Boeing 787 Finally Flies

December 15, 2009, 7:58 AM

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner took to the air for the first time today from Paine Field in Everett, Wash., at about 10:25 a.m. local time. Still in the air conducting a planned four-hour test mission at the time of this posting, the first 787 prototype officially has begun a flight-test program expected to culminate in FAA certification by late next year. Boeing plans to use six flying prototypes during the certification campaign, originally expected to last no more than 10 months until the company chose to set a more conservative timetable after the program’s last announced delay during the summer.  
With first flight, Boeing officially closed one of the messiest chapters in its storied history, one that began with an announcement in September 2007 that it would delay the 787’s first flight by three months due to a shortage of permanent fasteners and unfinished flight control software. Five more times scheduled first-flight dates would pass as the 787 sat grounded, for reasons ranging from an accumulation of so-called traveled work to, most recently, the failure of the airplane’s composite wings to satisfactorily withstand stresses placed on them during bending tests. But when the first 787 took off carrying custom-made reinforcements installed at 34 stringer locations within its wing-to-body joints, BCA engineers could perhaps allow themselves a fleeting moment of satisfaction and let the spectacle unfold as if they had planned it this way all along.

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