Boeing's long-awaited Dreamliner jet is set to soar on its maiden flight to Tokyo on Tuesday, with ANA President and CEO Shinichiro Ito on board for the historic ride.
ANA is to fly the Dreamliner, with Ito aboard, to Tokyo Haneda Airport, arriving on Wednesday.
The Japanese carrier plans its first commercial 787 service from Tokyo to Hong Kong in October, followed by regular services to Beijing and Frankfurt.
The mid-sized plane is crucial to the growth strategy of Boeing, which has touted it as a game-changer for the industry. It is the jet maker's first new design in more than a decade, drawing on advances in aviation technology.
It is the first mid-sized airplane capable of flying long-range routes, responding to passengers' demands for non-stop travel, the Chicago-based company has said.
Half-built with lightweight composite materials, the twin-aisle 787 also consumes 20% less fuel than comparable planes its size, according to the aerospace giant.
That has helped Boeing pick up more than 800 orders for the 787 since the program was launched in 2004.
Boeing had planned to deliver the first plane to ANA in the first half of 2008. But a series of delays has cost Boeing billions of dollars as some airlines have canceled their orders.
It was all smiles, however, at the celebration on Monday at the Boeing 787 factory in Everett, Wash., where Ito received a ceremonial key for the first Dreamliner, which was painted in special blue, white and red ANA livery.
"Please take very good care of it, we're so proud," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
The official handover of the aircraft took place Sunday. It is the first of 55 ordered by the company.
Albaugh praised the Japanese airline's support for the program.
"We have a partnership founded on trust and a shared responsibility," he said, which "certainly has been strengthened with all the challenges we've had."
Ito said the 787 will play a "key part" in ANA's plans for international expansion.
"We are delighted to be taking delivery finally of our first 787. ANA is extremely proud to be the launch customer for the Dreamliner and to have helped Boeing so closely in the development of this state-of-the-art aircraft," Ito said.
The Dreamliner boasts larger windows, bigger luggage storage bins and improved cabin pressure with more humidity than conventional jets, which Boeing says will allow passengers to arrive at their destinations more refreshed.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011