Boeing Flies 787-10 for the First Time

 - March 31, 2017, 3:37 PM
The first Boeing 787-10 takes off from Charleston International Airport in South Carolina. (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing's new 787-10 widebody airliner on Friday flew for the first time from Charleston International Airport in South Carolina, marking the start of the third Dreamliner flight test campaign.

During the roughly five-hour first flight, test pilots Tim Berg and Mike Bryan commanded the airplane to an altitude of 20,000 feet and a top speed of 200 knots. Test tasks included setting all takeoff and landing flap positions and operating various systems, giving the airplane what Bryan called “a thorough ring-out.”  

Built exclusively in North Charleston, the 787-10’s first flight comes less than four months after the start of final assembly. Next, during the first week of April, Boeing plans to ferry the airplane to its Seattle-area facilities, from where it will conduct the bulk of its flight testing.

A straightforward 18-foot stretch of the 787-9, the 787-10 retains 95 percent design and build commonality with its smaller sibling while adding some 40 seats in exchange for range. Boeing lists the 330-seat 787-10’s range at 6,430 nautical miles, while the 787-9 operates to a range of 8,500 nautical miles. A pair of Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-10s powered the first 787-10. The company also offers General Electric GEnx turbofans for the biggest Dreamliner.

The mid-body section, which accounts for 10 feet of the fuselage stretch, does not fit into Boeing’s Dreamlifter cargo airplanes, meaning it would prove too long for efficient transport from North Charleston—the site of systems installation—to the Everett, Washington facility for final assembly. Separately, said Boeing, introducing the 787-10 in North Charleston takes advantage of that facility’s considerable capacity while allowing the Everett plant to continue improving productivity on the 787-8 and 787-9.

By the time of first flight, the second of the stretched Dreamliners—powered by GEnx engines—had moved through all seven positions in North Charleston’s final assembly building and outside onto the ramp for final preparations for its first flight, while the third and final test airplane, another Rolls-powered machine, had begun to take shape inside. The South Carolina facility fabricates and assembles composite Section 47, the last passenger section of the airplane, and Section 48, which integrates the horizontal and vertical stabilizers and the aft pressure bulkhead, for all Dreamliners built in Everett and North Charleston. It also joins and integrates mid-body fuselage sections from other suppliers. Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, provides 787 forward fuselage sections to both Everett and North Charleston.

Boeing’s Everett operation currently produces seven 787-8/9s per month; North Charleston produces five. Although Boeing has previously talked of increasing Dreamliner production rates to 14 by the end of the decade, it has not established a firm timeframe for a rate break.

Scheduled to enter service next year with launch customer Singapore Airlines, the 787-10 has collected orders for 149 copies from seven airlines and two leasing companies.