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Tuesday
Dec152009

The Dream Is A Reality - Boeing 787 Dreamliner Flies!


Prototype Boeing 787 off the ground at Paine Field on its first flight!  photo: Boeing

 

  After a much longer development delay than anyone wanted, The 787 Dreamliner left the ground for the very first time today at 10:27am local time from Paine Field in Everett, Washington.  The take-off and departure appeared flawless as the airplane looked beautiful, confident and graceful right out of the box.  A crowd of about 12,000 Boeing employees and very interested onlookers lined the runway to watch the historic event.

 The test flight lasted 3 hours and 6 minutes with much of the time spent working scheduled first-flight tasks in and around the need to change direction quite often due to less than perfect weather.  There were no surprises however and the airplane is said to have performed beautifully.  There were two T-33 chase aircraft and one T-38 that was flying ahead of the 787 to provide weather reconnaissance.  Plans to head toward eastern Washington State were changed when conditions in that direction were seen to be more turbulent than desired for good data collection.  The 787 reached an altitude of 15,000' and up to 180 knots airspeed.  The landing gear was also cycled during the flight.

 

 

Perfect first landing in the rain at Seattle's Boeing Field  (screenshot: KOMO video)

 

 The local weather continued to deteriorate through the flight, which lead to the decision to bring the airplane home earlier than was planned or was otherwise necessary.  Although the airplane departed from Boeing's facilities at Everett, on Paine Field where it was assembled, the landing took place at Seattle's Boeing Field where they will carry out the flight test program.  

 With a steady rain falling, the first ever 787 landing was on a wet runway in less than ideal conditions.  Even so, the approach and touchdown were perfectly executed, adding even more to the confidence the aircraft showed on it's departure earlier.  In just this one day, the Dreamliner has been able to transform from an airplane with delayed development issues to the fascinating success story of having 840 orders by 55 customers around the world... it's the fastest selling commercial jetliner ever.

 At the Boeing press conference right after the flight, Chief Pilot Mike Carriker and Captain Randy Neville had nothing but praise for the way the aircraft had performed.  Carriker shared a detail that might foreshadow future success of the 787 program... he explained how after departing Paine Field, they made a left turn and continued to climb to get to better weather.  After confirming that the instrumentation was working properly, they continued climbing, through a layer of clouds, working their way west over the Puget Sound and toward the Pacific Ocean.  They popped out of the top of the clouds at about 7,000' giving them a powerful view up ahead, out the left front window, of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains.  He shared how this stunning sight, in the midst of the tasks at hand on the maiden flight of this historic aircraft, burned and image in his mind that he will remember the rest of his life.

 Boeing now has a great opportunity to get the 787 on track toward being the best commercial airliner ever built.  And hopefully that image Carriker shared of this revolutionary aircraft high over the beautiful Northwest landscape on its very first flight will be a sign that the sun will indeed shine on the Dreamliner.  I'm certainly impressed... and I can't wait for my first ride in a 787! 

 

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Reader Comments (3)

The coverage of this historic event was great...I loved the live webcam. It was almost as good as being there in the rain! This has to be the most beautiful commercial airliner ever built...it was well worth the wait! I can't wait for my first ride in it either!

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn Willis

Just a question to an observation. The first flight of the dreamliner. Was it done at gross weight?? If not, How much more are those wings going to flex under more weight?

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRay Kneipp Jr.

@Ray Kneipp - I did some looking around but wasn't able to confirm the take-off weight for the 787 first flight, but it was surely well below gross weight. Heavier weights won't be part of the test program until more data has been collected confirming the design's performance both aerodynamically and structurally. I do know that the wing flex is normal for the way this airplane has been engineered. I'm hoping to put together a post soon to look in detail at this interesting feature of the airplane real soon : )

December 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMartt

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