By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
At 10:28 a.m. local time on Tuesday, the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner took off from Snohomish County Airport in Everett, Wash., into cloudy skies, before a crowd of about 16,000. The flight was scheduled to last about four hours, but after three hours spent circling above Puget Sound, with weather deteriorating, the crew touched down with a smooth landing at Boeing Field, in Seattle. The test pilots performed a long list of basic tests and systems checks, and they reported that the airplane flew beautifully, with "no surprises." Five more copies of the 787 will be used in the flight test program, which is expected to take about nine months, with first deliveries late in 2010. The company said it has about 840 orders for the airplane, from 55 different customers.
The program has suffered a number of delays and setbacks. First flight was originally scheduled for 2007, then was rescheduled about five times. Some of the composite structures had to be reinforced with titanium, adding weight. But on Tuesday, company representatives seemed buoyant, and hopeful that the program's problems are now over. Click here for the FlightAware track of the flight. A live webcast of the takeoff and landing drew tens of thousands of viewers from around the world. Video of the first flight should be posted online soon; click here for that archive.