Business

It's a date - with Dreamliner

The drum roll has been more than two years long, and the main performer is still waiting in the wings, but the Boeing Co. has finally set a date for the first flight of its tardy 787 Dreamliner.

The company said late Thursday that the 787 could fly for the first time as early as 10 a.m. Tuesday from Everett’s Paine Field, where the 787s are assembled.

All of that assumes, of course, that the weather cooperates. Tuesday’s forecast for Everett calls for temperatures in the mid-40s with rain, a typical winter day in the Puget Sound area.

If Boeing was looking for clear skies, it should have taken advantage of this week of unseasonably clear and cold weather, but the airplane’s latest series of tests were still being analyzed.

Boeing had planned to fly the 787 for the first time in late June, but the discovery of weaknesses in the area where the wings join the body of the twin-engine aircraft caused a delay.

Boeing designed a retrofit to beef up that area, installed it and tested the modified wings recently in a ground test rig.

The company said the wings now pass muster, but it still must test those wings to 150 percent of their design load before the FAA gives the go-ahead for commercial flights. That testing will happen early next year.

In the meantime, Boeing will begin flight testing a fleet of six aircraft. The second of those will begin flying perhaps by the end of the year.

Media members from around the world are being invited to the first flight, and Boeing will provide video feeds of the flight, its landing at Boeing Field and a news conference to those who can’t attend in person.

A little rain is unlikely to deter the first flight, but low visibility, high winds or snow could. None of those is in the forecast for Everett until at least Friday.

The 787’s first flight was first scheduled for September 2007, but parts shortages, incomplete assembly of major fuselage sections by Boeing partner companies, engineering modifications and labor issues all conspired to delay it.

Boeing has already taken more than a $2 billion hit because of those delays, and some analysts expect the company will pay billions more in compensatory payments to airline customers who will receive their planes late.

The 787 isn’t the only Boeing aircraft making its debut this fall and winter. The stretched and re-engineered 747-8 is expected to take to the skies for the first time early next month.

A preliminary date for that first flight is Jan. 10.

Airbus flew a long-delayed aircraft, its A400M transport, for the first time Friday from an airfield in Seville, Spain. That plane is four years late.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663

john.gillie@thenewstribune.com

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