electric system — is more than two years behind schedule because of parts shortages, redesigns and incomplete work from suppliers. Boeing said last week that repairs made to strengthen sections along the wing had been successful, enabling the final tests and experimental certification required for the first flight.
Boeing fell 52 cents to $55.53 at 2:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, after the takeoff. The shares gained 31 percent this year through yesterday.
"It really sends a message that this is a real program and they have a lot of work to do, but this looks like a real, and very promising, aircraft," Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at Teal Group, a consulting firm in Fairfax, Virginia, said in a telephone interview after takeoff.
The plane's promised fuel savings helped make it Boeing's most popular new plane ever, with 840 orders valued at about $140 billion, even after contracts for 71 planes were canceled. The Dreamliner is due to be delivered to the first customer, Japan's All Nippon Airways, in the fourth quarter of 2010.
"The aviation industry has long been waiting for the 787 to take to the blue skies," All Nippon Chief Executive Officer Shinichiro Ito said in remarks broadcast on Boeing's Web site after the takeoff. "We look forward to the day when it will make its maiden commercial flight in the skies of Japan and on to the rest of the world."