Boeing 787 Dreamliner set for first flight
Today's the day - finally
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner will later today take to the skies for the first time, almost two-and-a-half years after it was originally supposed to get airborne.
The carbon composite and titanium aircraft is slated to leave the Seattle tarmac at 18:00 GMT at the end of a troubled development programme which has seen mutiple production delays and schedule knock-backs.
Although the "eco-friendly"* Dreamliner has attracted 840 orders, customers' patience has been sorely tried by continuously-reshuffled delivery estimates. The 787 maiden flight is therefore critical for Boeing, as Richard Aboulafia, aerospace analyst at research firm Teal Group, explained to Reuters: "It will provide a badly needed perception that the program is on some kind of schedule again. But it's still a long way from the ultimate result."
Indeed, even if all goes according to plan today, there are still a minimum of nine months of "around the clock" flight testing of six aircraft to follow before All-Nippon Airways gets its hands on the first example by the end of 2010.
That's Boeing's latest estimate, although analysts say 12 months flight testing is more likely, and the company can expect more turbulence along the way. Aboulafia cautioned: "Just as they found hurdles on the way to first flight, they are going to find hurdles on the way to certification."
Today's four-hour flight will involve a "foray around the Puget Sounds and inland Washington state" as pilots "push the plane well beyond limits expected in ordinary commercial flights, practicing mid-air stalls, dives and steep banks". Boeing has full coverage here. ®
* Boeing's 787 blurb explains that the aircraft will "provide airlines with unmatched fuel efficiency, resulting in exceptional environmental performance". It elaborates: "The airplane will use 20 percent less fuel for comparable missions than today's similarly sized airplane."
"Do they really do mid-air stalls on a first flight?"
Yea, sometimes. The stalls are followed by dramatic footage of the flaming wreckage, still photos of the pilots gathering up their parachutes, and a press release from the company about "unforeseen setbacks in testing" leading to "significant delays in anticipated delivery dates of production models".
Mine's the one with the integrated 'chute.
I can't help but think that London-SFO in one of those will be a lot more comfortable* than in an A380, especially the immigration/baggage scrum on arrival, with only 250 people to handle.
*This is comfort in relative terms, of course, since 10 hours in economy is not actually comfortable in any aircraft. Ever.
Stunts on the maiden flight?
What? They say they'll be stalling, steep turns and all that on the maiden flight? That's madness. Normally a maiden flight they don't even retract the undercarriage, nor go fast enough to need to, nor even go high enough to pressurise, do they? ...or have I spent too long reading history, when people were, um... careful?
Ain't it more likely that was a general statement about the whole flight-test programme, not the maiden flight specifically?