Boeing Co. (BA) began flying its first bigger 787 Dreamliner today, a step toward getting the jet into commercial service in 2014 without the delays or drama that marked the debut of the original model.
Aircraft ZB001 took off at 11:03 a.m. local time from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, next to the factory where it was built, a Boeing webcast showed. The flight plan’s route heads east over Idaho for a trip that may last about four hours before ending at Boeing Field, near downtown Seattle.
Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney is weighing a speedup in output beyond the 10-a-month goal for year’s end as he gains confidence that Chicago-based Boeing has solved the assembly and other snags that left the initial 787 and a redesigned 747 jumbo jet years behind schedule.
“The 747-8 and 787-8 were challenging programs, but we’re applying what we learned through a disciplined management model for development programs,” said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of airplane development. “We’re starting to reap the benefits on programs” such as the 787-9.
Factory work began on the larger jet on the day designated in a schedule set 2 1/2 years earlier, Fancher said in an interview last month.
Boeing plans to hand over the first 787-9 to Air New Zealand Ltd. by mid-2014, Doug Alder, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail. The planemaker plans to produce three dedicated flight-test planes, and to include two jets configured as production models in later trials, Alder said.
As of 2011 Boeing had spent $32 billion (Boeing’s expenditure as of 2011) on the 787 program according to the Seattle Times.