The largest breed of its Dreamliner jet series, the 787-10, got a great review today after being put through its aerial paces for the first time in the skies over South Carolina.
“It performed exactly like we thought it would,” 787 chief model pilot Tim Berg said afterward.
Deputy pilot Mike Bryan seconded that opinion: “It was fantastic. … No squawks.”
Bryan gave a shout-out to Boeing’s support team, saying “there were two pilots in the front, but a lot of people behind us.”
The twin-aisle 787-10 is the first of the series to be assembled exclusively at Boeing South Carolina plant, and not at its assembly facility in Everett. It’s 18 feet longer than the 787-9, and 38 feet longer than the 787-8. Carrying capacity can range up to 330 passengers, depending on the configuration, compared to the 290-passenger maximum capacity of the 787-9.
Other than the length, passengers aren’t likely to notice much of a difference between the 787-9 and the 787-10: The two planes have 95 percent of their design in common, which is part of Boeing’s strategy to streamline development, operation and maintenance.
Boeing says the stretch model has won 149 orders from nine customers, including launch customer Singapore Airlines. The first deliveries are due to be made in the first half of 2018.
Between now and then, Boeing is putting the first three 787-10 planes through a series of flight tests to fine-tune the design and build up the data that’s needed for certification by the Federal Aviation Administration. Today’s flight marked the start of that process.
Takeoff from Charleston, S.C., came just after 9:30 a.m. ET (6:30 a.m. PT), sparking a round of cheers from the crowd at the airport. For about five hours, the jet traced a back-and-forth route over the state, ranging from Columbia to Myrtle Beach.
Today’s test was limited to an altitude of 20,000 feet and a speed of 250 knots. Bryan marveled that the airplane was as quiet as a whisper as he and Berg tried out the landing gear, flaps and spoilers.
“We really gave it a thorough wring-out, and it’s a beautiful airplane,” Bryan said.
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The focus of the test program will shift to Seattle’s Boeing Field as early as next week. “We have a good plan laid out for the remainder of the year,” Berg said.
Ken Sanger, Boeing’s vice president and general manager for 787 development, said he was gratified to see how smoothly the plane went from design to assembly to first flight. “I think we nailed it,” he said.
Boeing’s South Carolina operation has come into the spotlight over the past couple of months for a couple of reasons. In mid-February, the 3,000 workers at the plant voted resoundingly against unionizing after a hard-fought campaign between the company and the International Association of Machinists.
Just a couple of days after the vote, President Donald Trump visited the plant for the 787-10’s unveiling. Trump called the plane “an amazing piece of art.”
“The name says it all,” the president told thousands of workers and VIPs at the hangar. “Dreamliner, great name. Our country is all about making dreams come true.”