Boeing is readying the 787 Dreamliner for its first test flight in the coming days, banking on the new fuel-efficient plane to sail above stiff market headwinds. The US-based company expects the much-delayed Dreamliner to have its maiden flight by June 30 on a schedule that puts delivery of the plane to first customer, All Nippon Airways (ANA), in the first quarter of 2010. "We're very much looking forward to seeing our aeroplane take to the skies," Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman, said.
Nearly two years behind the initial schedule, the company has delayed the Dreamliner's first flight four times since launching the programme in 2004 because of production problems. Final assembly on the first aircraft destined for ANA, which has ordered 50 Dreamliners, has finally begun last Wednesday, the company said. "In 2004, ANA demonstrated great faith in Boeing and the 787 by placing the largest launch order for any new aeroplane in Boeing history," Scott Fancher, the vice president and general manager of the Dreamliner programme, said in a statement.
Boeing has built six Dreamliners that will be used in the flight-test programme to assure the plane's safety for the company and for regulators, including the Federal Aviation Administration and foreign authorities, Mr Birtel said. "The main mantra is safety." Boeing says it has 865 orders from 56 airlines for the cutting-edge plane, claiming it is the "fastest-selling all-new jetliner in aviation history."
The 787 Dreamliner is the company's first new model in more than a decade and features 50 per cent plastic composites, compared with 12 per cent on its 777s, helping lower fuel consumption. According to Boeing, the 787 will use 20 per cent less fuel than similarly sized aeroplanes, reducing emissions by a similar amount. Plagued by problems from a complex international production system and a two-month machinists strike last year, the Dreamliner's delays have irked customers and resulted in order cancellations.
Boeing said that Dubai-based aircraft leasing company LCAL had cancelled 16 of the 21 planes ordered. The launch of the new plane comes amid turbulence in the aviation industry as the global economy slumps in the worst economic crisis in decades. A plunge in passenger air travel has led to massive cancellations and deferrals of aircraft orders. * AFP