Boeing Co’s new 787 Dreamliner touched down in Britain on Sunday on its first trip outside the United States, thrilling hordes of eager planespotters who came out to see the breakthrough carbon-composite plane.
A media circus ensued as Boeing executives, including CEO Jim McNerney, emerged smiling from the plane, though McNerney did not actually fly to England with the plane, instead getting on board after landing.
Social media was active with blow-by-blow coverage of the arrival, pointing to the intense interest in the plane not only within the business but also in the flight-enthusiast community.
The 787 is expected to take the spotlight at next week’s Farnborough Airshow. Last-minute technical issues had raised fears in recent weeks that the plane might not make its long-anticipated trip to the show, but the plane arrived doing a flyover with a “tilt and wave” before landing.
Boeing executives have said they aim to deliver the first Dreamliner to Japan’s All Nippon Airways by the end of 2010, but they have cautioned that the delivery could be delayed to early 2011.
Speaking to reporters later in London, Jim Albaugh, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, reiterated that caution, saying Boeing still hopes to achieve its year-end goal but deliveries could move to next year.
Speaking after landing the plane, test pilot Mike Bryan told reporters that landing on Farnborough’s “short” runway after the nine-hour flight reminded him of his time landing on aircraft carriers in the Navy. But he was full of praise for the plane, which he flew from Seattle with 16 crew and a full compliment of flight-testing systems.
“One thing I can say right now is we could literally put fuel in it and passengers could go flying in it,” he said.
The plane he flew — Dreamliner No. 3 — will never see regular passenger service, though. It is one of three test planes strictly for that purpose. The next three test planes to be built, however, are expected to eventually be sold.
The aircraft promises greater fuel efficiency and its lightweight materials and innovative design have captured the imagination of the industry.
Yet flight testing has been going more slowly than expected after the twin-engined passenger plane made an inaugural flight last December — which itself was the subject of frenetic global media coverage.
Deliveries of the long-range passenger jet to the first Japanese customer have been delayed by more than two years due to production problems.
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