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SCIENCE

Boeing's overdue 'Dreamliner' to lift off on maiden flight

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-15

Boeing's long-anticipated 787 Dreamliner aircraft will take off on its maiden flight Tuesday after a series of delays. The Dreamliner is seen as critical to Boeing's commercial future.

AFP - Boeing Co.'s highly anticipated new 787 Dreamliner aircraft will take off for the first time Tuesday, barring last minute hiccups, in a critical milestone for the overdue jetliner seen as the future for the aerospace giant.
   
The 787 Dreamliner passed its final functional tests Saturday and has been cleared for takeoff for its maiden flight, depending on weather conditions, Boeing announced.
   
The delay-plagued maiden 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 Saturday, the airplane reached a top speed of approximately 130 knots (150 miles per hour, 240 kilometers per hour), and the pilots lifted the nose gear from the pavement, Boeing said.
   
"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."
   
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.
   
As of late Monday, the 10:00 am takeoff was still officially penciled in, "subject to weather conditions."
   
The Chicago-based company, vying with European rival Airbus for commercial supremacy, is betting their cutting-edge Dreamliner is the winning vision for global commercial aviation.
   
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 percent less fuel than today's airplanes of comparable size.
   
The first-flight date before year-end confirmed Boeing's latest calendar, as announced in June after a fifth delay in the 787 Dreamliner program to fix a structural problem.
   
Boeing launched the Dreamliner program in April 2004 and initially had planned to deliver the first airplane to ANA in the first half of 2008, a delivery now set for late 2010.
   
On Thursday the company said it had completed the review and analysis of a November 30 static test on a modification to fix a structural problem on the side of the aircraft.
   
But Boeing still faces stiff competition in the commercial aviation market from Airbus, a unit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company.
   
Airbus is working on a new long-range A350 plane aimed at competing with the Dreamliner and expected to fly in mid-2013.
   
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.
 

Date created : 2009-12-15

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