Boeing Co.'s highly anticipated new 787 Dreamliner jet will take off for the first time on Dec. 15, barring last minute hiccups, in a critical milestone for the overdue aircraft seen as the future for the aerospace giant. Boeing announced last week that the Dreamliner was set to fly in a "window" opening Tuesday at 10:00 am (1800 GMT) at Paine Field near its plant in Everett, Washington state.
The 787 Dreamliner passed its final functional tests on Dec. 12 and has been cleared for takeoff for its maiden flight, depending on weather conditions, Boeing announced.
The delay-plagued first flight would come after more than two years of production problems that pushed back delivery of the first plane to Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways to late next year.
During the final taxi testing on Dec. 15, the airplane reached a top speed of approximately 130 knots (150 miles per hour), and the pilots lifted the nose gear from the pavement.
"Our pilots told me the airplane performed beautifully," said Mike Delaney, vice president and chief project engineer for the 787. "We're going through and analyzing the data to ensure we're ready for first flight. From evaluations we've done so far, everything looks good."
On the 787 Dreamliner's maiden flight, Captains Mike Carriker and Randy Neville will carry out tests on key systems, such as the environmental control systems, hydraulics, structures and engines, and stability. On-board equipment will record and transmit real-time data to a test team.
The mid-size, twin-engine 787 Dreamliner is the company's first new model in more than a decade. About half of the aircraft is made of lightweight composite materials, such as carbon fiber-reinforced resin, compared with 12 percent on the Boeing 777, contributing to fuel efficiency, the company said. Boeing says the Dreamliner will use 20% less fuel than today's airplanes of comparable size.
Boeing says it has 840 orders on its books from 55 customers for the cutting-edge plane, which it claims is the "fastest-selling all-new jetliner in aviation history." United Airlines announced last week it would buy 25 Dreamliners, as well as 25 A350s, with the option to buy 50 more of each aircraft.
Airline companies that have announced cancelled orders for the delay-plagued 787 include Russian carrier S7, Dubai-based aircraft leasing company LCAL and Australia's Qantas.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009